Have you ever thought about the history of Davidson, NC?
Who lived in those beautiful houses that line the streets of Davidson?Just how far back does the history of Davidson go?
While the town of Davidson is small, it’s history is large. While we could not find a lot written about the history of Davidson, we did find the Davidson Historical Society which not only provided us a lot of information on Davidson, but it also provided a Davidson Walking Tour online!
Helper Hotel, circa 1848
215 N. Main St
According to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Landmarks Commission, Lewis Dinkins constructed the building in 1848. He then leased the building to Leroy Springs who was going to use it as a store. Within that lease was an explicit prohibition of selling intoxicating liquors or any other item that was prohibited by the Trustees of Davidson College. In 1855, the building was then purchased by Hanson Pinkney Helper, known as “Pink” to the students, who then transformed the building into a 13 room hotel, The Helper Hotel.
1865 – The porch over the sidewalk was added.
1870’s – The widow’s walk was added.
1920’s and 1930’s – The Helper Hotel was a weekend rooming house for women who attended college social events.
1946 – Davidson College purchased the building and is now used as the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies.
Oak & Elk Rows 1836
The low one story building along Main St. and facing the campus is Oak Row, one of the original dormitory rows.
Another, Elm Row faces it across the quad.
Each had four rooms for four students each and each room had a fireplace. After the building of Chambers in 1858, the rows gave overnight shelter to Confederate soldiers returning home after the Civil War. Faculty wives nursed and fed them.
The President’s House, 1837
408 N. Main
The Davidson College President’s home was originally a two story brick building and was only 22 x 32. It was deemed unsuitable for a president so from 1897 – 1912 the presidents lived elsewhere.
1912 – Dr. William Joseph Martin, a faculty member who was living in the house at that time, was elected president, and it once again became the President’s House.
1859 – The house was enlarged.
1959 – The house was enlarged again.
1998 – The house was enlarged once again.
Two row houses, similar to Oak and Elm, once stood on the now spacious front lawn.
Mrs. Vinson’s Boarding House, 1898
519 N. Main
“This house is typical of many houses built to board students. Ten brackets besides the door on the side porch held the hats and coats of hungry students. An excellent example of a classic Queen Anne house, it is a celebration of the machine woodwork made possible by the new mechanical saw and wood lathe. Restored in 1988.”
Booe’s Meat Market 1908
206 S. Main
Booe’s Meat Market was the first shop in Davidison to have refrigeration, later it became part of the City Garage.
Today, James E. Raeford continues the tradition of African-American barbers in Davidson that began in the early days of the town.
The Archie Brown Store 1901
126 S. Main
This is the oldest building standing today in the business district. It was built after the fire in 1901. M. H. Goodrum & Company opened here in 1903. It was the dominant department store in the 1920’s.
The Manly Cranford Store 1902
110 S. Main
This is the second oldest building on Main St. It was built by Mr. Cranford to replace the store he lost in the 1901 fire. This was a general store.
In 1916 it was the Palace Theatre, where silent films were shown for five cents.
It became the Village Store in 1963.
With the coming of the railroad, a number of small streets or alleys developed connecting Main St. to the tracks. This one was called Brady’s Alley for the family who lived on the adjacent lot.
An African-American community grew up here between the tracks and the back of Main St., which as time passed became very crowded and in 1950 a fire destroyed the Torrance family home there.
The resulting public awareness of inadequate housing conditions in the community led to the formation of the Davidson Citizens’ Housing Committee in 1950. As a result of this committee, Lakeside Homes, a project that opened up land off Griffith St., was begun and a fund was established that provided low-rate mortgages for home building.
A Look Behind the Buildings
Notice the two doors. One at ground level, the other higher. My theory is that horse drawn carriages used to pull up here and the occupants could just step out of their carriage and walk into the building.
What do you think? Would that make sense?
Because the history of Davidson being a reason to walk around, I think Davidson, NC is a very quaint, beautiful little town tucked away between bigger cities giving you all the more reason to take a look around.
These are just some highlights of the Davidson Walking Tour provided by the Davidson Historical Society.