The Highways of North Carolina
N.C. 51 
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Photo: NC 51 begins at the state line (Chris Patriarca)
NC 51
N.C. 51  24 miles
The Road: Begins at NC 24-27 near Allen and ends at the South Carolina State Line at Pineville, all within Mecklenburg County. The route continues as the second SC 51 less than a mile to US 21.
Towns and Attractions: Mecklenburg Co.: Pineville, Matthews, Mint Hill  
History: NC 51 was born in late 1934 as a renumbering of NC 276. It ran from US 21-521 (just Polk St today) Pineville east through Matthews and Mint Hill to end at NC 27.
In 1969, NC 51 was extended west from Pineville into South Carolina, replacing part of US 21 which was moved to I-77.
1933 Official
NC 276 through eastern Mecklenburg County
1936 Official
NC 51 replaces NC 276
1969 Official
NC 51 extended to SC

About 1992, NC 51 was rerouted onto new 4-lane road to bypass central Matthews to the north, eliminating a series of turns in town as shown below.
NC 51 has not undergone route changes since then, only widenings and the crush of civilization.

1977 Champion
NC 51's original Matthews routing

The first NC 51 was an original state highway. In 1922 it ran from NC 20 (probably the Five Points area) Rockingham and headed north on Ellerbe St. It is possible NC 51 was duplexed with NC 20 into Rockinham to meet NC 50 (now US 1). Anyway, NC 51 then followed Billy Covington Rd, then US 220 to Ellerbe (NC 51 may have used Sandy Ridge Church Rd early on but US 220 was the state route by 1930).
Early on NC 51 may have used other backroads to get to Covington, but the 1924 Official clearly shows NC 51 using today's NC 73 from US 220 to Mt. Gilead, then NC 109 north to end at NC 74 (now Pee Dee Rd) below Wadesville.
In 1928, NC 51 from Rockingham to Ellerbe became part of NC 75.
In late 1934, NC 51 from Ellerbe to Mt. Gilead became NC 73 while Mt. Gilead to Wadeville became part of NC 109.
1922 Auto Trails
Original NC 51
1928 Gen Draft
NC 75 snips part of NC 51
1935 Gen Draft
NC 73 and NC 109 get the rest

I drove NC 51 in its entirety in 1988 and don't recall anything specific about it. This supports Steffora's recollection of 1989 having 55 mph speed limits and some rural space.
Today, NC 51 is mostly inside I-485 and doesn't stray very far from the freeway.
The SC 51 piece is an anomaly as there is a totally separate SC 51 in eastern South Carolina that dates to 1920.

Last Update: 2 April 2008

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