Created By: Sarah Mellin
Patrick J. Sparrow, a prominent fundraiser for and professor at the college, owned the land currently located behind Belk dormitory and used it to establish the Sparrow house where he lived with his four daughters (Williams 1961).
Among other sources, a 1961 Davidsonian article confirms that enslaved people were kept in the building currently known as the Sparrow's Nest - although called “servants” in the article, as Presbyterian tradition dictated, the building is identified multiple times as “slave quarters” and was located here because Sparrow allegedly “could not, of course, get along without his servants.” (Ibid.). The 1850 census lists Sparrow as claiming at least 11 enslaved people, and the 1860 census shows he claimed at least 9 (Bertholf 2018). Although the language of the Davidsonian article is confusing, it seems that the original Sparrow home was called the Sparrow’s Nest, and this developed the same name as the main house over time (Williams 1961).
The building was eventually purchased by the college in 1908 and became a boarding house, a storage space, the location of campus security, and eventually the Physical Plant and Sustainability office it holds today (Yi and Mellin 2018). While newer structures such as the college well and the war memorial are marked as “Historic Sites” on official Davidson College maps, this building receives no such identification.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Disorienting & Reorienting (PART 1 of 3) Davidson College