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Lake Campus

Sterling Martin

Sterling Martin graduated from Davidson College in 1963 as Lake Norman was still filling up and as College President D. Grier Martin and business manager Robert A. Currie were still planning the initial developments of the Lake Campus. 

Sterling T. Martin Jr. ’63, track coach. “Let Them Eat Cake.” Davidson Journal.1987:20-24.

Photograph of Sterling
T. Martin Jr. ’63. “Let Them Eat Cake.” Davidson Journal.1987:20-24.

Martin’s first job with the College was assistant to C. Shaw Smith, the first director of the Student Union. Though he always assumed he would return to work for his father at Union Carbine in West Virginia, he ended up marrying a professor’s daughter in 1964 and made Davidson a permanent home. Following his stint in the Union, Martin began a long career with Davidson Athletics. He started as assistant track coach, a fitting position for the undergraduate cross country star, and his responsibilities gradually expanded until he became the Director of Athletics in 1972.

Martin’s great involvement with Davidson’s Lake Campus was due to his role in the College’s athletics programs. One of the Lake Campus’ chief uses early on was for physical education classes, which naturally fell under the purview of Athletics. Though the Physical Plant was responsible for maintenance of the Campus’ facilities, Martin himself directed much of the programming held at Lake Campus meant to satisfy student and community recreational needs. Sports such as skiing and swimming, as well as other activities like boating and camping, were (and are) a central part of the Lake Campus’ function.

Sterling Martin. Credit: davidsonnews.net

Sterling Martin. Credit: davidsonnews.net

Martin always viewed the Lake Campus as an extension of Davidson’s main grounds and believed it should be looked after just as much as the main campus. He was constantly looking for ways to improve the area and its programming and was indeed responsible for implementing many developments at the site over its history (see Sterling Martin Development Plan for more information). Physical additions to the property and also new PE offerings were all part of his vision for ensuring that the Lake Campus could best serve the Davidson College community. 

 

 

 

References

Martin, Sterling. Interview by Scott Sellers and Devin Gorsen. 21 March 2014.

Floating Boathouse

The floating boathouse was a donation to the College by Linda and Rex Walton, who were forced to somehow get rid of the massive structure due to new property permits as the lake came up. Their property right across the lake from Lake Campus was to be subdivided and the other owner did not want to have his view of the lake obstructed. They ultimately decided it would make a nice gift to the College.

One summer, a massive storm blew the boathouse away from its anchor at the Lake Campus and all the way back across the lake to land in front of the property it came from. Much to the property owner’s dismay, the lake level was falling at the time, which effectively stuck the boathouse on his shore. As much as they tried, Davidson could not remove the boathouse until they employed the massive engine power of the Catawba Queen, a paddle wheel cruise ship used around the lake.

boathouse 1 boathouse 3 boathouse 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Christenbury, Thomas L. Letter to Mr. Rex. C. Welton. 17 December 1987. RG 4/1.1. VP for Business and Finance. Lake Campus Development, 1980-1991. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Martin, Sterling. Personal interview by Scott Sellers and Devin Gorsen. 21 March 2014.

Transfer of Lake Campus Property Deed

The deed for the Lake Campus land was officially transferred to Davidson from Duke Power in 1963 and it came with few usage restrictions. The principal among them was that the Lake Campus property was to be used for recreational use only by Davidson College faculty, staff, and students. The College would forfeit the deed back to Duke Power if it ever tried to sell the land, develop it, or use it in any other for-profit venture.

Map of Lake Norman area (with Lake Campus indicated)

Map of Lake Norman area. Credit: Davidson College Archives. RG 2/11.14 President D. Grier Martin. Lake Campus. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

To this day, the Lake Campus remains one of the most unique properties on the lake, where housing and commercial developments have taken firm hold on the region. Decades later, the College would have an appraisal of the Lake Campus conducted. The appraiser was unable to find any other like property on the lake, citing the uniqueness of the untouched tracks of forest and otherwise well-preserved land. These characteristics are largely due to the conditions established by Duke Power decades ago.

Click here to see images of the actual deed, made out on May 31, 1963.

 

 

 

 

References

Brawley, Irvin. Personal interview by Scott Sellers, Devin Gorsen, and Christopher Ragsdale. 24 March 2014.

Martin, Sterling. Personal interview by Scott Sellers and Devin Gorsen. 3 March 2014.

Initial Development of Lake Campus

Davidsonian, 1963

Photo from The Davidsonian. April 19, 1963 issue, p. 4.

Construction of Lake Campus began as early as September of 1962, long before the deed had been transferred to the College. Duke Power generously initiated the development process by offering to grade the new roads, clear out the area surrounding the marina, dig out the swimming area, and build the swimming causeway. All of this construction was to be completed before the lake was even filled. By March 1, 1963, phase one of the development of Lake Campus had slowly begun. The roadwork and parking areas had been completed; and the boat launching ramp, boat pier, and swimming area were all underway. Davidson had also been working on an agreement with neighboring landowners, the Mott Family, to purchase their concrete block house and tobacco barn in order to house its future Lake Campus caretakers. The Mott Family also owned the large house next to the Lake Campus property. Davidson purchased the house and the barn in December of 1962 for $1,500, despite the fact that the Motts had a tenant already living there.

Next on the list of priorities were the construction of a bathhouse and a well, followed by a plan to build a clubhouse. The College wanted to add other amenities to the property, such as a telephone and running water in the caretaker’s house, before officially opening itBy November of 1962, Davidson’s cost estimate for the entire Lake Campus project was $209,400. Although Charles A. Dana donated $200,000 to the Lake Campus project, the College’s actual expenditures on the Lake Campus only totaled to about $42,000 by the time it opened. It is unclear where the rest of the donated money went, but very few of the remaining original project ideas were completed after 1963. According to former Lake Campus Director, Sterling Martin, the Lake Campus has always been at the bottom of the College’s list of priorities. It was never allotted any real budget, which is why very few of the original plans came to fruition.

 

References

Cost Estimate. VP for Business and Finance. Lake Campus Development, 1958-1962. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Currie, Robert A. Memorandum to Dr. Grier Martin. 6 September 1962. RG 4/1.1. VP for Business and Finance. Lake Campus Development, 1958-1962. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Currie, Robert A. Letter to Mr. and Mrs. Harry Y Mott. 22 December 1962. RG 4/1.1. VP for Business and Finance. Lake Campus Development, 1958-1962. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Currie, Robert A. Expenditures for Lake Campus. 21 May 1963. RG 4/1.1. VP for Business and Finance. Lake Campus Development, 1963-1965. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Currie, Robert A. Memorandum to Dr. Grier Martin. 30 May 1963. RG 2/11.14 .President D. Grier Martin. Lake Campus. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Davidsoniana file: RG 4/1.1. VP for Business and Finance. Lake Campus Development, 1963-1965. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Martin, Grier. Letter to Bill McGuire. 25 January 1963. RG 4/1.1. VP for Business and Finance. Lake Campus Development, 1963-1965. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Meetze, G. C. Suggested Design for a Bath House at Lake Norman. 3 March 1963. RG 4/1.1. VP for Business and Finance. Lake Campus Development, 1963-1965. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Meetze, G. C. Suggested Design for a Club House & Other BLDS on Lake Norman. 14 March 1963. RG 4/1.1. VP for Business and Finance. Lake Campus Development, 1963-1965. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Photograph of Sea Wall and Rocks. The Davidsonian, 22 March 1963, p. 1. Davidson Archives, Davidson, NC.

 

Initial Planning of Lake Campus

http://davidsonarchivesandspecialcollections.org/archives/community/under-lkn/davidson-lake-campus

Lake Campus shoreline before the lake was constructed, Davidson Archives Photograph Collection.

Upon learning of Duke Power’s initial development plans for Lake Norman in 1958, Davidson College President, Dr. Grier Martin, wrote a letter to Duke Power with ideas for how Davidson College could benefit from the building of the lake. President Martin saw Lake Norman as an opportunity to expand the College’s athletic, academic, and recreational programs. While Duke Power did not formally agree to the donation until 1962, President Martin and Business Manager Robert A. Currie had started planning for the development of Davidson’s new Lake Campus as early as November of 1959. At that time, Davidson College envisioned a Lake Campus that would be located on a point and that would have some sort of restaurant or club house facilities, as well as areas for docking and renting boats, swimming, camping, and athletics.

President Martin’s request for a portion of Lake Norman’s shoreline property was well received by Duke Power, which tentatively reserved an area on the lake, five miles away from the main campus. In December of 1962, Duke Power formally agreed to donate 109.6 acres of that land to Davidson College with the understanding that the land would only be used for recreational purposes. President Martin and Currie worked closely with landscape architect, Charles Gillette, to come up with a more cohesive, two-phase plan for the College’s Lake Campus. The first phase of this plan consisted of purchasing the concrete block house and tobacco barn that were located adjacent to the college’s property. These facilities were intended to serve as living quarters for whomever would oversee the Lake Campus property. The first phase also incorporated the construction of roads and parking lots, a bath house, a swimming area, a boat launching area, as well as necessary wells and septic tanks.

The second phase of the plan would take place after the first phase was completed. In December of 1962, Currie wrote a letter to Charles Gillette, detailing a list of future items which they would like to include in the plan. This list consisted of:

  1. Club houses
  2. Shelters which could also be used as shuffleboard courts
  3. Picnic areas
  4. Trails
  5. An open play area with equipment for children
  6. Softball fields
  7. An outdoor basketball court
  8. Space for archery, badminton, etc.
  9. A dry land boat storage facility for small boats
  10. Quarters for the host and hostess
  11. Amphitheater with ticket office, dressing rooms, etc.
  12. Arboretum
  13. Camping sites
  14. Tennis courts
  15. Fishing areas

Of all of the items mentioned above, the only ones that ever came to fruition were picnic areas, trails, and a dry land boat storage facility. According to Davidson’s former Head of Grounds, Irvin Brawley, there used to be campsites with fire pits located near the current picnic area. They were primarily used by local boy scout units. The fire pits have since been replaced with grills. The only other item that was ever strongly considered again was the prospect of a club house. Learn more about the club house in Initial Development of Lake Campus.

 

References

Brawley, Irvin. Personal interview by Scott Sellers, Devin Gorsen, and Christopher Ragsdale. 24 March 2014.

Currie, Robert A. Letter to Charles Gillette. December 1962. RG 4/1.1. VP for Business and Finance. Lake Campus Development, 1958-1962. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Martin, Grier. Memorandum to Members of the Faculty and Staff. 20 October 1959. RG 4/1.1. VP for Business and Finance. Lake Campus Development, 1958-1962. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Photograph of Land, now under Lake Norman, near the future shoreline of the Lake Campus. Photograph Collection, Davidson College Archives. Davidsoniana file: “Lake Campus (Lake Norman).

Lake Campus Timeline

Our project addresses the history of Davidson College’s Lake Campus – its acquisition, initial renovations, and the changes in its use over time. Please click through the timeline below and follow the links to external pages to explore the development of this important element of College life. For additional information on the history of Lake Campus, see the Davidson College Archives’ page on Lake Campus & Lake Wiley.

 

References

Atkins, J. M. Exterior of Myers Park Presbyterian Church. 1948. J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections, Charlotte, N.C. Flickr. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.

Bailey, John. Lake Site Frolics in Fresh Delight. The Davidsonian. 24 April 1964.

Boraks, David. “Learn about the History of Sports at Davidson College.”DavidsonNews.net. N.p., 31 Dec. 2008. Web.

Boraks, David. PEOPLE: Martin retires, Marshburn exhibits, young authors honored. 19 January 2007. DavidsonNews.net.

Brawley, Irvin. Personal interview by Scott Sellers, Devin Gorsen, and Christopher Ragsdale. 24 March 2014.

Cartmill, Thomas A. Memorandum to Robert Currie. 16 March 1979. RG 4/1.1. VP for Business and Finance. Lake Campus Development, 1973-1977. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Christenbury, Thomas L. Letter to Mr. Rex. C. Welton. 17 December 1987. RG 4/1.1. VP for Business and Finance. Lake Campus Development, 1980-1991. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Currie, Robert A. “Lake Campus Operations.” Davidsonian. May 1963.

Currie, Robert A. Letter to Dr. Cartmill. 8 November 1979. RG 4/1.1. VP for Business and Finance. Lake Campus Development, 1973-1977. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Currie, Robert A. Letter to S. J. Stillwell. 8 April 1963. RG 2/11.14. President D. Grier Martin. Lake Campus. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Currie, Robert A. Memorandum to President Martin. 21 March 1963. RG 2/11.14. President D. Grier Martin. Lake Campus. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Currie, Robert A. Memorandum to President Martin. 1 July 1964. RG 4/1.1. VP for Business and Finance. Lake Campus Development, 1963-1965. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Currie, Robert A. Letter to President Spencer. 19 January 1977. RG 4/1.1. VP for Business and Finance. Lake Campus Development, 1973-1977. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Currie, Robert A. Letter to President Spencer. 31 March 1978. RG 4/1.1. VP for Business and Finance. Lake Campus Development, 1973-1977. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Currie, Robert A. Memorandum to Mr. Cornell. 7 February 1973. RG 4/1.1. VP for Business and Finance. Lake Campus Development, 1973-1977. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Currie, Robert A. Memorandum to M. Jim Perry. 1 June 1984. President Kuykendall. RG 2/1.16. Athletics-Lake Campus, 1973-1987. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Currie, Robert A. Letter to Larry J. Dagenhart. 31 June 1985. President Kuykendall. RG 2/1.16. Athletics-Lake Campus, 1973-1987. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Davidson College Archives. RG 4/1.1. VP for Business and Finance. Lake Campus Development, 1958-1962. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Davidson College Archives Photo Collection. http://davidsonarchivesandspecialcollections.org/archives/community/under-lkn/davidson-lake-campus

Davidson College Archives Photograph Collection. http://davidsonarchivesandspecialcollections.org/archives/encyclopedia/lake-campus-lake-wiley-2

Davidson College. Davidson College Bulletin Vol. 62, No. 5 (64). Davidson: Davidson College, 1963.

Davidson College. Quips and Cranks Vol. 70. Davidson: Davidson College, 1965.

Davidson College. Quips and Cranks Vol. 90. Davidson: Davidson College, 1985.

“Davidson’s Lakes.” Around the D. Davidson Archive Photo Collection: http://davidsonarchivesandspecialcollections.org/aroundthed/davidsons-lakes/.

Martin, Sterling. Personal interview by Scott Sellers and Devin Gorsen. 3 March 2014.

Martin, Sterling. New Davidson College Lake Campus Summer Policy. 25 May 1979. RG 2/1.16. Athletics-Lake Campus, 1973-1987. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Optimist Club of Charlotte. Carolina Club Regatta. 30 July 1977. RG 4/1.1. VP for Business and Finance. Lake Campus Development, 1973-1977. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Photograph of Fun & Games During Freshmen Orientation. Photograph Collection, number 27-0278. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Photograph of Students at Lake Campus. Davidson College Catalog. 1965. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Postcard. 1968. Davidson College Archives. Davidsoniana file: “Lake Campus (Lake Norman).

Season Guest Card and Regulations 1965-1966. Davidson College Archives. Davidsoniana file: “Lake Campus (Lake Norman).

The Business Office. Notice. 21 June 1978. RG 4/1.1. VP for Business and Finance. Lake Campus Development, 1973-1977. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.