College Plans Educational Role for Beaver Dam Property
Davidson College is taking important steps toward preserving, understanding and appropriately stewarding the Beaver Dam plantation house and property, less than three miles from campus, for the education of the college’s students and the public.
Davidson College President Doug Hicks believes the site presents an opportunity to establish a resource for studies spanning archaeology, Native American lands, slavery, early American history, and other evolving fields.
Built in 1829 by William Lee Davidson II, the house is a two-story federal style home that now sits on eight acres along a popular commuter road. It entangles important history and urgent responsibilities for the college.
- The land on which it sits was inhabited by the Catawba people.
- The house is where, in 1835, members of the Concord Presbytery gathered to arrange the acquisition of land for the founding of Davidson College.
- For decades, people were enslaved on the plantation; little is known about who they were, their lives and deaths, or where their descendants are today.
“As an educational institution, we have a responsibility to learn about all who lived there,” Davidson College President Doug Hicks said. “Davidson aims to bring to light their stories, including the lives of enslaved persons. We are humbled and energized to uncover Beaver Dam’s past and to share its history with the community.”
The college eventually plans to re-open the site to the public, welcoming visitors once it is possible to provide context and interpretation. Hicks sketched out considerable work the college must do before that happens.
This week, the college launched a recruitment effort for hiring a site manager for the property and for other historic buildings on the Davidson College campus. The program and site manager will work with Dr. Hilary Green, the college’s public historian and James B. Duke Professor of Africana Studies, along with the Archives and Special Collections division of the E. H. Little Library and other campus leaders to manage the property and develop it as an educational resource for the college and community.
In more recent years, Beaver Dam had been the home of Dr. Chalmers G. Davidson, long-time director of the library, professor of history and college archivist. Dr. Davidson restored the house, and much of the documentation that the college has about the property and the people who lived there was gathered by him over a lifetime. As a result of his efforts, Beaver Dam was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Davidson College acquired the property in 1997. For twenty-five years, the site was leased to the Town of Davidson, intended as a park and evolving into an event space. Davidson College determined that creating an educational purpose for the property necessitated not renewing the lease and rental for private events.
College leaders expressed optimism about the future of the Beaver Dam property and the understanding and insights that it can provide.