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Davidson Historical Society Hosts Kindred Tour

by | Apr 9, 2018

Davidson Historical Society’s Ellen Baeszler, Van Lear Logan, and Elizabeth Martin stand with Katy Kindred outside Kindred restaurant at 131 N. Main Street, following a tour of the historic building.

Sunday afternoon, members of the Davidson Historical Society had a special tour of 131 N. Main Street. Davidson native and DHS President Van Lear Logan discussed the building’s history. She turned the discussion over to Katy Kindred who talked about the renovations to the White’s Drug Store that allowed the historic building to accommodate the award-winning Kindred restaurant.

Tom Clark’s gnomes were the reason many people came to visit the Town of Davidson in the 1980s and 90s.

Built in 1914, the White’s Drug Store building was one of the few two-story buildings on North Main Street for decades. Upstairs, in the front, was Dr. Jim Withers’ office, while downstairs Cloyd Goodrum managed the drug store for owner J. A. White, who had started in the drug business in Davidson in 1897 at a different site. Later, Goodrum bought the store but kept its original name. Park’s Rexall drug store occupied the space for two decades beginning in the mid-1960s.

Davidson College professor, Dr. Tom Clark, purchased the building in the mid-1980s. The Davidson graduate had returned to his alma mater as a professor of religion. After serving in that capacity for nearly 30 years, Clark made the decision to pursue his interest in designing gnomes. At the peak, the factory that produced gnomes employed more than 100 people. After Clark made an initial cast, the gnomes were created out of a unique blend of crushed pecan shells, wood chips, and resin. Each piece was hand painted, stained, and lacquered.

The exterior of 131 N. Main as seen in 2009. The ‘Cats on Main store occupied the space, but “Tom Clark Museum” can still be seen over the lead pattern window.

The interest in his work resulted in a significant tourist industry for the town, as people came to see where the gnomes were made. In the late 1980’s Clark decided to turn the former drug store into a museum to showcase his gnomes.

The building later served as the home of “Cats on Main,” the first Main Street location for the Davidson College store, and a predecessor of the current bookstore at the corner of Main Street and Depot. Photos from that era reveal several of the key characteristics of the building – including the ceiling on the main floor and the distinctive wood mantle.

The building at 131 N. Main once housed “Cats on Main.” The historic ceiling and mantle are visible in this photo. [Davidson College photo]

Since 2015, the building has been home to Kindred Restaurant. After sitting vacant for several years, Katy and her chef-husband, Joe, convinced property owner, Tom Clark, to let them pursue their dream of turning the historic structure into a restaurant.

The Kindreds had been peeking through the windows of the building while it was vacant, and walking into the building didn’t dim their dreams. However, they found numerous challenges. The brick walls that are now a focal point in the restaurant were covered in plaster. An individual craftsman spent nearly two weeks hand chipping the plaster off the walls. The difficulty of the plaster project was balanced with the fact that the first-floor metal ceiling only required cleaning and no restoration.

Katy Kindred points out various features of the building that is now home to their award-winning restaurant. The original metal ceiling is visible in this photo.

Sunday’s tour not only included the bar and dining area on the first floor, and the second-floor main dining room, the group was also treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the kitchen.

The decision to put the kitchen in the basement was probably the largest challenge for the Kindreds. In the most basic terms, Katy described the basement as the storage area you might think would have been in a 1914 building. The height, or lack thereof, was a significant hurdle. To overcome it, they literally had to dig out nearly a foot and half of dirt – all under the supervision of structural engineers and architects. They also had to cut a hole in the floor large enough to lower the massive vent hood down into the kitchen.

The basement is also home to the chef’s table. For foodies who want the complete dining experience, the chef’s table can accommodate up to ten guests and gives front row seats to the kitchen magic that keeps earning Kindred culinary accolades. Already a James Beard semi-finalist, Kindred was recently named best restaurant in North Carolina by Southern Living.

Throughout the tour, DHS members were invited to share their own memories, as well. Some of those in attendance shared the more recent memories of dining at Kindred. Others shared their memories of Tom Clark’s gnomes, and still others shared more distant memories of the drug store.


One of the sneak peaks seen during Davidson Historical Society’s tour of the building was the chef’s table that is in the basement.

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