Social Division in Town

Changes in the west side of Davidson

View of Griffith St, Circa 1985

Historically, the west side of Davidson has been home to African Americans and people of lower socioeconomic classes. When Griffith Street became the entrance for I-77 in the late 60s, the street was repurposed. Since, Griffith Street is the first image many people see when they driving into Davidson, it must reflect Davidson’s identity. With increased traffic and lakeside development, Griffith Street changed from being a relatively secluded, mainly residential area to being a busy thoroughfare. In addition, in the last couples decades the Charlotte metropolitan area has experienced a banking and population boom. This has brought more middle to upper class people to the area who see Davidson as an ideal place to raise a family or retire. Davidson’s changing image has had social, economic, and cultural impacts on the community, which we will discuss further on this website.

 

Evelyn Carr

Evelyn Carr Photo courtesy of Bill Giduz

Evelyn Carr
Photo courtesy of Bill Giduz

Evelyn Carr is an extraordinary woman who has lived in Davidson her entire life.  Born in Davidson in 1931, she attended the Davidson Colored School, now called Ada Jenkins school, until 9th grade, the last grade offered at the time.  First Carr lived on Brady Alley, a predominantly Black area.  Then she moved to Griffith Street, where she raised her ten children.  In an interview with Davidson student Amanda Lehnberg, Carr spoke lovingly of the supportive community on Griffith.  Carr recounted always feeling confidence that her children would be safe in the neighborhood while she was at work.  She spoke of an older White man up the street who would watch over her children as they went to and from school.

Carr has lived on Griffith Street for decades and has witnessed many changes in the Black community as housing prices have skyrocketed as Davidson has become a popular lakeside town.  Davidson’s identity and demographics changed with the formation of Lake Norman as it became a destination for middle to upper class families who wanted to live near Charlotte.  This change has put pressure on minority community like the Black community that used to live on Griffith Street.  In an interview, Carr expressed mixed feelings about the lake.  She said, “I love the lake.  I never go in it but I love the lake… It helped some people to get better houses….”  Even so, the increase in property values has also had detrimental effect own her community as many people who lived in her neighborhood can no longer afford to live in this area.

Carr expressed that people of a lower socioeconomic class have no place socially or economically in Davidson.  She described the feeling of displacement saying,

“We really don’t have any [area, history] anymore.  In Brady Alley, we were all a happy family.  And then we were over here and thought we were a happy family here and then they uprooted us from Griffith Street.  Now there’s nowhere to put us.”

Carr was uprooted when she was forced to move her house up the street to make room for Roosevelt Wilson pond, a part of Lake Norman.  Carr and her husband, Orlando, had just finished the flooring and walls of their house, when Duke Power informed them they would have to relocate.  Fortunately, the company paid off the rest of their mortgage and moved their house a few blocks east of where is was originally.  Many of Carr’s friends sold their houses and moved away as Davidson repurposed Griffith to be an aesthetically pleasing polished town entrance.  Even with the challenges of moving, dealing with increased property prices, and a dwindling Black community, Carr has chosen to stay on Griffith Street.  Her little blue house has almost become a landmark as it is one of the only houses that still remains on the street, which has been taken over by grocery stores, schools, and small businesses.

Carr in front of her current house on Griffith St. Photo courtesy of Amanda Lehnberg

Carr in front of her current house on Griffith St.
Photo courtesy of Amanda Lehnberg

 

Carr continues to campaign for more affordable housing as she believes that more young Blacks would stay in Davidson if property prices were lower.  In the 1980s, Carr co-created the Lakeside Housing Development, which was the first organizations of it’s kind for African Americans in Davidson.  In addition, she helped raise money to construct rental units for low-income local families.  Very active, Carr has served on many town committees such as the Common Ground Community Committee, the West Davidson Stakeholder Committee, and the Police Advisory committee (Lehnberg).

In 2006, Evelyn Carr was awarded with the G. Jack Burney Community Service Award for her generous contributions to the Davidson community.

If you would like to learn more about Evelyn Carr’s life, look here.

Sources:

Carr, Evelyn. “Davidson Oral History,” interviews by Jan Blodgett (Sept. 4, 2002). Transcribed by Emily Hammock, July 2008, 1-5.

Carr, Evelyn. Jack Burney Award Citation, Town of Davidson website, http://www.ci.davidson.nc.us/DocumentCenter/Home/View/1743

Lehnberg, Amanda. “From the Kitchen of Evelyn Carr.” From the Kitchen of Evelyn Carr. Davidson College Psychology Department, 2007. Web. 30 Mar. 2014. http://public.davidson.edu/psychology/krmulthaup/reminiscencef07/amlehnberg/index.html.

 

 

Griffith Street Development

Introduction

The Duke Power Company, now known as Duke Energy, created Lake Norman in 1963 to harness hydroelectric power. Since then, they have built the Marshall Steam Station and the McGuire Nuclear Plant. Lake Norman has not only changed the geography of the Piedmont, but has also influenced the area’s development, demographics, and identity.

If you look at the Davidson town website, you will see images of happy, healthy people doing wholesome activities like biking and jogging. You might even see a couple photos of happy beautiful people drinking lattes from Summit or going to the farmers market. Although this reflects parts of Davidson’s identity now, the town did not always look this way.  Davidson was a small rural town before Lake Norman covered much of the farmland and made the town a lakeside destination.

In this project, we will look at Davidson’s development and subsequent identity changes, focusing in on  the development of Griffith Street, the major thoroughfare connecting the town to Interstate-77.

Map of Davidson, NC.

I-77 crossing Lake Norman, exit 30 leading into Davidson

I-77 crossing Lake Norman, exit 30 leading into Davidson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We will follow four different development themes:

Economic Development

 

Major Town and College Projects

 

Social Division in Town 

 

Demographic Changes