With the establishment of the Durham Hosiery Mill (No. 1) and the Golden Belt Hosiery Mill, the villages of Edgemont (south of East Main St. and north/east of the railroad tracks) and Morning Glory (north of East Main, east of the Golden Belt Factory and south of Lottie St. (later Liberty) were established by Carr's companies to house the workers in the factories.
While clearly these mills were the next steps in building on the success of Carr's Durham Cotton Manufacturing Co. at Driver and Pettigrew Sts., Carr - in his typically-noblesse-oblige style, had other intentions as well. The neighborhood north and east of the railroad tracks had been a den of iniquity since at least the 1830s - the site of Prattsburg, William Pratt's hard-drinking saloon and surrounding buildings hosted all sort of sordid activities. I'll talk more about Prattsburg in a later post, but this inheritance stuck with the area north and east of the tracks for decades - the community known as Smoky Hollow.
Smoky Hollow was known for vice: gambling, prostitution and alcohol. Violence was not uncommon - the sort of tales that horrified the well-to-do citizens in their mansions on Liberty, Dillard, E. Main (closer to town), and Ramseur - just to the west of this community.
Carr essentially bought and cleared Smoky Hollow with the establishment of the cotton mills and acres of company housing. New jobs and company ownership of the housing helped ensure an orderly neighborhood - when your employer is your landlord as well, you run the risk of losing quite a lot with a mis-step at work or at home.
The companies set up stores as well, along E. Main St. and Alston Avenue., and Carr established the triangle of land between Angier, E. Main, and Elm St. as a community park/baseball diamond.
The schools and churches soon followed, and independent businesses began to open along E. Main with the success of the community. In the 1920s, the initial frame structures were mostly replaced by masonry 1-2 story buildings.
A later (1950s) aerial shot showing East Main St., looking northwest, with the Golden Belt Hosiery Mill in the background.
The neighborhood's prosperity lasted all of about 30 years. In 1934, the Durham Hosiery Mill No. 1 closed, and the company sold off all of the housing south of E. Main, primarily to investors - all of which was then occupied by unemployed people. Perhaps the very first Duke-Durham neighborhood partnership occurred in Edgemont, as a determined group of Duke students staffed the Edgemont Community Center, established in the 1940s, as outreach to the impoverished community. The Duke students staffed the center for 15 years, amid incompetent bickering among city departments about who should be responsible for it.
The community and business district soldiered on though - Edgemont Cafe (Edgemont Lunch,) the Hub Department Store, LA Warren Pharmacy, and Petty Roberts Co. were among the businesses located along this strip.
Looking north across the Hosiery Mills park from the Durham Hosiery Mills at the west end of the business district - Edgemont Lunch and the Hub Department store are among the stores in the background (as is the Golden Belt Hosiery Mill behind them.) Kids are also visible playing baseball in the park. October 1955.
Below, a very short clip from ~1940 of a young girl in the park with the businesses in the background.
The neighborhood continued to decline into the 1960s and 1970s. The construction of Few Gardens just to the east of Morning Glory in the 1953 intensified the concentrated poverty in the neighborhood. Duke students' establishment of a community center became the umbrella for a number of social service organizations, Operation Breakthrough, Durham's Federally-funded program to assist impoverished areas, was established in the community.
The neighborhood shifted further in the 1960s, as African-Americans who were displaced from housing being demolished in Hayti re-located to Few Gardens and Edgemont. White flight from Edgemont ensued, resulting in a nearly complete turnover of the neighborhood residents, and likely a deepening of the impoverishment of the neighborhood.
Businesses did not fare well though these trials, and many of the buildings were abandoned by the 1970s.
The corner of E. Main and Morning Glory, looking northeast, 1970s.
Looking north across E. Main at the western edge of the business district with Golden Belt behind.
(Courtesy Robby Delius)
Edgemont itself became, initially, a Housing Authority project in the 1980s, which cleared much of the housing and replaced it with cul-de-sacs, vinyl, and concrete. The HOPE VI project has cleared the remainder of Edgemont. Morning Glory, because of the persistence of the Golden Belt Co., fared better, and many of those houses remain.
Most of the commercial structures have been demolished at this point. The Hayti Development Corp, located here, and demolished a few more - without apparent irony. The city has demolished a few more as well.
From Morning Glory and Main, looking east-northeast, 2007.
From a bit further east, 2007.
And a bit further east, looking northeast, 2007.
The irony is that, with a new rebirth of the community - between the significant HOPE VI investment and the ongoing renovation of the Golden Belt Hosiery Mill, the need for commercial/retail venues along East Main St. arises again. I hope we'll see this strip redeveloped (and the itchy bulldozer lever stymied.) It remains to be seen whether this latest renewal can more durably shed the 170+ year legacy of Prattsburg.