Blogger’s note: I have always wished that I was able to verbally tell a good story. Alas, my storytelling comes only in the form of writing where I can contemplate the scene and mood I am setting, go back, change words, strengthen my emphases, mold and shape my characters through my verbiage. Words do not flow off my tongue in a perfect, flawless order with clear purpose as they do for Dave Beischer who shares his family history with a balance of pride and humility. I was honored to hear in person the story of his ancestry and their contributions to the Durham area throughout the 20th Century. The following accounts are mere edits to Dave’s own words and will confirm that Crystal Lake is so much more than another new home community with beautiful wooded and water views. Rather it is a tribute to the past as well as the future of so many. Homes By Dickerson could not be more excited to be a part of this story and we know that you will feel the same way!
The majority of the Croasdaile Farm area, approximately 1100 acres, has been in Dave’s family since circa 1900. His great-grandfather, John Sprunt Hill, was a philanthropist with varying interests including law, real-estate, politics and finance. He attended The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, started what was formerly known as Central Carolina Bank, helped develop rural credit unions in North Carolina, became a lawyer in New York, traveled the world and even served in the military. Hill’s career alone could take pages to accurately recount but he is only one figure in this saga.
Hill owned all of the acreage from current day Hillsborough Road/Durham Expressway North to what is now known as Croasdaile Farm. I mention him because he begins the legacy that his great-grandson carries on to this day. Years later, Dave’s grandparents would add to that expansive stretch of land, and therefore that legacy, by purchasing 250 acres after the end of World War II. 150 acres of that sale is now called Crystal Lake.
Initially it was the Moss family-proprietors of different amusement projects in the Durham area and involved with the Lakewood activity area-who purchased Crystal Lake in the late 1920’s and then developed it into a multi-purpose recreation spot. These family-friendly areas were very popular at this time boasting swimming facilities, playgrounds, theaters, and other activities. This was of course before the mass production of automobiles allowed people to travel further distances more often.
In fact David remembers his grandmother, who was born in 1908, sharing memories of traveling from her home in Downtown Durham to Lakewood (another amusement spot) via a horse and carriage. Imagine that rural section of Durham during that era with its dirt roads, farm lands, and brilliant green fields!
For the rest of the 1930’s, the Moss family ran Crystal Lake as a wonderful attraction for local residents. There are still some who can remember Crystal Lake as an early-day amusement park complete with rides like a larger-scale kiddie train with tracks and a rudimentary swiss seat which allowed you to be pulled back and forth across the lake. A decade later, World War II would bring in thousands of troops to Camp Butner, a mere 20 minutes away, giving Crystal Lake a different opportunity-providing recreation to the soldiers on the weekends. Since then, bus tours for retired veterans and Croasdaile Farm residents ensue in stories of dances, lake activities, and good-natured rowdiness during this romanticized time period. During his narrative, Dave provided a few rare photos that friends and acquaintances have given him showing their personal memories. One of the great things about these photos is that they show a lot of the infrastructure of the Crystal Lake area including the large horse barn with stables for riding, the covered bridge that spanned the lake, and the dance hall. While these buildings no longer exist (the Pavilion was the last holdout eventually demolished in 2018), Dave can remember remnants of infrastructure from his childhood such as when he would walk with his brother to the lake and use the hand-held pump to get the well working. It took some time to get the water flowing but the friendly competition between the brothers become a favorite past-time between the siblings.
Dave mentions that the Pavilion featured multiple bathrooms and changing areas as well as a covered picnic area and was used from 1947 until it was torn down last year. However, the developers are planning a new Pavilion which will keep the same feeling with its standing seam metal ceiling and fire pit though it will be larger in size and also have a partially-covered dock. The intention is not only to offer an unique amenity to the residents of Croasdaile Farm and Crystal Lake but also to preserve a sentiment that spans nearly 80 years. It is not to say though that nothing will be left of what once was-there will be some sentiment preserved including an old chimney that was part of a dance hall and an old rock wall that denoted a route into Crystal Lake. They are considering some other signage options and nostalgic efforts.
Not long after World War II ended, a flood at Crystal Lake completely destroyed the divider in the lake between fishing and swimming. The Moss family decided that they did not want to take on the repair costs for this flood and sold it to Dave’s grandparents. Crystal Lake then became a stronghold in the life of the Beischer family, a place where they spent a majority of their time and created a lot of their precious memories. They built a cabin for parties and family events which, like the Pavilion, has since been torn down due to its age and structural issues.
The Pavilion was more than just a shelter of sorts or protection from the elements. Since its inception in 1947 it became a place for family and social gatherings within the Beischer clan. Dave recalls groundskeepers and workmen who became like family after close to 50 years of service. He also describes the wonderful birthday parties thrown for his grandmother, parents, siblings, etc. Both of his parents attended Duke University and would host get-togethers and reunions for their college friends and sororities/fraternities.
To say that Dave had a hard decision when it came to the future of Crystal Lake is an understatement. As developers by trade, he and his father always wanted to see the land used and appreciated; however, it was important to him that his mother’s love and vision for the raw, natural land be recognized and respected. Dave speaks to an expectation of what you are going to experience when you get North of I-85 into the Croasdaile area and that there is a quality to the land and what is built. He wants to make sure that expectation continues to be met with Crystal Lake. So, several factors were put into action including maintaining a 200-foot wooded buffer completely around the lake. The only thing that will go into that buffer will be a paved pathway for residents to enjoy the views. Also, of the 150 acres in the total project, only 50 acres are being developed for the new homes of Crystal Lake. This is such an unique concept as few developers would incorporate all of that undeveloped land into HOA greenspace. Beischer’s ownership of the land, however, makes that decision economically feasible and sets this community apart from all of the other neighborhoods marketing to active adults and empty-nesters. It is all about the reputation and legacy that his 4 generations of his family left behind and the vision that they created. Wooded views, lake views, spacious home sites, single-family and luxury townhome opportunities on land that is steeped with Durham history: Oh, how wonderful life will be for our Crystal Lake residents!
In 2012, Dave completed the last phase of Croasdaile Farm (an estate-style, single-family community near Hillandale Road in Durham) and was introduced to Homes By Dickerson. The builder-developer relationship between the two companies would continue to strengthen over time as a high level of mutual respect and trust was founded. Dave spoke to Homes By Dickerson’s quality of building and craftsmanship as well as the caliber of employees in our company.
“We certainly want Homes By Dickerson involved as we build out Croasdaile Farm [and begin Crystal Lake],” said Beischer. “The execution of their homes is a custom feel but Homes By Dickerson also has the scale to go out and do this type of project.”
“Garden View Realty knows the market well and Homes By Dickerson knows how to sell our homes in this market. It makes for a wonderful partnership. For almost two years Homes By Dickerson and Garden View Realty have been cultivating our interest list in this incredible community supported by individuals who know the Croasdaile name and reputation for quality and excellence whether they are familiar with Croasdaile Farm or Croasdaile Village,” said Beischer.
“We have tried to maintain the things that make Croasdaile Farm and Crystal Lake special. Anytime I get frustrated with an aspect of this project, I go down and look out at the lake and realize how many more people will be able to enjoy this land,” said Beischer.
Every community has its own story to tell. Some stories may be richer than others but a piece of land is never just a piece of land. It has been owned by families and corporations; fought and feuded over; possibly harvested, toiled, dug, or excavated; and it could have witnessed births, deaths and all the life in between. When we see a new home community being developed, we do not always think about the purpose that piece of property served a century or two ago or the fact that the land is being re-purposed yet once again. However, with Crystal Lake, both the Beischer family and Homes By Dickerson will continue to develop the story and present a balance of past and future.