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LGBT family ‘hoods of the Carolinas
Gay and lesbians love living in and revitalizing historic areas throughout the Carolinas

by David Moore
Q-Notes staff

Charlotte’s tree-lined Myers Park Neighborhood.

West Asheville’s spectacular mountain view.

The old-world charm of Charleston attracts many gays and lesbians.

North Carolina

Charlotte is the state’s largest city and also home to its largest gay population. The Plaza-Midwood neighborhood is home to Charlotte’s Lesbian and Gay Community Center and a thriving and historic inner-city district that’s rich with diversity in ethnic background and sexual orientation. Just outside of downtown, LGBT folk can be found in abundance in neigborhoods like Elizabeth, Marlwood Acres, Chantilly, Coventry Woods, Myers Park and Dilworth. In recent years gays in Charlotte have become actively involved in the revitalization of the historic North Davidson (NoDa) area, which is slowly but surely developing into what will soon be another thriving entertainment and cultural center.

As the march towards gentrification of the inner city continues, gays and lesbians are always at the forefront. One such neighborhood that’s becoming increasingly popular with potential queer buyers is Wilmore.

“ With the trolley line and the light rail, it’s bringing Wilmore into the community,” says Lisa Steves, a real estate broker and owner of Living Space Realty. “It’s just such a warm community. There’s a lot of gay and lesbian people in the area — both couples and single people, too.”

Steves says the time to buy in the area is now, while prices are still reasonable.

According to N.C. Pride spokeperson John Short, gays and lesbians are spread out all over the Raleigh-Durham area, though most make their homes in the historic, tree-lined streets and neighborhoods surrounding Duke University. The area known as North Durham is also popular with gays and artists, as many are moving in and renovating old warehouse spaces. But that’s not all. “We’re creating a Castro district on Ninth and Broad,” says Short. As gays and lesbians have moved into the area, so have gay-owned and operated and gay-friendly businesses, creating a real sense of community.

Gays and lesbians have always enjoyed a beautiful seaside view and that’s one of the many desirable aspects of life in Wilmington. Like other towns and cities in the Carolinas, historic districts offer a distinct appeal to the gay community. Wilmington is no exception.

“I think it’s the challenge of rebuilding something and the affordable prices,” says Bo Dean, the former director of Wilmington’s Gay Center.

“The historic district downtown was revitalized in large part by the LGBT community,” says Dean. “Couples moved in and redid these old homes, making them spectacular again.”

Dean also points out the downtown riverside community as being popular with gays. “It’s kind of an urban environment and I think people in our community enjoy living in the apartments over the old storefronts,” he explains.

When you can’t make it to the beach, try the mountains, eh? That’s what a lot of North Carolina lesbians and gays are doing these days in the mountain town of Asheville. The air, the view, the small-town serenity mixed with a cosmopolitan flair are just a few of the elements that have attracted couples and retiring gays from both Carolinas, Georgia and Tenneesee to this beautiful town near the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Tops among gays and lesbians in Asheville are neighborhoods like Montford, known for its giant oak tree-lined streets and houses, as well as the up-and-coming West Asheville.

South Carolina

The state capital of Columbia offers many neighborhoods popular with the LGBT community, explains S.C. Gay and Lesbian Pride Movement director Bert Easter.

“Elmwood Park is known as one of the places to be in downtown and the area has lots of gay families,” says Easter.

“It has a very checkered past dating back to the 1800s,” he says with a chuckle. “It was an area for the fairgrounds brothels and drinking houses that peppered the district. There are lots of old homes there still today — early 20th century homes from the 1900s to the 1920s and even some houses dating back to the 1800s.

In the ’50s the neighborhood went down a lot and became somewhat of a crime district in the ’60s and ’70s. It saw a revitilization in the 1980s and by the ’90s it was a clear movement. Now it’s a historic neighborhood.”

The neighbohood of Earlewood Park, constructed mostly during the 1920s, is also a haven for LGBT families. “It’s a much bigger area,” says Easter, “and a larger diversity of homestyles, from bungalows and smaller homes to larger houses and a few modern homes. In Columbia, it’s the largest base of LGBT owners.”

Other neighborhoods popular with Columbia’s LGBT residents include Melrose Heights, Shandon and Forest Acres.

The historic seaside town of Charleston has always been a hot travel destination for LGBT vacationers. The entire historic distict is extremely popular with residents of the LGBT community because of the architectural style, access to restaurants, clubs, retail shops and the waterfront area. “But there’s not really any kind of ‘gay ghetto’ here,” says Charlie Smith, a Charleston real estate salesperson. It’s a very integrated community.

“If there was one area in particular, I’d say it’s the North King St. Corridor — it’s a 1940s storefront walk and there are a couple of gay clubs in that area.”

The central South Carolina city of Greenville is like many other southern towns with an historic district near the city’s urban center. “My partner and I love the historic district,” says Greg Campbell, who works for AIDS Upstate. “It’s called Earle Street and was built from the early 1800s to the early 1900s.

“There are lots of big trees and it’s within walking distance of the downtown business area. I think the charm is because they’re not cookie cutter houses, and the proximity to downtown. Greenville has really revitalized the downtown area to make it a hub of entertainment and the LGBT community played a part in that.”

A new popular S.C. up-and-comer for gays and lesbians is Myrtle Beach, which will host a gay pride Festival Aug. 19-21. “I think people like it here for a variety of reasons,” says Myrtle Beach Real Estate broker Stephen Holder, a former Atlanta resident. “It’s a popular tourist destination, but it can be very laid back here, too. The community here is small, but it’s growing. Everybody knows each other, very friendly and very close-knit.”

According to Holder, gays and lesbians in the region favor neighborhoods like The Avenues, North Myrtle Beach, Garden City, Cherry Grove and Surfside.

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