By DAVID BORAKS
DAVIDSON – Speakers at a public hearing last Tuesday, Feb. 14, offered support for designating the former Davidson IB School on South Street as a historic landmark. Supporters included both the property owner, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, and its current tenant, Lake Norman Christian School.
Landmark status means that any “material alteration” to the property must be reviewed by the Historic Landmarks Commission. The rules are designed to make it harder to quickly demolish or change historic properties. If the property eventually were to be transferred to a private developer, it would be eligible for up to a 50 percent tax break – another incentive to preserve the historic site.
Davidson Commissioners could vote on the proposal to make the site a landmark at their regular meeting in March.
Last week’s hearing followed a brief presentation by Stewart Gray of the Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission about a proposal to make the Davidson School at 251 South St., a historic landmark. The commission has identified the 1948 school building and its separate 1937 gymnasium, both designed by New Deal-era architect Louis Asbury, as two of “the most significant and best preserved historic school buildings associated with the small towns and rural communities of Mecklenburg County,” according to a report.
“It is a significant historical property,” Mr. Gray told the Town Board.
He said that while the town is “blessed with many historic buildings,” the school is the best best example a non-residential building built by the town, and not by Davidson College. “We believe it may be one of the first publicly funded and built buildings in Mecklenburg County after the war (World War II),” Mr. Gray said.
The commission noted that the site, on South Street a block from downtown, has been associated with public education ever since the first school was built there in 1893.
For many years, the building housed the Davidson School, with grades 1 to 12. In the early 1990s, CMS built the new Davidson Elementary School farther down South Street. In the mid-1990s, the building became home to district’s International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program. It closed in mid-2011 and in January 2012, CMS leased the building to Lake Norman Christian School.
Sarah Beam, Lake Norman Christian’s principal, said at the meeting that the building is old and in disrepair, and the separate gymnasium needs a new roof. But she said the school has done its part to maintain the structure.
“We love the location, we feel very blessed to have the location, from the terrazzo flooring to the windows to the building itself. We have painted, we have cleaned we have added carpet,” she said. “We haven’t gotten into the asbestos or lead paint. We try to stay away from that.”
She said Lake Norman Christian supports the historic designation.
Susan Cody was at the hearing to represent Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, and said only that CMS also supports the proposal to assign historic status to the school.
RELATED LINKS AND DOCUMENTS
Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission 2008 historic survey of Davidson School, South Street. (PDF)
Feb. 14, 2012, Report presented to Davidson Town Board detailing the historic features of the site, the potential tax benefits of historic status, and the proposed resolution designating the school as a historic landmark. (PDF)
Lake Norman Christian School website, lakenormanchristian.com.