Charlotte /ˈʃɑrlət/ is the largest city in the U.S. state of North Carolina and the seat of Mecklenburg County. In 2012, the estimated population of Charlotte according to the U.S. Census Bureau was 775,202, making it the 17th largest city in the United States based on population. The Charlotte metropolitan area ranks 23rd largest in the US and had a 2012 population of 2,296,569. The Charlotte metropolitan area is part of a sixteen-county market region or combined statistical area with a 2011 U.S. Census population estimate of 2,442,564. Residents of Charlotte are referred to as "Charlotteans". Charlotte is considered a "Gamma+ world city".
The city is a major U.S. financial center, the second largest financial center by assets following New York City. Bank of America and the East Coast operations of Wells Fargo are headquartered in the city. Charlotte is also home of the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League, the Charlotte Bobcats of the National Basketball Association, the Charlotte Hounds of Major League Lacrosse, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Carowinds amusement park, and the U.S. National Whitewater Center.
Nicknamed the Queen City, Charlotte and its resident county are named in honor of Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who had become queen consort of Great Britain the year before the city's founding. A second nickname derives from the American Revolutionary War, when British commander General Cornwallis occupied the city but was driven out by hostile residents, prompting him to write that Charlotte was "a hornet's nest of rebellion", leading to the nickname The Hornet's Nest.
Charlotte has a humid subtropical climate. Charlotte is located several miles east of the Catawba River and southeast of Lake Norman, the largest man-made lake in North Carolina. Lake Wylie and Mountain Island Lake are two smaller man-made lakes located near the city.
Mecklenburg County was initially part of Bath County (1696 to 1729) of New Hanover Precinct, which became New Hanover County in 1729. The western portion of New Hanover split into Bladen County in 1734, its western portion splitting into Anson County in 1750. Mecklenburg County formed from Anson County in 1762, with further apportionment in 1792, with Cabarrus County formed from Mecklenburg, and in 1842, with Union County formed from Mecklenburg's southeastern portion. These areas were all part of one of the original six judicial/military districts of North Carolina known as the Salisbury District.
The area that is now Charlotte was settled by people of European descent around 1755 when Thomas Spratt and his family settled near what is now the Elizabeth neighborhood. Thomas Polk (granduncle of U.S. President James K. Polk), who later married Thomas Spratt's daughter, built his house by the intersection of two Native American trading paths between the Yadkin and Catawba rivers. One path ran north–south and was part of the Great Wagon Road; the second path ran east–west along what is now Trade Street. Within decades of Polk's settling, the area grew to become "Charlotte Town", incorporating in 1768. The crossroads, perched atop the Piedmont landscape, became the heart of Uptown Charlotte.
In 1770 surveyors marked the streets in a grid pattern for future development. The east–west trading path became Trade Street, and the Great Wagon Road became Tryon Street, in honor of William Tryon, a royal governor of colonial North Carolina. The intersection of Trade and Tryon commonly known today as "Trade & Tryon" or, simply, "The Square", is more properly called Independence Square.
While surveying the boundary between the Carolinas in 1772, William Moultrie stopped in Charlotte Town, whose five or six houses were "very ordinary built of logs".
In 1775 local leaders came together and signed the Mecklenburg Resolves, more popularly known as the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. While not a true declaration of independence from British rule, it is among the first such declarations that eventually led to the American Revolution. May 20, the date proscribed as the signing of the declaration, is celebrated annually in Charlotte as "MecDec", with musket and cannon fire by reenactors in Independence Square. North Carolina's state flag and state seal also bear the date.