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  • Writer's pictureCarolyn Steele Agosta

Denver, NC, and the Swingin' Sixties

Updated: Jul 20, 2021

The 1960s were a time of great change – the space program, the Vietnam war, the Beatles – but here in Denver, NC, the greatest change was the arrival of Lake Norman and all the transformations that were set in motion.

Work began on the Cowans Ford Dam across the Catawba River in 1959, but it took 4 more years for the dam to be finished and then an additional two years for the lake to fill up, and there was so much more to follow.

Bridges had to be built, roadways changed, a few towns were completely submerged and disappeared. As the lake became a reality, local folks began to realize what a great playground it could be. Lots of opportunities for boating and fishing meant that all around the area, gas stations began selling bait and tackle, and local diners started catering to the early-morning fishing crowd. People would drive out toward the lake on weekends during the years it was still filling up, to see how much it had risen in the previous week or two. Families whose farmland had been submerged discovered they now had waterfront property. Others were quick to lease the lots offered by Duke Power and build small weekend cottages.

Denver became a summer vacation spot. Even though it had always had extra traffic during Camp Meeting, now the area grew busy every weekend from Easter to Labor Day, and especially during 4th of July week. A sleepy little area became a ‘destination’. Campgrounds and marinas grew to meet the needs of visitors.

A rise in population brought about the new East Lincoln high school in 1967. The Lake Norman Music Hall brought in country music artists, and later, had Teen Nights with local garage bands. During the summer, at least, Denver became a swingin’ hot spot.

During the 1960’s, housing developments began growing, with new brick ‘ranch houses’, very modern with sliding glass doors, wall ovens, and carports. The surrounding towns of Newton, Mooresville and Lincolnton were all riding high thanks to the high demand for textiles. The 1960’s were productive years for America, and Denver, NC, enjoyed the growth spurt, even though it was still a small, sleepy little town during the winters. I-77 was being built through Iredell County at this time, and eventually, it would bring more lake-front residents who could now get to Charlotte quickly and easily (ah, those were the days!).

The 1970’s would prove to be a challenge in many ways, but the changes caused by Lake Norman would keep on coming. Despite the many changes, though, Rock Spring Camp Meeting would always bring people back to their roots.

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