Traditionally, both communities that grew up around the Durham Hosiery Mills and the Golden Belt Manufacturing Company - Edgemont and Morning Glory have been thought of as Edgemont, although it is really only the village built by the Durham Hosiery Mills south of Morning Glory Ave. that was named Edgemont by the mill. The Golden Belt village today is officially designated as Morning Glory by the City of Durham. In their heyday, both communities patronized the same business district along E. Main St. and Angier Ave., yet the two villages have always had their own distinct characters, determined largely by their terrains, street plans, and house types. Beyond the fact that they are adjacent textile mills, the strongest bond between these two areas is that they both were founded at the turn of the 20th century by Julian S. Carr.
Carr's earliest textile venture was the Durham Cotton Manufacturing Co., established in East Durham in 1884. Carr was quick to realize that textiles was the natural local investment for his huge earnings from the tobacco industry. The raw materials were at hand, the railroad provided easy shipping, and labor was plentiful and cheap. Carr continued to invest in small cloth and hosiery manufacturing companies. In the early 1890s, Carr and John W. Smith financed the Golden Belt Hosiery Co., which was located in a small factory downtown at Five Points. At about the same time, another firm, named the Durham Hosiery Co., was begun by George A. Graham in a building on N. Church St. Neither of these small companies could compete success- fully with the large northern hosiery firms; in 1898 they merged as the Durham Hosiery Mills Corp., directed by Julian S. Carr and capitalized at $46,000.
The new mill first occupied the top floors of the Fallon and Martin Tobacco Brokerage Building on Morris St. The Durham Hosiery Mills Corp. got off to a great start due to the coinci- dence of federal legislation and political turmoil. The 1897 Dingley Tariff Act placed hosiery on the protected list and the following year, shortly after the new company was formed, a tremendous number of orders for cotton hosiery for the military were prompted by the beginning of the Spanish-American War. Carr realized that in order to keep up with the orders from the military as well as the increasingly larger number of other buyers, he would have to build his own modern hosiery mill that could accommodate a greatly expanded operation.
The very sparsely settled land at the northeast corner of the junction of the Norfolk and Western Railroad with the Southern and Sea- board Airline Railroads - just a couple of blocks east of his estate from which he could conveniently keep an eye on his investment - was perfect for a new textile plant. By August of 1900, Carr had acquired most of this property, which he named Edgemont. Construction of the mill next to the Norfolk and Western Railroad tracks at the end of Angier Ave. began that year. The four-story brick building with its ornate six-story Romanesque Revival style tower soon dominated the vistas of the eastern outskirts of Durham. At the same time, streets and lots were platted, primarily east and south of the mill, where construction began on dozens of simple frame houses for the mill employees. The irregular street pattern was determined by the hilly terrain. Except for Edgemont Ave. (now named E. Main St.), all of the streets were named for the flowers of which Carr was so fond. The hilly land was crisscrossed with Violet St., Honey- suckle St. and other streets with floral names, most of which have been changed.4 Certainly, his textile interests were the focus of most of Julian S. Carr's attention during the years 1900 to 1902: During these years he was constructing not one, but two new textile manufacturing plants. Construction also began on the new Golden Belt Manufacturing Co. buildings in the gentler, lower-lying terrain a couple of blocks north of the Durham Hosiery Mills buildings.
Around the Durham Hosiery Mills in Edgemont, the steep and narrow dirt lanes were lined with simple houses that undoubtedly were of the same quality of construction as those out- lined in the Golden Belt contract. In Edgemont, however, there was a bit more variety in the types of houses. In addition to the one-story, one-room-deep rectangular house with a rear ell and the one-story L-shaped house, the five- room F-shaped house and the one-and-one-half story house without dormers (known as a "story- and-a-jump") appeared throughout the village. The story-and-a-jump houses and larger forms of the simple rectangular houses often were constructed as duplexes. As in Morning Glory, a few two-story, one-room-deep houses built close to the mill may have accommodated fore- men. Most of these houses had simple gabled or triple-A rooflines, but an occasional variation included a hipped roof.
The mill villages did not consist solely of factories and houses; they developed into full- fledged communities with churches, schools and stores. Most of the non-residential buildings were constructed in the area between the two villages. The early stores probably were com- pany general stores operated by the mills. In 1902, there were three one- and two-story commercial buildings that included two grocery stores and a drugstore in the 900 block of E. Main St.; one of the grocery stores was a two- story brick building on the south side of the street near the Durham Hosiery Mills. Nearby, on E. Main St., the small frame Edgemont Bap- tist Church was situated next to the larger frame Edgemont Graded School. Five years later, several more commercial buildings, most of them frame, had been constructed along the north side of E. Main St. The businesses had now diversified to include a watch repair shop, a barbershop, a millinery, a confectionery, and a fruit stand, in addition to the groceries and drugstores. The brick building across the street on the Durham Hosiery Mills' property had been converted to a machine repair shop. There also was a mantel factory and a mattress factory on the south side of Morning Glory Ave., in the same commercial block fronting E. Main St.
The business district continued to grow so that by the middle 1910s most of the lots on the north side of the 900 block of E. Main St. were occupied by commercial buildings. Around 1920, many of these frame buildings began to be replaced with one- and two-story brick commer- cial buildings with very simple decorative brick- work or neoclassical metal cornices. The frame Edgemont Baptist Church was replaced with a handsome Neoclassical Revival style brick build- ing. The businesses here included the L. A. Warren Pharmacy, Hub Department Store, Edgemont Cafe, and Petty-Roberts Co.
Facing the business district, the triangular tract in front of the Durham Hosiery Mills was set aside by the company as a park for the employees. This park, which eventually included a playground, a ballfield, a bandstand, and an open-air theater, is orte of the amenities often listed as evidence of Carr's beneficence toward his employees. Nevertheless, life in the mill villages was far from easy, the residents working long hours and earning low wages. The housing generally was considered superior by its occu- pants, who paid very low rent to the mill for well-built houses that would be unaffordable if leased from private individuals. On the other hand, factory foremen lived in the villages, so that they could monitor the behavior of the mill hands according to very strict standards set by the mill.
The Durham Hosiery Mills and the Golden Belt Manufacturing Co. continued to grow. They expanded their plants with new brick buildings, and about 1916, the Durham Hosiery Mills constructed its Mill No.6 for the manufacture of silk stockings directly behind their No.1 mill. By 1910, the Durham Hosiery Mills had become the largest manufacturer of cotton hosiery in the world, consisting of fifteen factories throughout North Carolina. Beginning- around 1910, rapid growth at the Golden Belt Manufac-turing Co. was prompted by Durhamite J. T. Dalton's development of automatic bagging machinery and drawstring, machinery.
Both textile companies built additional houses for the employees they hired for their expanded operations. Edgemont continued to expand throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Some of this development was the work of the Durham Hosiery Mills, but it appears likely that some of the small groups of identical modest houses were con- structed by private investors who leased them directly to the laborers or sold them to the mill which, in turn, leased them to their workers. A good deal of the development during the 1920s and 1930s appears to have been privately-built, owner-occupied construction. As early as the first decade of the 20th century, merchants and artisans were moving into Edgemont to take advantage of the new markets created by the growing community. Several of these privately built houses appear on E. Main St., Angier Ave. and S. Alston Ave., and they are usually identified by their various forms, which often are two stories, and by their decorative porches and gables that appear elaborate in contrast to the plain mill houses.
Today, Edgemont and Morning Glory are still characterized by contrast between the two mill villages, but these differences now are due more to passage of time and shifting economies rather than different terrains and street plans. Al- though the Durham Hosiery Mills responded to the craze for silk stockings that arose in the 1910s by constructing new mills, including Mill No.6 in Edgemont, the company continued to suffer from the steadily decreasing demand for cotton hosiery. In 1934, the Durham Hosiery Mills' Edgemont operation ceased. By the end of the 1930s, the mill had sold most of the houses it owned in Edgemont, primarily to investors as most of the unemployed mill workers were unable to finance purchase of their homes. After the close of the mills, many of the local businesses also shut down. The decline of the neighborhood has been steady ever since. Be- cause most of the houses were rental, few of them have been modernized. Today, although a great number of the houses have been destroyed, many survive relatively intact, though deteriorated, still sitting directly upon narrow, unpaved lanes. As such, they continue to convey Edgemont's original ambiance.
North of Morning Glory Ave., the situation is quite different. The Golden Belt Manufactur- ing Co., owned by the American Tobacco Co., continues to be a major employer in the produc- tion of cigarette packaging. In 1954, Golden Belt offered all of its houses for sale to their occupants for ten percent less than their ap- praised value.17 These houses, many of them owned by their occupants who today work in the Golden Belt factory, are in good condition, but many of them have been altered in the course of modernizations and remodellings. Soon, Edgemont and Morning Glory may revert to their original, more unified character if the planned renovation of the No.1 mill of the Durham Hosiery Mills as housing for the elderly is carried out. Coinciding with this project is the planned investment of Community Development funds by the City of Durham to upgrade the surrounding former mill village.
(From the 1980 Durham Architectural and History Inventory)
While the renovation of the Durham Hosiery Mill No. 1 was carried out, the "investment of community development funds" was not a positive for the rejuvenation of the Edgemont mill village. Together with the destruction of the Durham Hosiery Mill No. 6 by fire, the wholesale demolition of Edgemont to create vinyl apartment buildings and cul-de-sacs of plastic houses continued to erode the original character of the neighborhood. With the HOPE VI project in 2004-, the last remaining historic houses in Edgemont were destroyed, and the original mill village has been as completely obliterated as once-across-the-tracks Hayti - although the loss of Edgemont is never bemoaned in quite the same way.
The replacement neighborhood is pleasant enough, and the well-meaning affordable and public housing providers would state with conviction that the houses of Edgemont were too far gone, unable to accomodate the needs of today, energy inefficient - what have you. But the history of the neighborhood is irretrievably lost.