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Davidson, North Carolina
Main Street
Main Street
"College Town. Lake Town. Your Town."
Location of Davidson, North Carolina
Location of Davidson, North Carolina
Country United States
State North Carolina
Counties Mecklenburg
 • Total 5.1 sq mi (13.1 km2)
 • Land 4.9 sq mi (12.6 km2)
 • Water 0.2 sq mi (0.5 km2)
840 ft (256 m)
 • Total 10,944
 • Density 2,233.5/sq mi (868.6/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
Area code(s) 704 980
FIPS code 37-16400
GNIS feature ID 1019914

Davidson is a lakeside town on Lake Norman in northern Mecklenburg County in the U.S. state of North Carolina. The population was 10,944 at the 2010 census. It is home to Davidson College. The town is centered on the college from which it takes its name.

The town was founded in 1837 with the establishment of the Presbyterian Davidson College, named for Brigadier General William Lee Davidson, a local Revolutionary War hero in Mecklenburg County. The land for Davidson College came from Davidson's estate, a large portion of which was donated by his son.


The history of the town of Davidson is inextricably linked to Davidson College, which predated the surrounding community and influenced its development. Although Davidson’s growth in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries typified small railroad towns throughout the Piedmont, the presence of the college created a unique village. The tree-shaded campus filled with classically inspired architecture distinguished Davidson from other communities. The sway of the school also extended beyond the campus to the entire town, influencing commerce, culture, and the character of its architecture. The 1869 Branson’s business directory recorded four dry goods merchants in the town as well as a cabinetmaker, a miller, and three physicians.

Soon after the arrival of the railroad, Davidson became a shipping point for cash crops, especially cotton, and a service center for farmers. In common with other railroad towns in the region, textile investors constructed cotton mills and mill villages along the rail corridor. The Linden Cotton Factory, erected in 1890 on Depot Street, was the first textile plant in Davidson, and in 1908, the Delburg Cotton Mills was constructed nearby. Two thousand bales of cotton were sold at Davidson annually in the early 1900s.

In 1891, the name of the town was changed from Davidson College to Davidson, emblematic of the community’s expanding roles for town and gown alike. Davidson’s cotton mills spurred the growth of the town, and by 1910, the population of Davidson reached 500 residents, climbing to 1,500 by the 1920s. Between 1900 and the Great Depression, the business district evolved from a commingling of stores and residences into contiguous rows of one- and two-story, brick commercial buildings. The heart of downtown – opposite the college – contained a full complement of small town stores and services, including four general merchandise stores, a drug store, a laundry, tailor shop, two barber shops, a hardware store, a post office, a bank, and several restaurants. Physicians, building contractors, and milliners also had Main Street addresses. Behind Main Street along the railroad tracks stood the small 1897 Southern Railway Depot, a livery, flour mill, sawmill, cotton gins, a cottonseed oil company, a blacksmith shop, and a buggy manufacturer.

The demise of cotton farming and decline of other agricultural pursuits in the region effectively ended the town’s role as a farming service center. Meanwhile, improved highways and the advent of I-77 encouraged residents to frequent larger department stores in the cities, especially Charlotte, twenty-two miles to the south. In more recent years, the emergence of suburban shopping centers around Davidson accelerated the town's status to an all-purpose retail market.

Today, the tremendous development around Charlotte has stimulated Davidson’s growth to its current population of more than 10,000 people. Local downtown businesses, now characterized by restaurants and specialty shops, cater to this new market. Prestigious, nationally known Davidson College has made Davidson an intellectual and cultural center, drawing into its orbit a sizable professional class.

Beginning with the General Plan in 1993, continuing through the Land Plan of 1995 and the Planning Ordinance of 2001, the town has advocated for and implemented smart growth principles, including pedestrian orientation (resulting in a ban on drive-thru’s), mixed-use development, affordable housing, open space preservation, and connectivity. An emphasis on design has been a consistent theme in each resulting regulatory document. Additionally, the Town of Davidson received National Register Historic District status in 2009 for the historic core of town, which includes downtown.


A view of Lake Norman in the spring.

Davidson is located along Lake Norman in the piedmont of North Carolina at 35°29′28″N 80°49′58″W / 35.49111°N 80.83278°W / 35.49111; -80.83278, approximately 20 miles north of Charlotte in northern Mecklenburg County.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 5.1 square miles (13.1 km²), of which, 4.9 square miles (12.6 km²) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.5 km²) of it (3.95%) is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 391
1890 481 23.0%
1900 904 87.9%
1910 1,056 16.8%
1920 1,156 9.5%
1930 1,445 25.0%
1940 1,550 7.3%
1950 2,423 56.3%
1960 2,573 6.2%
1970 2,931 13.9%
1980 3,241 10.6%
1990 4,046 24.8%
2000 7,139 76.4%
2010 10,944 53.3%
Est. 2015 12,207 11.5%
U.S. Decennial Census

According to the 2010 census, there are 10,944 people and 4,253 housing units in the town. The racial makeup of the town is 87.8% White, 6.4% African American, 0.2% Native American, 2.8% Asian, 3.8% Hispanic or Latino and 1.7% from two or more races.

There are approximately 2,429 family households out of which 34.2% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.3% are married couples living together, 7.3% have a female householder with no husband present, 2.6% have a male householder with no wife present, and 33.8% are non-families. 26.4% of all households are made up of individuals and 7.3% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.4 and the average family size is 3.11.

In the town, the population is spread out with 22.8% under the age of 18, 14.9% from 20 to 29, 21.9% from 35 to 49, 16.2% from 50 to 64, and 12.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age is 35.7 years. 47.5% of the population is male and 52.5% is female.

The median household income is $83,730, and the median income for a family was $124,045. Males who work full-time and year-round have a median income of $93,833 versus $56,178 for females. The per capita income for the town is $49,065. About 4.8% of families and 6.4% of the population are below the poverty line, including 6.5% of those under age 18 and 3.9% of those age 65 or over.

Points of interest

  • Davidson College
  • Davidson College Arboretum
  • Lake Norman

Awards and recognitions

  • Fannie Mae Foundation Maxwell Award: to the Davidson Housing Coalition for the Bungalows (2001)<
  • North Carolina Housing Finance Agency Multi-Family Housing Award: for the Bungalows (2001)
  • National Environmental Protection Agency Smart Growth Award for Overall Excellence in Town Planning and Design (2004)
  • Exit 30 Master Plan - Marvin Collins Outstanding Planning Award for Smart Growth (2004)
  • Centralina Council of Government Sustainable Environment for Quality of Life: Best Practices Award for Davidson's Aging in Place Task Force (2006)
  • North Carolina League of Municipalities Green Challenge: Level One Award (2008)
  • Recognition as a National Historic District (2009)
  • North Carolina Main Street Community (2009)
  • Tree City USA (2010)
  • Bike Friendly Community - Bronze (2010)
  • Davidson Police Department - Accreditation by Commission for Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) (2011)
  • Comprehensive Plan - North Carolina American Planning Association (NCAPA) Planning Award - Honorable Mention (2011)
  • Affordable Housing - NCAPA Planning Award (2011)
  • Circles at 30 - NCAPA Planning Award (2011)
  • Fit Community - Bronze (2011-2014)
  • Walk Friendly Community - Bronze (2011)
  • Great Main Street Award, North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association (2013)
  • North Carolina Land Trust Government Conservation Partner of the Year Award (2014)

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