Her Place Was Making History: Mary Myers Dwelle

September 17, 2016 - May 7, 2017

Mint Museum Randolph


Celebrating the role of Mary Myers Dwelle, the driving force behind the creation of the first art museum in North Carolina – The Mint Museum.

Mary Myers Dwelle, the daughter of John Springs Myers and Mary Rawlinson Myers, came from a family dedicated to the advancement and culture of Charlotte, so it’s understandable that she would become the driving force behind the creation of the first art museum in North Carolina – The Mint Museum. As chairman of the Charlotte Woman’s Club Art Department, Dwelle arranged art exhibitions and lectures which found an eager audience in the people of Charlotte. Recognizing the need for a free-standing arts center, she and other arts advocates identified the historic United States Mint building on Tryon Street as a viable location for this enterprise. The building had been condemned in 1930 to make room for a new United States Post Office, but community protests had stalled demolition for three years.

Converting the Mint building to an art museum appeared to be an impossible task. However, on 18 February 1933, with demolition of the Mint building underway, Dwelle and the Art Department hosted a luncheon with guest speaker Leila Mechlin, Secretary of the American Federation of Art. Her passionate speech in defense of saving the Mint building inspired the donation of $600 (the equivalent of $10,833 today) toward the purchase of the rubble to allow reconstruction on another site. Within two days, $950 had been raised and paid to the demolition contractor. E.C. Griffith donated the land on which the museum sits today. Dwelle’s work had just begun.

Reconstructing a demolished historic building in the middle of the Great Depression provided challenges that Dwelle met by tirelessly writing letters to government aid agencies and traveling to Raleigh and Washington, D.C. to request financial support. First as secretary and then as president of the Mint Museum Association, she coordinated the rebuilding process, as well as courting art acquisitions, building relationships with other arts organizations, and maintaining public support for the museum. After three long years, The Mint Museum opened its doors with an inaugural gala on 22 October 1936. Dwelle’s hard work and persistence had made the impossible possible.