Organized in the late 1850’s by Charlotte businessmen led by Dr. Charles J. Fox, the cornerstone for the building was laid in 1858, and completed the following year. The initial class enrollment was 125 students ranging from twelve to twenty-one years old.
Educator and military officer Daniel Harvey Hill served as Superintendent of the North Carolina Military Institute at Charlotte from October, 1859 to April, 1861, and he oversaw the single commencement in the short prewar existence of the school, in July, 1860. The keynote speaker of the commencement, held at the Presbyterian Church, was to be Thomas L. Clingman, but in his absence the address was given by Judge James W. Osborne of Charlotte.
Orations were delivered by Cadet Houston B. Lowrie, who later fell at Sharpsburg; Cadet Graham of Alabama; and Henry Elliot Shepherd of Fayetteville. Lowrie’s theme was a eulogy upon North Carolina, having special reference to three of her sons, Macon, Gaston and Dobbin. The oration of Cadet Graham was patriotic in its scope; Osborne devoted his remarks to the literature of Scotland, his principal characters being Burns and Sir Walter Scott.
Prior to Daniel Harvey Hill’s tenure at the North Carolina Military Institute, he served as Professor of Mathematics at Washington College (later Washington & Lee), 1849-1854, and Professor of Mathematics at Davidson College, 1854-1859. Hill left the Institute in April 1861 and with the rank of colonel, was assigned as commander of the First North Carolina Regiment, later known as the “Bethel Regiment.” Many of the cadets joined this regiment and distinguished themselves in Virginia and beyond.
The building served as a military hospital during war; afterward it became a female academy and then another military school organized by Colonel John Peyre Thomas in 1873, which continued through 1882. Col. Thomas was an 1851 graduate of The Citadel in Charleston, and served as its Superintendent 1882-1885. From 1883 through 1950 the Institute building was utilized as a Charlotte public school and demolished in 1954 to make way for an extension of Independence Boulevard.
A North Carolina historical marker at East Morehead Street and South Boulevard denotes its former presence nearby.
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