The Historic Lake and Patterson Houses

It’s strange how these homes, inextricably linked to one of Wake Forest’s most important families, went on the market on exactly the same day.

One is the Patterson House at 605 N. Main Street.

The other is the Vann-Sikes-Lake House at 316 N. Main Street.

The Vann-Sikes-Lake House is owned by Lake family descendant Cristie Dowda, who says the coincidence feels like the universe’s way of saying now is the time.

It’s okay to let go.

This wasn’t an easy decision, as Dowda’s own life can be plotted on an imaginary line that connects these two houses. As a newborn, she was introduced to her grandmother, Ibbie Lake Patterson, in the Patterson House. Decades later, she saw her grandmother as an elderly town matriarch living with her sister in the Vann-Sikes-Lake House.

The home later passed to Dowda’s mother, Bettie Marable Patterson Dowda, making Cristie Dowda the fourth generation of her family to live in the home.

And the story of the Lakes and Pattersons is so closely bound with the life of the town that it’s a history worth sharing.

Newlyweds James and Lula Lake arrived in Wake Forest in the fall of 1899 so Lake could teach physics at Wake Forest College. They first boarded in a hotel, then a small cottage on South Main Street. As their family grew, they moved into a tiny house on North Main Street.

When Lula died of a stroke in October 1906, her sister Virginia moved in and spent the rest of her life caring for her five young nephews and nieces.

It was 1915 when the family purchased the large rambling white frame home with its gorgeous shade trees and wide front porch–now known as the Vann-Sikes-Lake House.

Virginia with the Lake children

The children grew up in that home and at least one, I. Beverly Lake, Sr., (who went on to serve as a justice on the North Carolina Supreme Court) attended the Wake Forest Graded School at the corner of Pine and Wingate.

Two of the Lake children were twins, Johnnie and Ibbie.

Johnnie and Ibbie Lake

It was Ibbie who grew up to marry Grady (Pat) Patterson, a Wake Forest College graduate from Siler City who in 1926 accepted a position as campus registrar and director of admissions.

Ibbie and Grady (Pat) Patterson

Their wedding ceremony took place in the Lake family home, and in 1927 they moved into a new house Pat built for Ibbie just a few blocks up the street. This became known as the Patterson House.

From left: Peggy, Sarah, Bettie Marable, Grady (Pat), and young Grady

In a memoir by Patterson daughter Sarah Barclay Patterson Barge, the Patterson House is described as a special place.

“The back porch is worth a description. I have never seen another room quite like it. It was a fairly large room added on just back of the kitchen. In fact, the original kitchen window still opened onto the back porch. It was almost like a sun room with long rows of windows on one side and along the back, which could be opened for ventilation. It adjoined the kitchen at one end and was joined to my parents’ bedroom at the other end by a narrow hallway. An exterior door gave access to the backyard. The wood flooring was painted a light gray, just like an outdoor porch.”

During World War II, the Pattersons rented the lot behind their house on Cedar Avenue to grow a Victory Garden.

Perhaps the most well-known of the Patterson girls was Cristie Dowda’s mother, Bettie Marable Patterson Dowda. Famous for her good looks, she married Wake Forest College football star Harry Dowda and spent her life turning heads everywhere she went.

Seated on the steps of Wake Forest High School ca. 1945 are (left to right): Billy Bryan, Betty Rose, Peggy Nelson, Eleanor Easley, and Bettie Marable Patterson Dowda.

When the College moved to Winston-Salem in 1956, the Pattersons followed so Pat could continue working for the College.

Grady (Pat) and Ibbie Patterson

When Patterson retired, the couple returned to Wake Forest and moved into Ibbie’s childhood home– the Vann-Sikes-Lake House at 316 North Main Street.

At this point in her life, Ibbie told her daughter Sarah, “You think you’re never going to get old, and all of a sudden, you are!”

As Sarah writes in her memoir:

“Ibbie took long walks nearly every day…. Sometimes her walks took her through the campus, past the old fountain where she and her young friends had once gathered, along the brick walk outside Pat’s office window in the Administration Building, and past the steps of the Chemistry Building where she had first seen him. Nearly every day she walked to the end of North Main Street to see the snug little cottage he had built, traversing the familiar sidewalks where she had pushed her baby carriage and walked in the evenings with her husband. In all of those years not a slab of concrete had changed.”

By 1993, both Pat and Ibbie were gone.

But their family homes remain. And they continue on as important parts of the story and landscape of Wake Forest’s local historic district.



  1. Well done! Our family moved to Wake Forest in 1977. After the first Sunday at Wake Forest Baptist Church Susan almost had a migraine. Seeing Grady Paterson reminded her of what she considered was a poor scholastic record at WFU! Later, when Marable and Harry moved to Wake Forest she and Susan became best friends.

    The Lake family is deeply entrenched in Wake Forest history, both Town and College. Your story reminds of us of some dear friends and of our many wonderful years there.

    Thank you,
    Susan & Sherrill Brinkley

    1. Susan and Sherrill, I’m so happy you enjoyed the story. Much heart went into it. And thank you for sharing your memory of Grady Patterson! It’s difficult to imagine N. Main Street without Cristie Dowda, but I’m happy so much rich family history will be left behind.

  2. What an interesting article about The Lake Family!
    We moved to Wake Forest in 1979 and both the Patterson’s were still there. After he died we talked often to Mrs. Patterson when she was out walking. John had known her since childhood and they liked to reminisce about the good ole days.
    The Lake and Mills families have been friends for 4 generations. Beverly Lake, Jr. and I are still best friends even though we are both in nursing homes.
    Susan and Joanna have been friends since before meeting Beverly and John. We were neighbors in condos in Raleigh as single mothers raising our sons and have remained like sisters for over 50 years.
    We had summer homes on the Pamlico Sound near Oriental for over 30 years. Our houses were on the same street only 6 houses apart. We spent many hours taking boat trips to different places like Charleston, Ocracoke, Norfolk, the Dismal Swamp Canal and hundreds of trips to Cape Lookout and Beaufort.

    1. This is so wonderful! Although I’d known about Bev and John’s lifelong friendship, I didn’t realize Susan and Joanna had been close for so many years! I love this. One of the best parts of working at the museum is learning these pieces of the story–especially when they come together so beautifully. And the childhood photos of Bev and John that we have in our collection are priceless!

  3. A great trip down memory lane for me. My parents moved to wake forest in 1942. I began 1st grade that year, became friends with Patterson and Lake children. A wonderful time and place for a child to thrive and grow. I am most grateful for that life enriching experience.

  4. Having moved to my maternal grandparents’ home in Wake Forest, in 1949, I grew to love the house, family, friends, town, and college. Whoever purchases that lovely house will be blessed to learn of its history/sentimentality. Rosa

  5. I remember Grady and Ibbie having lived across the street from them. They were a wonderful couple.

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