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Special Collections: The Lake Norman Collections

An evolving list of primary and secondary resources related to the history of the greater Lake Norman area. Most of the materials are housed in Archives and Special Collections at Davidson College.

A Brief History

A Growing Piedmont

In the decades leading up to the 1950s, Duke Power (previously known as Southern Power and now known as Duke Energy) noted the rapid increase in private and commercial requests for electrical power. The company stated that in order to meet these demands, they needed to construct a new hydroelectric dam along the Catawba River. This dam would be part of a larger chain of hydroelectric power plants and nuclear stations along the Catawba-Wateree River Basin. 


Building of the Dam

Construction of Cowans Ford Dam began along the Catawba River after Duke Power received the license for its fabrication in 1958. The dam was officially completed in 1963, creating Lake Norman by year's end. The structure earns its name from the geographical feature it now covers - Cowan's Ford.

Cowan's Ford is perhaps best known as the site where General William Lee Davidson, the namesake of Davidson College, died in 1781 during a Revolutionary War battle against Lord Cornwallis.


Lake Norman

Lake Norman spans over 30,000 acres and boasts over 500 miles of shoreline along the Mecklenburg, Lincoln, Iredell, and Catawba county borders. The land underneath its waters once supported native trading routes, large bridges, plantations, and cemeteries. 


For more information, see the "Books in the Library" box to the left. Additional selections of primary sources are described on the "Archival and Manuscript Materials in the Collection" and "Online Sources" pages.

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