The museum is now open with new health and safety procedures like free timed tickets and required cloth face masks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When the College moved to Winston-Salem in 1956, the Pattersons followed so Pat could continue working for the College.
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.