Monday, February 6, 2012

Looking for the Ratcliffe sign?

What of the Ratcliffe's Florist sign that hung at what's now Bernardin's at 435 S. Tryon St., but then disappeared?

Good news: The sign is slated to be unveiled on The Green on Valentine's Day -- relocated to the original site of the building and hung from a pole, with an explanatory plaque in the pavement in front of it. (The illustration here, courtesy of Wells Fargo, was part of a proposal -- approved -- to the Historic Landmarks Commission.)

Original owner Louis Ratcliffe first opened a Charlotte flower business in 1917, records say. This two-story Mediterranean Revival-style building, designed by Charlotte architect William Peeps (he did Latta Arcade, too), was built in 1929. It housed the florist business for some 60 years, before becoming restaurant Carpe Diem. The neon sign and stained-glass window facing Tryon stayed intact in that incarnation.

Then the building was sold, and plans were made for The Green and Three First Union. Preservationists, who'd seen several uptown things come down in the late 90s, winced and worried. But the bank chose to do an extraordinary thing.

In 2000, the building was lifted up, pulled across Tryon Street and stored in a parking lot for about a year, while the underground parking deck at The Green was constructed. In 2001, it was moved back across the street and repositioned, about 75 feet north of its original placement on Tryon.

Since then, it has housed other restaurants, including two versions named Ratcliffe on the Green, before becoming Bernardin's late last year.

At that time, with the restaurant on site no longer being named for Ratcliffe, Wells Fargo decided it would be more appropriate to put it back in its original spot, said Tom Dorsey, a senior vice president for corporate properties. "Where we put it, it becomes a signature piece for The Green, and in the middle of the Levine Cultural Arts campus. ... The sign is not only a piece of history, but a piece of art."

A small dedication ceremony will be held at noon, Feb. 14.