Davidson, North Carolina

Take a walk down Main Street of this small, college town and you’ll forget that metropolitan Charlotte is just minutes away. Resisting the surge in development that characterizes nearby cities, Davidson maintains its small-town qualities while enjoying the amenities of the burgeoning Lake Norman area.

Davidson College, founded by Presbyterians in 1837, is the centerpiece of the town that blossomed around it. The 450-acre campus is peppered with historical buildings along with newly renovated structures such as the Sloan Music Center. The highly selective and nationally recognized school, which has about 1,600 students, also participates in NCAA Division I athletics.

The school was named after Gen. William Lee Davidson, a Revolutionary War hero who died at the Battle of Cowans Ford in 1781. For many years, the town surrounding the college was called Davidson College. The community incorporated in 1879, and in 1891 named itself simply Davidson.

Unlike booming Huntersville and Cornelius, Davidson has sustained moderate growth, in part because of careful town planning. In 1990, its population was 4,046. By 2000, it had grown to 7,139, an increase of about 76 percent – far less than its neighboring municipalities of Cornelius and Huntersville. Today, Davidson’s population is about 8,300.

Near the college, gorgeous Victorian and Georgian-style homes are surrounded by massive oak trees. Main Street, which borders Davidson College, is lined with small, old-time shops that sell antiques, books, clothing and gifts. The Tom Clark Museum and Cairn Studio is a popular stop. This museum features the works of former Davidson College professor Tom Clark, who is known for his trademark gnome sculptures.

One of the most luxurious developments in Davidson is 1,000-acre River Run, which features homes from the $400s to more than $1 million. River Run offers residents a country club and golf course, two clubhouses, a tennis facility with 16 courts, pools and nature trails.

Seeking to create a new community with the character of an older one, A New Neighborhood in Old Davidson is a development on Davidson-Concord Road that includes parks, squares and common areas along with Charleston-style homes. Home prices in A New Neighborhood in Old Davidson range from the $300s to $400s.

To preserve the natural beauty of the town, residents and public officials are planning a greenway system. One section recently completed is a path that runs between downtown Davidson and the River Run neighborhood, from Kimberly Road east to Robert Walker Drive at the River Run Athletic Field.

Constructed with help from the Tarheel Trailblazers Mountain Bike Club, a new bike trail at Fisher Farm Park off of Shearer Road offers two miles of challenging mountain bike courses. Another new addition to Davidson is an off-leash dog park in the Preserve in the St. Alban’s neighborhood.

In part because of its academic atmosphere, Davidson is highly involved in the arts. During the summer, hundreds of Davidson residents flock to Concerts on Green. A series held during the summer on Sunday nights, Concerts on the Green features a diverse selection of musical groups that range from Davidson College musicians to Cuban and Celtic bands.

Founded in 1965, the Davidson Community Players continue to entertain audiences. The group performs plays and musicals at Davidson College and other local venues. Most performers come from the Lake Norman area. A children’s theater group, the Connie Co., is an affiliate of the Davidson Community Players that offers drama workshops for pre-teens and teens.