Matthews, North Carolina, (population approximately 30,000) is located in Mecklenburg County, southeast of the greater Charlotte metropolitan area. The area was the ancestral home of the Waxhaw and Catawba Indians; unspoiled rolling woodlands with trading trails and game-rich hunting grounds. The rich and inviting land attracted settlers, mainly farmers, who began clearing land for planting around 1800. Cotton grew well and soon became the primary cash crop. As the land was cleared for planting, so many tree stumps were left standing that the early settlement was unofficially known as Stumptown. Later, the town was called Fullwood, because of a stagecoach stop operated by the area's first postmaster, John Miles Fullwood. The Central Carolina Railroad ran track through the middle of this small community in 1874, making it easier for farmers to get their cotton to market and for merchants to receive goods, attracting more farmers and helping the area to prosper.
Over the years, the population increased, fueled by Charlotte-area banking and business growth, as Matthews moved from cotton to corporate. Today, the community is the home of several national and international corporations, including headquarters for Family Dollar and Harris Teeter.
The Town of Matthews was incorporated in 1879, and the1880 census lists 181 citizens. A new train depot was built that year. That depot, as well as a 1907 public school and an agricultural Grange building from the 1930s, are among 10 downtown Matthews buildings that make up a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission worked with the Town of Matthews to purchase and restore the Funderburk Buildings in 1997 and, most recently, to purchase and place protective covenants in the deed of the Funderburk-Plaxco House. They are currently working together to designate and preserve the R. F. Outen Pottery and the Phillips House and Morris Barn.
The Matthews Historic Preservation Advisory Committee successfully lobbied the town council to designate the McEwen-Moore house and the Funderbunk-Plaxco house, both slated for demolition, as local historic landmarks. Sixteen additional properties are slated for preservation review.
Crestdale, a post-Civil War era community located on 130 acres near downtown Matthews, was settled by freed plantation slaves in 1867, one of the first such communities in North Carolina. The Historic Preservation Advisory Committee plans to work with the Crestdale community to preserve and celebrate its history and heritage.
Despite being faced with tremendous development pressure as a suburb of Charlotte, Matthews continues to embrace its history through its partnership with the Matthews Historical Foundation. Public-private partnerships have created historical festivals, downtown walking tours, home and garden tours, and, in 2013, the opening of the Matthews Heritage Museum. Housed in the restored 1880s Massey-Clark House in the middle of Downtown, the museum has succeeded in turning an unused, distressed property on the main street into a popular and appreciated attraction, keeping memories alive and providing an economic boost to local merchants.
The Stumptown Festival, created in the 1970s to raise funds to restore the 1907 Matthews school building, has evolved into Matthews Alive, welcoming more than 150,000 visitors to the popular regional four-day event. The renovated school, which now serves as the Community Center, includes the Fullwood Theater, arts classrooms, and meeting space, and hosts quilt shows, art exhibits, and performances.
Designated a Preserve America Community in December 2014.