EDGEMONT/ MORNING GLORY BUSINESS DISTRICT

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EDGEMONT/ MORNING GLORY BUSINESS DISTRICT

,
Durham
NC

Comments

  • Submitted by John Schelp on Monday, November 12, 2007 - 1:25pm

    "In place of this dark hole of iniquity and infamy, there will be a busy, bustling manufacturing community."
    --Durham Daily Sun rejoicing to the news of Julian Shakespeare Carr's proposal to build the Durham Hosiery Mill. (With thanks to Jim Wise, when he was at the Herald-Sun.)

    Very much looking forward to your entry on Prattsburg. Jim once wrote that the notorious Prattsburg saloon stood near what is now the intersection of Angier Avenue & Lyon Street.

    Skipping ahead, John D. Loudermilk, who was born at Iredell & Knox, told me the best place he lived as a kids was... Few Gardens.

    Pics & postcards of Edgemont, etc... http://www.owdna.org/History/history26.htm

    ~John

  • Submitted by Gary on Monday, November 12, 2007 - 1:31pm

    Thanks John. My guess would be that Loudermilk lived in Few Gardens in the 1950s - before an entire, even poorer neighborhood was displaced and had little neighborhood choice other than FG. While the design of such barracks-like projects was/is not good, the major dysfunction came from segregated deep poverty.

    GK

  • Submitted by John Schelp on Monday, November 12, 2007 - 2:04pm

    Indeed. The lesson, of course, is that new is not always best.

    Look at the day I-40 opened in southern Durham. The sky was blue, the birds were chirping, and cars were buzzing along. Within a decade, I-40 was often transformed into a congested parking lot.

    Blue skies and chirping birds also met a new Few Gardens. Alas, it was not to last.

    The Washington Post ran a series on what sparked higher homicide rates in the city. The reporters went back to the beginnings of urban renewal -- when the built environment was changed, when neighborhoods were replaced by projects, when the fabric of the community was torn apart.

    Tearing down neighborhoods might be an easy "solution." But, in the long run, it's not the right solution. This is why Endangered Durham's message is so important.

    ~John

  • Submitted by Michael Bacon on Tuesday, November 13, 2007 - 6:19pm

    I know you just did Morven's Alley a few weeks ago, but it's hard to talk about this area, particularly going back to Prattsburg, and all the times people have tried to demolish it to build something better, without thinking of this:

    "I'm gonna leave and get a job
    With the help and the grace from above
    Save some money, get rich I know
    Bring it back to Tobacco Road

    "Bring Dynamite and a crane
    Blow you up, start all over again
    Build a town be proud to show
    Give the name Tobacco Road"

    I think there's a tendency to ascribe all these decisions to obliterate urban history with a bulldozer to a clueless elite, and try to make that elite as unfairly privileged as possible (white, male, rich, etc.). But I think Loudermilk's sentiment here gets at something else -- a lot of times the people who lived in these places are just as eager to push things over as any capitalist with dollar signs in his eyes. Sometimes it's because times were just so bad there, they don't want to be haunted by the structures where things hit bottom. (I also think of Forrest Gump bulldozing Jenny's father's house.)

    Demolish Prattsburg and put up Edgemont. Demolish Edgemont and put up Few Gardens. Demolish Few Gardens and put up Hope VI. Hey, I love the design of Hope VI as much as anyone, but what's the real message here?

    My officemate for a year at UNC was a woman whose father's family lived in Few Gardens when he was born. She said he doesn't remember it well (they moved to another project a few years later), but said her grandmother remembered it as a wonderful place to live, with plenty of grass for the kids to play in and lots of hard working families who were grateful to have a clean, stable place to live.

    A lot of the urban geographer crowd that my Masters adviser runs with think of Hope VI as a terrible program which turns its back on the promise of public housing. They see the problem as disinvestment in the housing projects, not in the design of the projects themselves.

    I'm not sure what to make of all of this, but it makes me think of Gary's earlier admonition about what great certainties we are carrying that the next generation will lambaste us for.

  • Submitted by Anonymous on Tuesday, November 13, 2007 - 9:44pm

    The two-story structure with the blue awning on its first story had been gutted and was being renovated around 2003 by a local hip hop crew (the Butta Team; they put on "Straight from the Crate" on WNCU Sat. nights awhile back) for use as a recording studio, but don't know what happened to it after that (and don't think I've been by it since then). It seemd like a solid building when I was inside it back then; hope it will stay that way and won't be demo'd by anybody...

  • Submitted by Anonymous on Wednesday, November 14, 2007 - 3:29am

    Gary

    Wasn't Constance Stancel the head of Hayti Development when they tore down those buildings?

  • Submitted by Anonymous on Friday, July 9, 2010 - 6:54pm

    Few Gardens was in it's time a successful neighborhood answer for folks who needed low-rent housing and was designed in what was then the best current density planning for "the times". At least by Fed Housing standards. We can't retro-judge what was best for then by what is now considered "better" planning because this is a different time and social circumstances.
    It was a clean, safe environment that the residents took pride in and was a real neighborhood/ community of a mix of young families and section for older folks (retirees and near-retirees).
    We all had fun ineracting with each other. I don't recall it's being a "poverty stricken" development though until later when it declined with the rest of the bordering area.
    C Gibbs

  • Submitted by Rick Barbour on Sunday, March 25, 2012 - 1:13pm

    I lived in Few Gardens as a child (age 3 to 9) then would visit my grandmother who was also living there untill I was 16 or 17 ..( maybe 1955 - 1969 ) . I remember a neighborhood where people borrowed a cup of flour, sugar, mabey some eggs until they went shopping (pay-day) then would take it back. kids playing ,riding trikes ,wagons etc. older kids baskettball , baseball at long meadow or swimming in the pool . Every kid had a cap pistol (but never any caps) and a constant round of cops & robbers - cowboys & indians would range between the buildings until someones mom ( driven crazy by the noise) would call in their kids and tell everybody else to go home. The moms had an informal network where if they somebody they did'nt know or a kid that looked out of place they were on the phone or out in the yard asking questions, ( phone call,, hey Leola you see those boys walking down the sidewalk toward you , look at that baskettball they have and see whos name is on it ) It was a time & place where a kid would give up the ball to a Mom if the names did'nt match (LOL) .....Street preachers or the Salvation Army would set up down by the office For some music and preaching . Ice creame trucks Bible school parades or , an ocassional mule pulling a wagon were all part of the landscape. We walked to Edgemont school, the stores (Grandma's ) on Blackwell st run by two elderly ladies, Griffins Later Inscoes in morning glory corner or another run by a blind man out of his house on the other end of morning Glory. Halloween was a mixed bag...older kids in groups shaking down younger kids for candy, people giving out a handfull of popcorn (literally putting a handfull of popcorn losse in yor brown paper grocery sack) among the tootsie rolls ,mary janes & suckers . apples sometimes ! There was no A|C so summer nights if a neighbor was having a fight with a spouse everybody heard it!  Everybody knew each others circumstances and worked around it ( don't play over near Mr beattys -he works the nite shift or stay away from Miss Hicks bldg. she's been sick etc) I liked to visit with some of my neighbors sit on the steps (never go in the house without asking Mom) An elderly WWI & II vet who would show me his souviners and tell storys about the places he had seen. some of my friends folks sitting outside smoking & taking to other neighbors as they passed by. All in all not that bad ( but I was a kid ?)...

     

     

  • Submitted by Bob Eatman on Tuesday, December 18, 2012 - 1:16pm

    Rick I too grew up in Few Gardens. I lived in the 19A apartment as a child, ages 3 - 11. We moved to Charlotte for a year and then came back to Few Gardens, apartment 1-G. I went to Y.E. Smith school for grade school because I lived on that side of Few Gardens. I went to Holton just as they changed the name from East Durham Junior High. Walked everywhere including walking UP-TOWN. Did battle with the East Durham boys and the Edgemont boys. Slept with the screen door locked by a hook during the summer with all the windows open. Played baseball at Long Meadow Park and swam there as well. First time off the high diving board I climbed up and the lifeguard wouldn't let me climb down, I had to jump!. Walked down Barnes Avenue, Hyde Park Avenue, Taylor Street, Alston Avenue, East Main, Angier Avenue, all with little or no fear. As an initiation we would walk through the underground tunnels from the Hyde Park Street entrance all the way to the Taylor Street entrance just to prove our "manhood"! Worked at Inscoe's to earn a dollar a day cleaning up. Later worked at the A&P when I turned 16. True, we were all poor but we were proud and just worked hard. I carried the newspapers, both the Morning Herald and the Durham Sun in the afternoons. It was just a way of life. There were some fine people there. Of course Saturday nights brought a lot of entertainment during the summer with all the windows open. You heard everybody's conversation or whatever they were doing! Had a window fan in the bathroom window that drew cool air in and sometimes we had to cut it down it got too cool! Graduated from Durham High School and went to college and later married. My mother lived there until she moved to Oldham Towers where she later died. Few Gardens was a special place with special people and special times. I guess it was like any other neighborhood i that aspect. We were the first housing project to be integrated. It took a while for that to work. I watched as Holton was integrated and later, Durham High. Played ball with several black kids and we got along just fine. Some days we were chased by a group of black kids and other days we were chased by white kids. Seems we kids lived with it better that the adults though. I recently rode by the "old home place" to see all the changes. Different in alot of ways but it seems to me that it will all end up the same in the future. Sad, I know.

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Last updated

  • Sat, 10/27/2012 - 11:02am by gary

Comments

,
Durham
NC

 

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.
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

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.
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

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.

Comments

"In place of this dark hole of iniquity and infamy, there will be a busy, bustling manufacturing community."
--Durham Daily Sun rejoicing to the news of Julian Shakespeare Carr's proposal to build the Durham Hosiery Mill. (With thanks to Jim Wise, when he was at the Herald-Sun.)

Very much looking forward to your entry on Prattsburg. Jim once wrote that the notorious Prattsburg saloon stood near what is now the intersection of Angier Avenue & Lyon Street.

Skipping ahead, John D. Loudermilk, who was born at Iredell & Knox, told me the best place he lived as a kids was... Few Gardens.

Pics & postcards of Edgemont, etc... http://www.owdna.org/History/history26.htm

~John

Thanks John. My guess would be that Loudermilk lived in Few Gardens in the 1950s - before an entire, even poorer neighborhood was displaced and had little neighborhood choice other than FG. While the design of such barracks-like projects was/is not good, the major dysfunction came from segregated deep poverty.

GK

Indeed. The lesson, of course, is that new is not always best.

Look at the day I-40 opened in southern Durham. The sky was blue, the birds were chirping, and cars were buzzing along. Within a decade, I-40 was often transformed into a congested parking lot.

Blue skies and chirping birds also met a new Few Gardens. Alas, it was not to last.

The Washington Post ran a series on what sparked higher homicide rates in the city. The reporters went back to the beginnings of urban renewal -- when the built environment was changed, when neighborhoods were replaced by projects, when the fabric of the community was torn apart.

Tearing down neighborhoods might be an easy "solution." But, in the long run, it's not the right solution. This is why Endangered Durham's message is so important.

~John

I know you just did Morven's Alley a few weeks ago, but it's hard to talk about this area, particularly going back to Prattsburg, and all the times people have tried to demolish it to build something better, without thinking of this:

"I'm gonna leave and get a job
With the help and the grace from above
Save some money, get rich I know
Bring it back to Tobacco Road

"Bring Dynamite and a crane
Blow you up, start all over again
Build a town be proud to show
Give the name Tobacco Road"

I think there's a tendency to ascribe all these decisions to obliterate urban history with a bulldozer to a clueless elite, and try to make that elite as unfairly privileged as possible (white, male, rich, etc.). But I think Loudermilk's sentiment here gets at something else -- a lot of times the people who lived in these places are just as eager to push things over as any capitalist with dollar signs in his eyes. Sometimes it's because times were just so bad there, they don't want to be haunted by the structures where things hit bottom. (I also think of Forrest Gump bulldozing Jenny's father's house.)

Demolish Prattsburg and put up Edgemont. Demolish Edgemont and put up Few Gardens. Demolish Few Gardens and put up Hope VI. Hey, I love the design of Hope VI as much as anyone, but what's the real message here?

My officemate for a year at UNC was a woman whose father's family lived in Few Gardens when he was born. She said he doesn't remember it well (they moved to another project a few years later), but said her grandmother remembered it as a wonderful place to live, with plenty of grass for the kids to play in and lots of hard working families who were grateful to have a clean, stable place to live.

A lot of the urban geographer crowd that my Masters adviser runs with think of Hope VI as a terrible program which turns its back on the promise of public housing. They see the problem as disinvestment in the housing projects, not in the design of the projects themselves.

I'm not sure what to make of all of this, but it makes me think of Gary's earlier admonition about what great certainties we are carrying that the next generation will lambaste us for.

The two-story structure with the blue awning on its first story had been gutted and was being renovated around 2003 by a local hip hop crew (the Butta Team; they put on "Straight from the Crate" on WNCU Sat. nights awhile back) for use as a recording studio, but don't know what happened to it after that (and don't think I've been by it since then). It seemd like a solid building when I was inside it back then; hope it will stay that way and won't be demo'd by anybody...

Gary

Wasn't Constance Stancel the head of Hayti Development when they tore down those buildings?

Few Gardens was in it's time a successful neighborhood answer for folks who needed low-rent housing and was designed in what was then the best current density planning for "the times". At least by Fed Housing standards. We can't retro-judge what was best for then by what is now considered "better" planning because this is a different time and social circumstances.
It was a clean, safe environment that the residents took pride in and was a real neighborhood/ community of a mix of young families and section for older folks (retirees and near-retirees).
We all had fun ineracting with each other. I don't recall it's being a "poverty stricken" development though until later when it declined with the rest of the bordering area.
C Gibbs

I lived in Few Gardens as a child (age 3 to 9) then would visit my grandmother who was also living there untill I was 16 or 17 ..( maybe 1955 - 1969 ) . I remember a neighborhood where people borrowed a cup of flour, sugar, mabey some eggs until they went shopping (pay-day) then would take it back. kids playing ,riding trikes ,wagons etc. older kids baskettball , baseball at long meadow or swimming in the pool . Every kid had a cap pistol (but never any caps) and a constant round of cops & robbers - cowboys & indians would range between the buildings until someones mom ( driven crazy by the noise) would call in their kids and tell everybody else to go home. The moms had an informal network where if they somebody they did'nt know or a kid that looked out of place they were on the phone or out in the yard asking questions, ( phone call,, hey Leola you see those boys walking down the sidewalk toward you , look at that baskettball they have and see whos name is on it ) It was a time & place where a kid would give up the ball to a Mom if the names did'nt match (LOL) .....Street preachers or the Salvation Army would set up down by the office For some music and preaching . Ice creame trucks Bible school parades or , an ocassional mule pulling a wagon were all part of the landscape. We walked to Edgemont school, the stores (Grandma's ) on Blackwell st run by two elderly ladies, Griffins Later Inscoes in morning glory corner or another run by a blind man out of his house on the other end of morning Glory. Halloween was a mixed bag...older kids in groups shaking down younger kids for candy, people giving out a handfull of popcorn (literally putting a handfull of popcorn losse in yor brown paper grocery sack) among the tootsie rolls ,mary janes & suckers . apples sometimes ! There was no A|C so summer nights if a neighbor was having a fight with a spouse everybody heard it!  Everybody knew each others circumstances and worked around it ( don't play over near Mr beattys -he works the nite shift or stay away from Miss Hicks bldg. she's been sick etc) I liked to visit with some of my neighbors sit on the steps (never go in the house without asking Mom) An elderly WWI & II vet who would show me his souviners and tell storys about the places he had seen. some of my friends folks sitting outside smoking & taking to other neighbors as they passed by. All in all not that bad ( but I was a kid ?)...

 

 

Rick I too grew up in Few Gardens. I lived in the 19A apartment as a child, ages 3 - 11. We moved to Charlotte for a year and then came back to Few Gardens, apartment 1-G. I went to Y.E. Smith school for grade school because I lived on that side of Few Gardens. I went to Holton just as they changed the name from East Durham Junior High. Walked everywhere including walking UP-TOWN. Did battle with the East Durham boys and the Edgemont boys. Slept with the screen door locked by a hook during the summer with all the windows open. Played baseball at Long Meadow Park and swam there as well. First time off the high diving board I climbed up and the lifeguard wouldn't let me climb down, I had to jump!. Walked down Barnes Avenue, Hyde Park Avenue, Taylor Street, Alston Avenue, East Main, Angier Avenue, all with little or no fear. As an initiation we would walk through the underground tunnels from the Hyde Park Street entrance all the way to the Taylor Street entrance just to prove our "manhood"! Worked at Inscoe's to earn a dollar a day cleaning up. Later worked at the A&P when I turned 16. True, we were all poor but we were proud and just worked hard. I carried the newspapers, both the Morning Herald and the Durham Sun in the afternoons. It was just a way of life. There were some fine people there. Of course Saturday nights brought a lot of entertainment during the summer with all the windows open. You heard everybody's conversation or whatever they were doing! Had a window fan in the bathroom window that drew cool air in and sometimes we had to cut it down it got too cool! Graduated from Durham High School and went to college and later married. My mother lived there until she moved to Oldham Towers where she later died. Few Gardens was a special place with special people and special times. I guess it was like any other neighborhood i that aspect. We were the first housing project to be integrated. It took a while for that to work. I watched as Holton was integrated and later, Durham High. Played ball with several black kids and we got along just fine. Some days we were chased by a group of black kids and other days we were chased by white kids. Seems we kids lived with it better that the adults though. I recently rode by the "old home place" to see all the changes. Different in alot of ways but it seems to me that it will all end up the same in the future. Sad, I know.

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