Duke Energy recently sold its headquarters building at 526 S. Church St. in uptown Charlotte, N.C., leaving behind memories for employees who have worked there since it opened in October 1975.
If it seems like a long time ago or ancient history, it was. That month, Muhammad Ali defeated Joe Frazier to retain his heavyweight boxing champion title in the Thrilla in Manila and NBC aired the first episode of “Saturday Night Live.”
When The Electric Center opened, as it was called, Duke Power employed about 11,800 people to serve the Carolinas. Carl Horn Jr. was chairman and CEO. The company served around 1.126 million customers. Today, Duke Energy serves seven states and 8.2 million customers.
The Electric Center was built to expand the company’s office space in Uptown Charlotte, in addition to the Power Building across First Street, where the Ally building is now located. During construction, a skybridge was added to join the two buildings on the third floor.
In 1976, the company opened a drive-through window on Church Street for customers to pay their electric bills. Appliances were sold in the lobby then. In 1985, the company added a 13-story addition referred to as Phase II.
The name of the building changed to the Energy Center in 1997 when Duke Power and PanEnergy – a Houston-based natural gas distributor – merged to form Duke Energy. In 2010, employees moved into the new Duke Energy Center on South Tryon Street. The building was sold in 2022 with plans to develop 450 residential units and ground-floor retail space.
Employees started moving into the company’s new headquarters, Duke Energy Plaza at 525 S. Tryon St., in January 2023.
“I began my career in The Electric Center in 1989,” one employee said. “Many great friendships and memories were made in this building.”
The 40 feet by 40 feet “Quadrille” light display by artist Michael Hayden on the Brooklyn Village Avenue side of the building was a dancing holographic light sculpture, a highlight of the Charlotte skyline at night.
Construction of Phase II. That's the skybridge to the Power Building on the left across First Street.
The Church and First Streets intersection. The Power building is in the foreground and the 526 building is on the left.
An open house in the Electric Center. Looks like bell bottoms were popular back then.
The receptionist in the lobby was protected in plastic during Phase II construction.
The interactive Duke Energy history exhibit in the lobby.