Hayti

Hayti

Summary

Hayti was established early in Durham's history, as African-Americans, migrating to Durham primarily to work in the tobacco factories, settled in the vicinity of Fayetteville Rd. on land owned by White merchants. While the land was initially rented, it was, over time, purchased as economic capital built in the community. The community coalesced around the two major churches: St. Joseph's AME, established in 1869 on Fayetteville Road and White Rock Baptist, organized in 1873. Both churches built... Read More

Buildings and objects of interest

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Hayti was established early in Durham's history, as African-Americans, migrating to Durham primarily to work in the tobacco factories, settled in the vicinity of Fayetteville Rd. on land owned by White merchants. While the land was initially rented, it was, over time, purchased as economic capital built in the community.

The community coalesced around the two major churches: St. Joseph's AME, established in 1869 on Fayetteville Road and White Rock Baptist, organized in 1873. Both churches built significant structures during the 1890s - St. Joesph's AME in 1891 (still standing) and White Rock Baptist in 1896 (at the corner of Mobile Ave. and Fayetteville, now under the Durham Freeway.) These churches and other businesses established along the high ground of Fayetteville Rd.

The success of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company and other African-American owned business created significant investment in the community, and the commerical buildings were upgraded to more sizable 1-3 story brick structures. Leading members of the community built large, architecturally impressive dwellings along Fayetteville St. The wealthier members of the community worked to establish civic assets such as a library and Lincoln Hospital.

NC Mutual created a land development company which developed much of the smaller rental housing on the side streets. The portion of the community north of White Rock Baptist, including the commerical structures along Pettigrew St., developed later and was evidently referred to as 'Mexico'. This was an area of more entertainment venues and restaurants, including some of the most prominent venues in Hayti - the Regal Theater, the Wonderland Theater, the Biltmore Hotel, and the Do-Nut Shop.

By the 1920s, Fayetteville St. was built out. It continued to thrive during the 1930s and 1940s, as wonderfully described in the film "Negro Durham Marches On," commissioned by the Durham Business and Professional Chain (an African-American business group.)

Post 1950s, the segregated community started to fade economically. The perfect storm of interests - private, ~conservative real estate interest in buying and consolidating land, and more progressive, ~public interest in moving people out of 'slums' to new, fancy public housing - resulted in a fateful decision to destroy almost all of Hayti.

During the 1960s, Fayetteville Rd. was rerouted to the west of its historic location, which is why one sees the back of St. Joseph's when driving on the current Fayetteville Rd. It took significant effort from the entire Durham community (and a leadership role from the Historic Preservation Society) to save St. Joseph's from the wrecking ball, which was the fate of all other structures in Hayti.

The current 'Old Fayetteville Street' is a strange collection of suburban-style slab-on-grade development of apartment buildings/parking lots and the beautiful church structure. The church is fascinating (and beautiful) inside as well, with a sideways-oriented chancel and balcony, and somewhat oddly, a large stained-glass window featuring Washington Duke. (He, along with Julian Carr, provided significant contributions towards the construction of the church.)

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