From the heights of Crowders Mountain to the banks of the Catawba River, Gaston County offers a small-town atmosphere with close proximity to Charlotte.
Located just west of Mecklenburg County, Gaston has traditionally lacked much of the growth of other counties, in part due to the limited access to Charlotte, as the Catawba River separates the two.
However, a recent surge in real estate suggests that Gaston County will see significant changes in the next few years. The recent completion of the western loop of I-485, connecting Gaston County to southwest Charlotte, is making Gaston County particularly appealing.
One of Gaston’s fastest-growing areas is the town of Belmont. With a rich history that begins with the building of the Southern Railway track in the 1870s, Belmont offers a quaint, peaceful setting within only 12 miles of Charlotte. Belmont streets are lined with lilac, magnolia and dogwood trees, as well as its charming architecture. With a fountain, gazebo, playground, track and playing fields, Stowe Park in downtown Belmont is the site of special events hosted by the city including Concerts in the Park and Movies in the Park series.
This community with just over 9,000 residents is home to a number of textile manufacturers and features small cottage houses along with dozens of new developments. Areas along Lake Wylie, the Catawba River and Mountain Island Lake have seen considerable growth as affordable waterfront property is quickly snatched up.
The rich history of Belmont is best known through Belmont Abbey College. Founded in 1876 by Benedictine monks, this private, liberal arts college is the only Catholic college in the Southeast. Its cathedral is featured in the National Register of Historic Places.
Another interesting characteristic of Belmont is the Belmont Drive-In Theater, one of the last of a dying breed. For more than 50 years, the drive-in has been entertaining residents in the region with blockbuster films.
North of Belmont is Mount Holly, another up-and-coming area in Gaston County. With about 10,000 residents, this community is seeing new growth similar to that of Belmont.
StoneWater, a new development on Mountain Island Lake, provides a natural setting for its residents as well as quick access to the excitement of Charlotte. The community features a swim and tennis club, park with a playground, boat slips and walking trails. Homes at StoneWater range from the high $300s to over $1 million.
West of Belmont along I-85, the tiny town of McAdenville offers a unique experience during the holidays. A mill town with about 700 residents, McAdenville began its Christmas tradition in 1956 when the local men’s club decided to decorate the trees around the town’s community center with Christmas lights. Townspeople quickly followed, adorning their own trees with lights. Today, the tradition has evolved into more than 450,000 lights on 400 live trees ranging from four feet to 80 feet in height. During the month of December, visitors drive their cars through the town to view the amazing Christmas display, particularly around the town’s small lake, where a fountain shoots water 75 feet into the air. It is estimated that around 600,000 visitors come to view the lights each season, pumping an estimated $12 million into the local economy.
Another boon to McAdenville’s economy is a new development of Saussy Burbank homes called McAdenville Village. About 189 neo-traditional-style homes are being built on lots formerly occupied by mill houses. The development is expected to double McAdenville’s population.
With about 70,000 residents, the city of Gastonia is becoming a popular spot for development. Affordability is one of Gastonia’s greatest draws. Compared to neighborhoods in Myers Park and Dilworth, it offers charming colonial, Tudor and traditional homes for a fraction of the price.
Once only developed along its southeastern sections, Gastonia has recently seen a number of new developments arise amidst its older homes. In northeast Gastonia along the established neighborhoods of Modena Street, two developments are integrating the heritage of old neighborhoods with the thrill of new ones.
Modeling the architecture of Dilworth, Sundance Village is a 160-home subdivision that appeals to moderate-income homebuyers. Additionally, the 33-home subdivision of Vinales offers similar incentives less than a mile away from Sundance Village.
Both developments feature sidewalks and walking trails, and Sundance Village includes a playground and community swimming pool.
In addition to its reasonably priced real estate, Gaston County also offers numerous natural areas that a more urban landscape lacks.
One such attribute is the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden on South New Hope Road in Belmont, which features a number of landscaped gardens with distinct themes, as well as a visitors’ center. With 158,000 square feet of planting beds, the Garden is undergoing long-term development as part of its 450-acre Master Plan.
Just across the Catawba River from Belmont, the U.S. National Whitewater Center provides 300 acres of recreation. An Olympic-caliber training site, the center features an artificial river with adaptable rapids for different levels of paddlers. Also part of the center are climbing facilities, trails for biking and hiking, and a 37-acre island for camping.
About 20 minutes west of Belmont, Crowders Mountain State Park makes a great day trip. The park covers 5,000 acres and includes 12 miles of hiking trails that lead to Crowders Mountain and Kings Pinnacle. It is also a popular spot for rock climbing.
Just across the state line from Crowders Mountain State Park, Kings Mountain National Military Park and Kings Mountain State Park add another 10,000 acres of recreation. Kings Mountain was the site of a major Revolutionary War battle that is considered one of the turning points in the war. The military park includes a 1.5-mile trail with historic markers and a half-hour film depicting the events of the battle. Along with Kings Mountain State Park, the two parks offer 32 miles of hiking and horseback riding trails. Kings Mountain State Park also includes a 115-site campground that is open year-round.