Durham, NC: The Old and The New

by | April 24, 2018 |

Title image: Durham NC: Partial sykline from the south. Any image of downtown Durham has to include railroad tracks. The glass-and-steel building on the left is One City Center.

In the center of the title image you’ll see Durham’s current slogan painted on the red brick building in the middle: Find Your Cool. It replaced the former, very staid slogan City of Medicine.

By the way, the unofficial slogan is Keep Durham Dirty. With all the swank development going on now, there are some who are worried that Durham will somehow – and sadly – get clean.

I doubt it. Dirty is in Durham’s DNA.

Durham NC: The Old

Historically Durham NC is a tobacco and mill town. If you like old red brick, you’ll love Durham.

Durham NC

Looking south down Duke Street with West Village on the immediate left and the former Liggett and Myers building (now owned by Duke) in the distance.

More red brick:

Durham NC

The American Tobacco Campus, with the iconic Lucky Strike smokestack, is now transformed into tech businesses, bars and restaurants. One City Center is visible in the background

And even more:

Durham NC

The Power House in the foreground (now owned by Duke) and the old Imperial Tobacco Building at the end of the street

The visual stamp of the city’s industrial past is not going away:

Durham NC

Another view of the American Tobacco Campus

Most characteristic of the city are the tobacco warehouses all over town that have been converted into shops, restaurants and businesses.

Durham NC

This is Smith Warehouse, now owned by Duke, which houses, among other things, the Franklin Center for the Humanities

Durham NC: The New

After decades of derelict neglect, Durham’s downtown got a shot in the arm when the American Tobacco Campus was developed. This project got started in the early years of the 2000s by Michael Goodmon who runs Capitol Broadcasting Company’s real estate arm.

Durham architect John Warasila has been in on the fun. He saw Durham in the mid-1990s the way Baltimore was in the 1980s: the buildings and sidewalks were there, but the people weren’t.

Now the people are.

One good reason is the DPAC (Durham Performing Arts Center), which opened in 2008. It was designed by Phil Szostak and is across the street from American Tobacco:

Yeah, Hamilton is a big draw

Two days ago I was walking around Durham on my photo shoot. It was Earth Day, so there was a festival at Central Park:

Durham NC

Note the apartment building in the background. It’s called The Liberty. It wasn’t there two years ago, and it’s huge

Here’s what’s left of the original Liberty Warehouse, around back:

Durham NC

More red brick! Did I mention that North Carolina’s soil is red clay?

Mostly what you see around downtown are intersections like this:

One City Center is in the background to the right

Or this:

Durham NC

Let’s call this: Cityscape with Shopping Cart

The center of it all is the 28-story One City Center, still under construction. I’m now realizing this building is the 21st-century version of the 19th-century Lucky Strike smokestack, visible all over town:

I bought a condo on the 21st floor. I think it’ll be ready around October.

One City Center is built on the site of an old Woolworth’s that burned down decades ago. For a very long time this plot of land, in the very center of downtown Durham, was filled only with grass.

I know I’ll like living downtown. From 2003-2005 I loved living at 339 West Main, which is two blocks down the street from One City Center:

Durham NC

As you can see the downstairs is a housewares shop called Bungalou. When I lived there with my husband, we used the downstairs for our offices. Upstairs was the apartment with the living room and kitchen. The second-story windows are to the bedroom.

Historical note: 339 West Main was originally the Durham Pawn Shop.

Mostly what you see around downtown are apartments, apartments, apartments under construction:

Durham NC

Durham NC: The Bull City Now and Forever

Durham is called the Bull City because of an aggressive marketing campaign by a tobacco company.

Durham NC

The baseball term ‘bull pen’ to refer to the area where relief pitchers warm up is due to the ads of Bull Durham Tobacco hanging over the area in Yankee Stadium way back when.

Still today, the Bull is the symbol of Durham. At the Durham Bulls baseball park if a Durham Bull hits the ball strongly enough to hit the bull, steam comes out of the bull’s nose, and the hitter gets a home run.

Durham NC

Does he really also get a steak?

I’ll leave you with this:

Durham NC

This sign hangs outside the Durham History Museum, housed in the old bus station

See Also: Durham, A Foodie Town

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This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen

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