Denver, North Carolina

Denver was settled around 1770, almost 200 years before Duke Energy dammed the Catawba River to create Lake Norman. Ironically, in its earliest days, Denver was known as “Dry Pond.” That is, until citizens in the 1870s lobbied to change its name to Denver, in the hope of sounding big and prosperous enough to attract the railroad. Though the railroad never was built through town, “Denver (of the East)” stuck.

Located on what’s known as the quieter western side of Lake Norman, Denver still enjoys a low-key lifestyle and village atmosphere, while providing easy access to Charlotte and Hickory via N.C. 16. While towns on the eastern side of the lake have seen explosive growth, the western side has been a bit slower. That is changing, however, as lake lovers are increasingly attracted to Lincoln County’s lower taxes and land prices, as well as its serene lake lifestyle.

The last census showed that at least 52 percent of Denver’s population commutes to work outside the county. To try to avoid traffic congestion in the future, expansion of N.C. 16 is currently under way, with the first phase of a new bypass set to open in the fall of 2006. By 2010, N.C. 16 will run from Catawba County to Mecklenburg County.

The Denver area is predicted to grow quickly in the coming years. New homes, restaurants and businesses are popping up all the time, and several large development projects are under way. All have plenty of resident input, organized by active citizens’ groups like the East Lincoln Betterment Association, which has taken a leading role in shaping the area since 1976.

There’s been plenty of citizen input over a current proposal for a 203,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter. Some residents say they can’t wait; others worry about its impact on traffic and local merchants. The proposed site would be just east of the new N.C. 16 and west of the junction with N.C. 73. It would encompass 36 acres and create 480 jobs. Top realtors and members of the local business association predict that Wal-Mart would pave the way to a whole new level of development.

The East Lincoln Betterment Association actively guides proposed development projects, such as Paradise Lakes. The Association helped modify the developer’s design, which is currently under way to create 470 homes, including 115 townhouses, with a clubhouse and pool. Single-family homes will range from the $300s to the $500s, and the patio homes and townhomes will range from the high $150s.

Other neighborhoods include Westport, anchored by Westport Marina, The Gates at Waterside Crossing, Hunters Bluff and Cowans Ford. Denver also lays claim to one of the most exclusive communities on Lake Norman – Governors Island – a narrow peninsula of palatial, stucco estates on the water.

If you’ve always dreamed of having a golf course in your backyard, Verdict Ridge Golf and Country Club could be the community for you. Here, homes are set right on the golf course, along with amenities that include swimming, tennis, nature trails and fine dining. The golf course has been lovingly set into the rolling landscape, and is a popular venue for championship games, which in the past have included a U.S. Open qualifying tournament.

SailView, developed by Crescent Resources, the land management arm of Duke Energy Corp., is a community of wooded lots around the lake, from a half acre to more than an acre. Homes range from the low $300s to more than $1 million, and residents enjoy the clubhouse, pool, tennis courts, walking paths, playground and community boat slips.

Until the fall of 2002, Lincoln was a dry county. Since the sale of alcoholic beverages was approved in a countywide referendum, more and more restaurants have moved into the area, offering convenience for residents who wish to stay on the quieter side of the lake.

A reminder of Denver’s history comes every August at Rock Spring Camp Meeting, housed in a collection of weathered wooden structures on Camp Meeting Road. Generations of family members return every summer to enjoy what their grandparents enjoyed: a wholesome religious revival of worship, singing and socializing in a rustic setting. This camp meeting has been held in simple wooden buildings with tin roofs and earthen floors for over 200 years. The roots of camp meeting run as deep as the Rock Spring itself, still located in its well house across the street.

Fall arrives with an old fashioned apple festival in Lincolnton. Lincoln County produces the state’s second-largest apple crop, and residents compete each year during the festival to show off their best apple dishes. You’ll find food and craft vendors, a petting zoo, pony rides for the kids, a farmers market and even a library sale.

Denver residents have their pick of cultural events and organizations in Charlotte, Lincolnton and Hickory. The Lincoln Cultural Center in Lincolnton, for example, is a beautiful historic landmark that houses Lincoln County’s first history museum, galleries for local, state and regional works of art, as well as a performance hall for live theatrical productions, concerts and lectures.