How Hickory, NC Began…
Hickory began as a small piedmont city whose growth and development moved it from a late nineteenth-century trading center on the Western North Carolina Railroad to a thriving twentieth-century manufacturing center for furniture, hosiery and textiles.
The history and development of Hickory has been divided into five stages of growth. The earliest phase began at the end of the eighteenth century and ended with the outbreak of the Civil War (1769-1860).
The second phase began when the Civil War ended, as the city's population and economy expanded as well as increased development in cultural and educational facilities (1861-1900).
This second phase lasted until around 1901, when the establishment of the first large-scale furniture plant made permanent changes in the manufacturing business. From 1901 until the onset of World War I in 1917, many furniture factories as well as hosiery and textile mills were built in the city's realm resulting in a rise in population, service industries and building activity.
During World War I, construction in the city declined only to be followed by a large increase in population and housing needs, growth of businesses and manufacturing companies, and the extension of public services rendered by local government (1918-1940). Growth since 1940- After World War II Hickory continued growing and by 1961 the city boasted forty-six furniture plants, eight-nine hosiery mills, twenty-seven other manufactories, and a population of 37,000 people. A vast urban renewal project as well as continual redevelopment also accompanied this period of growth. Much of the historic fabric of Hickory's downtown was removed or drastically altered in the 1960s and 1970s, leaving gaping holes in the urban landscape. Yet, this period also saw the emergence of historic preservation efforts in Hickory, a trend that has grown in scope by instilling pride in the city's past by encouraging the appreciation, preservation, and continued use of Hickory's historic resources.
Currently, the City of Hickory has been awarded a grant to conduct a survey of the city's historic resources. The grant will allow the Historic Preservation Commission to hire a certified historic resource professional to identify historic structures along the boundaries of established historic districts. The survey will be used to consider future expansion of Hickory's historic districts. The last survey, conducted in 1979, indicated that there were 168 historical sites within Hickory's city limits. Since this survey was completed, it has been estimated that about 32 of these structures have been demolished. Hopefully, the survey will help the Commission develop a long range historic preservation plan for the City of Hickory, it will also serve as a catalyst for other projects designed to promote, educate, and preserve Hickory's historic treasures.