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'City of Canvas': The story of Camp Greene

Just off Wilkinson Boulevard in west Charlotte lies what was one of the largest training bases in World War I: Camp Greene.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Long before Charlotte was a world-class city and major financial center, the Queen City was a town known for its collection of cotton mills. 

That changed during World War I when the city was home to Camp Greene, a huge military training camp with thousands of tents for soldiers. Camp Greene had so many of these tents it was affectionately known as the City of Canvas. 

Camp Greene was a massive city within a city. It covered 6,000 acres, stretching from a few miles from downtown on what is now Wilkinson Boulevard, west to the Catawba River and Gaston County. 

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"The camp expanded from Wilkinson Boulevard all the way to Tuckaseegee, ultimately," Jack Dillard, producer of the documentary "City of Canvas," said. "There was a hospital and it just kept growing.

Credit: WCNC Charlotte

The base had a stable for horses and mules used in training. The cavalry was so important in WWI combat. 

"Remount Road expands for a mile this way, there were stables on either side of the road for horses and mules," Dillard said.  

While stationed at Camp Greene, soldiers prepared for the many challenges of the war being fought in Europe. At its peak, more soldiers got their training at Camp Greene than the total population of Charlotte at that time. 

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Credit: WCNC Charlotte

The Dowd House, near Uptown Charlotte, was an important part of the operations at Camp Greene. 

"It was originally the construction headquarters," Dillard said. "The camp headquarters were at another house. At some point, this became the camp headquarters."

The next time you're heading down Wilkinson Boulevard, you may want to take a moment to turn down Monument Street, where you can see the last remaining structure of the history of World War I right here in Charlotte. 

Contact Larry Sprinkle at lsprinkle@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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