NoDa is one of the most popular districts in Charlotte, known for its art and creative personality. But how did NoDa come to be? North Davidson, commonly referred to as NoDa, is a vibrant arts and entertainment district within the North Charlotte neighborhood. It is home to some of Charlotte’s most talented artists and musicians. NoDa has a plethora of different venues that bring people together. One of the newest to do so is Starlight on 22nd (422 E 22nd St).
Starlight on 22nd is a social and cultural lounge and bar. The space is owned by Ruth Ava Lyons, Paul Sires, and their son Orion Sires, who runs things. Lyons and Paul Sires are trailblazers in NoDa, as they were some of the first artists to move there and help revitalize and reinvigorate the area. Before NoDa was called NoDa and before it was an arts and culture hub, it was North Charlotte’s mill district.
By 1900, Mecklenburg County was home to 16 mills, making Mecklenburg County the second largest cotton spindle-producing county. When Highland Park #3 Mill opened in 1904, it was North Carolina’s largest mill and one of the four mills located in North Charlotte. The other three mills were Johnston Manufacturing Co., Chadbourn Mill, and the Mecklenburg Cotton Mill. At this time, North Charlotte was right outside city limits, made up of a series of mill village homes for workers that were owned and controlled by the mills. They also housed downtown workers due to the streetcar line connecting the area to Uptown.
The community grew as more people filed into North Charlotte in search of work. More businesses began to appear such as pharmacies, grocery stores, and other storefronts, and was a thriving community. When the textile industry began to decline, the neighborhood reflected that shift. The last of the original four mills closed in 1975, marking the end of the textile industry in Charlotte. With the mills closed, their buildings were empty, and many of the businesses that dotted the areas began to close. Due to a loss of jobs and eventually residents, the Mill District declined and became riddled with poverty and crime.
In 1986, life began to return to North Charlotte thanks to the efforts of two young artists, Ruth Ava Lyons and Paul Sires, who were among the first to move back to the area. Lyons and Sires began buying and rehabilitating buildings in the area, starting with the Lowder Building. They also owned the Center of the Earth Gallery, which closed in 2010. As Lyons and Sires bought and rehabilitated more, they offered studio spaces for artists. They worked hard to draw arts-related businesses to the area.
North Charlotte began to improve and morph, transforming from a mill district into an arts district. By the mid-1990s, artists in the neighborhood were referring to the area as NoDa after North Davidson Street, its main corridor. Carrying on the legacy of the artists who created NoDa, Starlight on 22nd is another attempt at creating creative space and rehabilitating East 22nd Street. It is already helping to unite the community through frequent open mics, comedy shows, and music showcases. Community members can also rent Starlight on 22nd for private events. If you find yourself in NoDa be sure to check out Starlight on 22nd and the rest of the neighborhood.