The town of Davidson grew up around Davidson College, a small Presbyterian liberal arts college founded in 1837 on the northern edge of Mecklenburg County. The land for the college came from the estate of Revolutionary War general William Davidson, and from the founding of the school until the 1870s, it remained a relatively isolated college community. In 1874 the rail line linking Charlotte to the town of Statesville to the north of Davidson was reactivated, and the small rural town was transformed into a commercial and industrial center at a time when the college itself was expanding. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, several textile mills were built in Davidson, and it became a key manufacturing hub for northern Mecklenburg and southern Iredell counties. The emerging merchant class in the town also led to the birth of a small commercial sector across from the campus. This photograph of Main Street was taken around 1910.
In the years after World War II, the student population of Davidson College more than doubled, and the town continued to grow with it. The creation of Lake Norman in the 1960s and the arrival of Interstate 77 from Charlotte in 1968 were key to the town's postwar development, and helped Davidson survive the closure of its textile mills. In recent years this part of the county has seen an explosion in population and commercial development, and Davidson began to be threatened by suburban sprawl. As can be seen in the picture below, however, the downtown area has managed to retain its quaint historical character and has not changed much over the years. Davidson has a distinct development philosophy to maintain its character and to keep sprawl out. Public input sessions are required for all new developments, and the town encourages greenways and open space.
Until next week!
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Information taken from:
Charlotte Then and Now, Brandon Lunsford, 2013.
“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass