Cross street: 
built in
Architectural style: 


The 'wide end' of the western Five Points was residential property until the early-mid 1920s

1913 Sanborn map showing the western triangle of Five Points and the large residential structure at its western end.

By 1925, the large house had been torn down, and the land was set for auction.

Looking southeast from Great Jones St. and West Main St., 09.30.25

The land was eventually subdivided into three parcels, and developed into two gas stations (the other one is here) and a small commercial structure.

Looking east, 1948.

Looking east-southeast, 1948.

The service station on the southeast corner of Great Jones and West Main St. was the McDade-Ward Phillips 66 station.

Looking east-southeast from Great Jones - the Lucky Strike smokestack is in the background, 1963

Looking southeast, early 1960s

The shot below is looking northeast from the west side of Great Jones St., towards the north side of the 400 block. Although the gas station building isn't visible, the sign is.

Looking east, late 1960s / 1970.

The service station was acquired by the Redevelopment Commission as part of Urban Renewal and sold to Relaw, Inc. in 1972. The service station was torn down, and the "Professional Center" was erected in its place, completed in 1974.

Pre-2004 tax photo.

I wouldn't say that I'm an architectural purist, which means that I'm a fan of the cornice added to this building by the new owners who purchased the structure in 2004. It's interesting how we change our views of architectural style such that we're trying to make a 1970s modern building resemble a 1900s commercial building in the 2000s.

Looking east, 2007.


Find this spot on a Google Map.



  • Submitted by Anonymous on Monday, September 13, 2010 - 5:55pm

    Gary, you don't have to be an "architectural purist" to note the absence of anything on the top of the 1970's version of the "Professional Center" building.

    Even the Seagram Building ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NewYorkSeagram_04.30.2008.JPG ), perhaps THE personification of the International Style in the U.S., has some details at the top of the structure that hint at something of a cornice. Mies van der Rohe followed in the footsteps of Louis Sullivan and others, who realized that the office tower was nothing more than an oversized column, which for millenia has been expressed via a base, a shaft, and a capital.

    Ok, you argue that the "Professional Center" isn't a tower. How about another icon of Modernist/International Style architecture: Gropius's Harvard Law School buildings. ( http://www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/tac/harvard6.jpg ). There's a cornice here, too. Its subtle, and it has been played with and manipulated, but it is clearly there.

    So the original design of the "Professional Center" in Durham was indeed missing something, even following the "modernist" style. Modernist became the first excuse to thrown up a cheap box. And its not like the 2004 addition of cornice to the Professional Center was a case of adding "ye olde cornice" -- it is appropriate in scale and detail for the rest of the building.

    Of course, from an urban design point of view, one wishes there was ground floor retail in this building, but until existing retail storefronts that are used as offices (even Scott Harmon's studio in five points!) are converted back to retail uses, its hard to complain about this one.

  • Submitted by Michael Bacon on Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - 1:49am

    You know, this might be one of the few posts on Endangered Durham where I like the new significantly better than the old. I mean, it's not like the Professional Center is a gem, or anything, tearing down gas stations and replacing them with buildings built to the sidewalk is my idea of "progress."

  • Submitted by Gary on Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - 4:02am


    I did say I liked the cornice.... it's definitely far bulkier than what one would expect on a modernist structure, and clearly was not part of the original design.

    But again, I like it - really.


  • Submitted by Anonymous on Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - 3:51pm

    The cornice is re-writing architectural history into something more palatable though, don't you think?

  • Submitted by Onslow on Monday, September 20, 2010 - 7:46pm

    Guys, sorry, but the cornice doesn't change the building in any way for me... it's still hideous!

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