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Davidson College Project Seeks History From Under Lake Norman


The top headline in the October 1st, 1959, Mecklenburg Gazette proclaims “Great Economic Progress is Seen.” A few days earlier, Gov. Luther Hodges visited the Catawba River to set off the first dynamite blast for construction of the Cowan’s Ford Dam – the site of a Revolutionary War battle.

Credit Greg Collard / WFAE
Davidson College archivist Jan Blodgett.

The writer of the story called it the “beginning of a new era in the history of the Catawba River Valley.”

No kidding.

“It’s hard to imagine now, but when the lake was flooded in 1963, Davidson was out in the middle of nowhere. It was still very, very rural in the middle of farmlands,” says Davidson College archivist Jan Blodgett.

The area kept its rural nature for a while. The lake was dotted with trailers and fish camps. Now big homes are the norm on Lake Norman – North Carolina’s largest with more than 32,000 acres and 520 miles of shoreline. And so are big, expensive boats.

Then there’s the explosive growth the lake helped spur in communities like Huntersville, Cornelius and Mooresville, where many say they live in the Lake Norman Area – not the Charlotte area.

But it’s the past that interests Blodgett as Lake Norman approaches its 50th anniversary.  She wants to document stories of life before Lake Norman, and during its construction. Photos and other documents or artifacts would also be nice to have. It’s all  part of a project called Under Lake Norman.

Greg has been with WFAE since 2008 as news director, and was named executive editor in 2023. He came to WFAE from West Virginia Public Broadcasting. In his eight years there, Greg had roles as a reporter, editor and producer. He was the executive producer of a television newsmagazine and news director for radio and television when he decided to head south for Charlotte.