2014 Preservation Durham Tobacco Heritage Tour

2014 Preservation Durham Tobacco Heritage Tour


April 26-27, 2014. Noon-4pm. Behind-the-scenes access to 6 historic tobacco manufacturing sites in downtown Durham.

/sites/default/files/images/2008_8/venable_east_1920s.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2008_8/VenableSanborn_1950.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2008_8/Venable_NE_1950s.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2008_8/Venable_fromunionstation_021962.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2008_8/Venable_Pettigrew_FromCourthouse_71568.jpg

THE VENABLE TOBACCO COMPANY

302
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1905
/ Modified in
1930
,
1952
,
1969
,
2006
Architect/Designers: 
Architectural style: 
,
Construction type: 
,
Local historic district: 
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Mon, 06/10/2013 - 11:44am by gary

Location

35° 59' 31.8192" N, 78° 53' 57.2604" W

Comments

302
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1905
/ Modified in
1930
,
1952
,
1969
,
2006
Architect/Designers: 
Architectural style: 
,
Construction type: 
,
Local historic district: 
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 


Venable Warehouse, looking east on East Pettigrew Street, likely 1920s-1930.
(Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection, Wyatt Dixon Collection)

Much of the historical information in this post derives from the National Register nominations for the Venable buildings

The area immediately south of East Pettigrew St. and East of Pine St. contained a variety of buildings during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, including three prize houses that may have served adjacent tobacco factories.

In 1905, the Durham Tobacco and Inspection Company (DTS&I), newly incorporated by the Dibrell Brothers of Virgina and a Winston-Salem based partner, Sterling Smith, built the the northern two bays of Venable Tobacco Company Warehouse on the site. According to the Sanborn map of 1907, DTS&I leased this warehouse to its associate firm, Venable Tobacco of Virginia. An L-shape, masonry and ironclad “Dry House” were added next to the older prize house, on the site of the existing Prizery; these were also leased to Venable Tobacco. In July 1908 the Dibrell Brothers purchased a one third interest in this building from A. C. Acree. The deed transfer describes the building as a one-story brick and metal-clad “prizery” at the rear of the site belonging to DTS&I. It contained an engine and boiler drying apparatus, power screw, shafting and belting, and other equipment. It is apparently this same building that was jointly sold three months later by Dibrell Brothers and J. E. and Lizzie Perkinson to DTS&I. On the 1913 Sanborn map - the same map that shows the construction of the third, southern bay of the Venable warehouse – the “Dry House” has been expanded with additional iron- clad construction to form “Prizery no. 1.” The old prize house had either been incorporated into the expanded building or had been destroyed.

The apparent present 'curve' of the warehouse, away from Pine Street/South Roxboro at the northern end, results from the fact that the warehouses originally followed the curve of Pine Street, which curved east to meet the railroad/Pettigrew St. at a 90 degree angle. The street was moved to the west to align with Roxboro St. when the railroad crossing was created.

In July 1922 a new Venable Tobacco Company was incorporated under the laws of North Carolina. The firm was directed and owned by individuals from families prominent in the Durham tobacco industry: Clinton W. Toms, Jr., James S. Cobb, and his son J. O. Cobb. The Dibrell Brothers, however, retained a major interest in the firm. The same month the property of Venable Tobacco Company was surveyed and filed with the Register of Deeds. One month later the North Carolina company purchased the prizery and redrying plant from the Virginia- based Venable Tobacco Co., as described in a deed transfer dated August 22, 1922. Two years later it purchased the warehouse from Durham Tobacco Storage and Inspection Company.

The transfer of the prizery and redrying buildings to Venable Tobacco-NC suggests the company's intention to expand these facilities. Redrying machinery - notably the Mayo dryer - came into use in the first decade of the century; between the boom years of 1916 and 1929, many companies enlarged their redrying and storage facilities. Redrying plants required expensive equipment, including engines, boilers, and prizing apparatus, as well as specialized and unskilled labor. The high initial investment and fixed costs of these operations meant that only larger firms could afford them. This resulted in the consolidation of brokerage firms - which may explain the reorganization of Dibrell Brothers' North Carolina interests and the Venable Company around this date.

The prizery was rebuilt as a three-story structure of slow burn construction - the building that exists today. The Sanborn maps indicate that this occurred between 1922 and 1937; the architecture of the building suggests a construction
date circa 1930. A large, two-story metal-clad redrying plant and a building for stemming and hanging appear to have been built at the same time as the new prizery. The enlarged complex indicates a dramatically expanded capacity for the company.

The still-extant prizery is one surviving example in Durham of a building type that was essential in the commerce of bright leaf tobacco. Prizeries or "prize houses" began to proliferate after the Civil War, as bright leaf tobacco replaced the older dark leaf variety. Because there were few local markets in North Carolina, dark leaf tobacco had to be transported over long distances to Virginia markets. Growers sorted their leaves simply, according to size, and pressed or “prized” them in part to make transportation more manageable. With the introduction of bright leaf tobacco grading became more complicated, and growers were encouraged to bring their tobacco “loose” – unsorted and ungraded - to local auctions. Tobacco brokers bought green, bright leaf tobacco at the famous "loose leaf auctions", held at local sales warehouses. They transferred their purchases to prize houses, which they often owned and which often had attached redrying facilities. Here the tobacco was sorted and redried in redrying machines, taken off the sticks, and "prized" or pressed into hogsheads. It was then transferred to a warehouse where it would be aged until ready for shipment to manufacturers.


Sanborn Map of the Venable complex, 1950, with Venable buildings highlighted. (Sanborn Map Company)


Looking northeast at the Venable Complex, circa 1950.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

In 1952, a one-story Receiving Room was added to the south facade of the Prizery. The need for added capacity suggests increased demand from markets opened up after World War II. The location of the addition allowed access from Poplar Street via service doors on the east and west facades. Loading facilities that were oriented toward the road, rather than the railway, suggest the shift that had occurred by this date in the transport of tobacco.


Venable Warehouse from the platform of Union Station, looking east, 02.19.62.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)


Looking southeast from the courthouse, 07.15.68 - the freeway and urban renewal are underway in the background. Note the gas station on the corner. (Every building in this picture will be profiled in the upcoming weeks.)
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

In 1969, the stemming and hanging building, redrying building, and cooper shop were destroyed by an immense fire.


Looking south from the railroad tracks, 05.07.69.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)


Looking east past the Receiving Room, 05.07.69.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)


Looking north from Poplar, the Stemming and Hanging building mostly destroyed, 05.07.69
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)


Fire in the redrying building and Cooper Shop, looking south from East Pettigrew, 05.07.69.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)


Not sure where this is looking from exactly, but enough distance to appreciate the magnitude of the fire - 05.07.69
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)


Not sure if this is bringing the fire in the Redrying Building under control or trying to prevent fire (and failing, as seen further above.) 05.07.69.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

After the fire, and tobacco had to be shipped to Danville for redrying. In the early 1970’s, Venable Tobacco merged with several Dibrell Brothers companies, taking the name of one of these, C. W. Walters. 

Venable_1970s.jpg

1970s

(Robert Elliott)

The complex continued to function as a tobacco facility until the early 1980's. At that date the prizery was purchased by West Brothers Trucking Company, which partitioned the interior for use as office spaces. The prizery operated as the Venable Business Center, providing tenant space for a number of commercial tenants and artists, as well as a coffee roaster. The warehouse building was used by a variety of tenants as well, most notably a number of construction/architectural salvage businesses, beginning with the Summer Beam and the Building Recycling Center, and later by Peters' Design Works.

venabletobaccowarehouse_int_081787.jpg

08.17.87 (Herald-Sun)

venabletobaccowarehouse_int2_081787.jpg

08.18.87 (Herald-Sun)

Venable_SE_1989.jpg
Venable, 1989. (Herald-Sun)

In 2002, Andy Rothschild and Scientific Properties purchased the complex, and in 2004 began renovation of the Prizery building and Receiving Room. These renovations were completed in 2006, and the structures currently house the Independent newspaper, Serenex, Creative Strategies, and, since 2008, Sommerhill Gallery (in the Receiving Room.)


Prizery under renovation, 09.10.06. It's fairly easy to see the 'scars' from the other buildings once attached to the north and east faces of the Prizery. (Copyright Gary Kueber)


Venable Complex, 09.10.06 (Copyright Gary Kueber)


Venable from the top of the Eligibility Building looking southeast, May 2007. (Copyright Gary Kueber)

Scientific Properties began construction on the warehouse building in mid 2007, and completed shell construction by December 2007. The building currently houses two city departments: the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, and the Equal Opportunity, Equity Assurance Department. The company advertises the development as providing "Class A office, lab and retail space."


Looking southeast at the warehouse building, 12.16.07. (Copyright Gary Kueber)


Venable Center, 08.20.08 (Copyright Gary Kueber)

I'm not a fan of the copious surface parking along the East Pettigrew St. frontage, however, the configuration of the historic buildings at the west and south edges of the property make the provision of parking in another form problematic. There's not much space to build a deck with a wrapper, and do you block the view of the Prizery Building from E. Pettigrew to get it done? I hope that a future provision of public art along the Pettigrew Street frontage, and overall future redistribution of parking in the 'southeast downtown' landscape will allow for a stronger street presence heading east from the Warehouse building.

And while I would also have liked to have seen a return to sash windows on the warehouse, I'm otherwise a fan of the exterior and interior renovations, which include a large skylighted stairwell between bays of the warehouse building.

Having spent quite a bit of time in the receiving room space prior to renovation for Sommerhill, I'm most impressed with that transformation. Because really, the receiving room, a 1952 cinderblock building, doesn't seem like it would have much business being beautiful. But the combination of the entryway, the gallery interior, skylights, and 'glassed-out' garden in the center of the space are impressive. Since I've given grief to Phil Szostak in the past for the design of the Performing Arts Center (it has grown on me, unlike the bus station) it's incumbent upon me to note that he designed this space.

Moving forward, I hope the Venable renovation serves as an anchor for redevelopment of the many acres of Hendrickland to the southeast. There's the opportunity to create a strong gateway here to connect development near the ballpark and American Tobacco to the Ramseur Street corridor (the former 305 South,) Cleveland-Holloway, Edgemont, Golden Belt, and the portion of Fayetteville Street across the freeway. That will require developers and government alike to begin thinking of these spaces as vibrant pedestrian corridors, through which boulevards like Mangum, Roxboro, and Fayetteville run. The acquiescence to a highway landscape, as the county seems intent on doing throughout the eastern half of downtown, will - surprise - perpetuate it.

The opportunity to link the new economic viability of spaces like Venable to 'North-East-Central Durham' exists in filling in the empty spaces and allowing the economic growth to encourage entrepreneurs to revitalize the fallow historic structures. Unfortunately, the county will backhoe away those opportunities in the 500 block of East Main Street for a giant, giant surface parking lot (a request for demolition bids for these two blocks - bounded by East Main, Ramseur, Dillard, and South Elizabeth has been issued as of two weeks ago.) Why we continue to destroy historic structures - the sole vehicle for the revitalization of downtown Durham - and somehow believe that doing so will make Durham a better place remains utterly beyond my comprehension. What is it called when we repeat the same mistake over and over again, each time expecting a different result?

Update 10/28/10:


Venable Center from South Roxboro, looking northeast, 10.27.10 (Copyright Gary Kueber)


Receiving Room, looking northeast, 10.27.10 (Copyright Gary Kueber)


From the railroad tracks looking south, 10.27.10 (Copyright Gary Kueber)

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/sites/default/files/images/2007_1/ImperialTobacco_pcard.jpgmartinwhse_1895.jpeg/sites/default/files/images/2007_1/imperialtobaccoco_1910.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_1/imperialfront_1920s.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_1/ImperialTobacco_pcard.jpg

THE IMPERIAL TOBACCO COMPANY

211
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1916
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
Local historic district: 
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Tue, 11/19/2013 - 8:17am by gary

Location

35° 59' 56.6772" N, 78° 54' 14.0688" W

Comments

211
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1916
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
Local historic district: 
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 

The Imperial Tobacco Company of Great Britain and Ireland was established by 18 individual British tobacco manufacturers who wanted to counter JB Duke's expansion of the American Tobacco Company into Europe. After Duke purchased a British tobacco factory and began undercutting the British manufacturers, the Imperial Tobacco Company announced plans to establish an American market for themselves.

This led to an agreement between Duke and Imperial, in which Duke agreed to sell his British factory to Imperial in return for Imperial not entering the American market.

However, in order to cut their costs in the European market, Imperial sought to establish their own leaf-buying organization in the United States, and by 1903 was associated with Fallon and Martin in Durham.

Thomas Martin was one of many independent tobacco buyer/brokers in Durham who sold tobacco throughout the country during latter portion of the 19th century. This five-story building had built during the 1890s.
martinwhse_1895.jpeg
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

In 1908, Imperial bought Fallon and Martin, retaining Fallon to run their operations. The Fallon and Martin Factory became the Imperial Tobacco Company factory.


Looking northwest on Morris St.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun)

But these buildings burned in 1915. In 1915-16, the company rebuilt a factory on the same site - on Morris St. between Morgan and Fernway.


View of the new Imperial Tobacco Factory, 1920s, looking northwest. (As an aside, if you look closely in this shot, you can see the Brodie Duke homeplace on the grounds of Durham High/Carr Junior High. I hadn't realized until seeing this picture that they co-existed.) You can also see that the water tower remains from the old factory.
(Photo courtesy Digital Durham)


View from Morris St., looking northwest, 1920s.
(Courtesy John Schelp)


Rear of the building, from Morris and Fernway, looking southwest.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

The Romanesque Revival building is similar to others that Imperial Tobacco built in Richmond and South Carolina.


Smokestack, 05.13.57

The factory operated throughout the early to mid 20th century. In 1962, the company built a new, modern facility in Wilson, NC, but maintained some operations at the Durham plant.


A rather odd shot (try to ignore the cars) of the Imperial Tobacco Factory from Morris and Morgan, looking northwest, 1963.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

In 1965, the company sold the building to the DC May decorating company, previously profiled in the 400 block of Morgan St.

From Morris St., looking northwest, mid-1970s.

Morris Street facade, 1970s (DCL)


Looking northwest, 1981; the DC May company, manufacturer of building and painting supplies, moved to this building after their building on Morgan St. was torn down by urban renewal. The building contained space for numerous tenants, and I believe had artist loft space in it during the 1990s.
(Courtesy Robby Delius)

In 2003, D.C. May Corp closed its factory in downtown Durham as part of a combination with two other companies and sold the building to Measurement Inc., an educational testing service. Per the News and Observer "Most of the plant's 120 workers lost their jobs, although David May, president of D.C. May, said that about 20 workers may end up transferring to the company's new plant in Manning, S.C."

In 2005, Measurement Incorporated renovated the building as part of the expansion of their testing services company, and did an excellent job with the renovation.


From Morris St., looking northwest, 2007 (Photo by Gary Kueber)


From Morris and Fernway, looking southwest, 2007. (Photo by Gary Kueber)


10.02.10 (Photo by Gary Kueber)

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COBB BUILDING

614-616
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1899
/ Modified in
1920s
Architectural style: 
,
Construction type: 
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Mon, 07/11/2011 - 9:14pm by gary

Location

35° 59' 56.382" N, 78° 54' 25.38" W

Comments

614-616
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1899
/ Modified in
1920s
Architectural style: 
,
Construction type: 
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 

cobb_1910s.jpg

Cobb Building, 1910

 

Cobb (left) and O'Brien (right) with the original Fire Station #2 between the buildings.


Looking northeast from Duke and Main Sts., 1890s. The tower of the Fire Station #2 is visible along West Main St. On either side, the stepped, projecting vent chimneys of Cobb and O'Brien are visible.
(Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection)

The O'Brien building was built in 1898 and the Cobb building in 1899 as similar warehouse structures, modeled on the extant Walker Warehouse across West Main St. The Cobb building, much like the Walker Warehouse, was originally a single story structure.

In the early 1920s, the internal wood post-and-beam structure of the Cobb building was disassembled and replaced with an internal steel structural system; three floors were added atop the original first floor. Interestingly, the original wood structural post-and-beam system from the first floor was reassembled on the fourth floor as its structural system.

Architects for the renovation of the building noted a curiosity about this replacement steel structural system - that it is rotated ~7 degrees from square to the exterior walls of the building.

This view from the 1930s show the fire station tucked between the two warehouses located on the north side of Main street.
Liggett_NW_1920s.jpeg
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

A partial view of both during shift change at L&M, 1930s.

LM_Shift_FireSt2_FayettevilleBus_1920s.jpeg
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

Multiple additional changes were made to the building over the mid 20th century, including bridges across West Main and Morgan St., subterranean tunnels under Morgan St., a new steel structural system extending the full height of the northern portion of the building to support the a chiller system on the roof, and exterior elevator shafts.

Both structures were used primarily as warehouse structures in the late 20th century, as tobacco operations waned and Liggett eventually decamped in ~2001. They briefly considered renovating the remaining buildings in the complex themselves before agreeing to sell them to the Blue Devil Ventures group in 2003.

Here is the site prior to West Village phase 2 renovations, 2006.
FireSt2_2006.jpeg

In 2009, Blue Devil Partners completed renovations to the 'Phase II' of West Village project, which included Cobb and O'Brien, the Old Cigarette Factory, the Walker Warehouse, and the old L&M office building. Although I haven't been in either Cobb or O'Brien since renovation, my understanding is that they are primarily residential.


Cobb building, 11.07.09

 

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americantobacco_1870s_2.jpegColemansDurhamMustard.jpegMap_GreenBlackwell_1867.jpegamericantobacco_1870s_2.jpegamericantobacco_1870s.jpeg

BLACKWELL'S DURHAM TOBACCO / AMERICAN TOBACCO CO.

,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1874
Architect/Designers: 
Architectural style: 
,
Construction type: 
,
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Tue, 09/23/2014 - 12:37pm by gary

Location

35° 59' 41.2008" N, 78° 54' 13.1076" W

Comments

,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1874
Architect/Designers: 
Architectural style: 
,
Construction type: 
,
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 

americantobacco_1870s_2.jpeg

The birth of the tobacco industry in Durham started with a handful of people -none of whom were named Blackwell, Watts, Duke, or Carr - who saw the new 'town' of Durham Station as a place of opportunity.

The first entrepreneur to see Durham Station as a central transportation hub that could pull tobacco from the counties around it for manufacture and distribution via rail was Robert F. Morris. Morris, a successful businessman in Hillsborough, came to Durham in 1857 with no prior experience in manufacturing tobacco. He persuaded Wesley Wright, who did have prior experience with the Wm. Vincent & Son firm in Alamance County, to join him at Durham Station and begin the RF Morris Tobacco Co., producer of "Best Spanish Flavored Smoking Tobacco." (Which was flavored with imported Tonka beans. They built a low, one-story frame factory building on the south side of Railroad St. (now Pettigrew) next to the original railroad depot (which was located between present-day Vivian and Pettigrew Streets.)

Wright left and began his own business in 1859, and Morris then partnered with Dr. Richard Blacknall - and after several more buyouts by WA Bowles, and WA Ward, Blacknall and Morris' portion were sold to John Ruffin Green in 1864.

Green, with more extensive tobacco sales experience, would hit upon two marketing breakthroughs - one through happenstance, and the other through some creative appropriation.

The first was the encampment of Confederate and Union troops at Durham Station at the end of the Civil War. Confederate General Joseph E. Johnson, whose troops were encamped at Hillsborough, and Union general William T. Sherman, fresh from torching Atlanta and electing not to torch Savannah, was encamped in Raleigh. They agreed to meet at a midway point on the road from Hillsborough to Raleigh -the farm of James Bennitt - to negotiate surrender of the Confederate army. While encamped at Durham Station, both sides availed themselves quite liberally of John Green's tobacco supply without recompense. While Green was distraught at the loss of his tobacco, when those same troops wrote to Green weeks and months later to order the Bright Leaf tobacco, he had successfully managed to hook a large and geographically diverse audience on his product.

The second was a discussion with his friend JY Whitted, who suggested that Green should make use of the bull used by the Coleman Mustard Company on their "Durham Mustard" containers.

ColemansDurhamMustard.jpeg

Although it's repeated in several sources that Whitted and Green chose the logo because they erroneously thought Coleman's was located in Durham, England, this seems unlikely. The name "Durham Mustard" had come to denote a variety of mustard, and was thus printed on containers as above, regardless of location of manufacture.

Green registered the trademark in 1866, along with the name "Genuine Durham Smoking Tobacco." He mounted a sign on the front of his factory depicting the bull.

Map_GreenBlackwell_1867.jpeg
Lewis Blount's 1867 map of Durham - the best way to orient yourself might be to find the railroad line and the spot that it says "Now Five Points." Main St. does not extend west of Five Points. #5 is the Green tobacco factory, and #10 is the railroad depot.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

During this same period, William T. Blackwell and James R. Day were building a tobacco sales business, and had established a tobacco jobbing house (a kind of distribution center that would buy tobacco from many different manufacturers to sell to retailers) in Kinston, NC. They were customers of Green, and when Green's health began to fail in 1868, they joined his business, which was changed to JR Green and Company. Green, despite attempted salutary trips to Catawba Springs, was unable to regain his health and died in 1869 at age 37. Blackwell purchased the remaining half-interest in the factory, including the trademark, at an estate auction for 92 in 1870; he then renamed the company the WT Blackwell Company, although JR Day remained a partner in the business.

Business was booming, and Blackwell needed additional capital to meet demand. Later that same year, he sold a 1/3 interest in the company to a 25 year old man from Chapel Hill - a UNC graduate and former Private in the Confederate army - named Julian (Shakespeare) Carr. This new capital allowed the partners to begin construction of a factory which would match their growth and ambition; this factory building (which would later be known as "Old Bull") was completed in 1874, the same year that Washington Duke moved to Durham, and 4 years before the W. Duke & Sons Tobacco Co. was established. The Old Bull Building was one of the first brick tobacco factories in the U.S. 

americantobacco_1870s_2.jpeg
Looking southwest at the corner of present-day West Pettigrew and Blackwell Sts., sometime between 1874 and 1879.
(From "Bull City Business Bonanza" by Ben and Snow Roberts)

americantobacco_1870s.jpeg
Looking southwest at the corner of present-day West Pettigrew and Blackwell Sts., sometime between 1874 and 1879.
(From "Bull City Business Bonanza" by Ben and Snow Roberts)

This L-shaped masonry Italianate structure was a revelation in 1870s Durham - which, the second drawing reveals, was a place of predeominantly small frame structures and muddy streets; it's hard to overstate what a bold structure this was in context; the first brick tobacco factory in the US, located in a tiny train depot town. The factory had a loud factory whistle which was purported to sound like a bull, and a large bell in a bell tower that rang on the hour.

The other revolutionary facet of the Blackwell Company's business was the extensive use of national, and international, advertising, such that the Bull appeared, seemingly, everywhere (including, purportedly, a sign on one or more Egyptian pyramids.) The company helped promulgate the notion of an iconic American brand promoted through advertising.

By 1878, Blackwell and Carr bought out JR Day, who seemed to do well enough to later build a rather sumputous house at Roxboro and Main. For their part, Blackwell built a fine house nearby at present-day West Chapel Hill and S. Duke Sts. and Carr a series of estates on the east side of downtown.

By 1879, business had continued to grow to the extent that the original factory warranted expansion, and another "L" was added to the original, extending the Railroad St. (now Pettigrew St.) facade to the west, and that new northwest corner to the south. This formed a U-shaped factory. In the early 1890s, a power plant was constructed on Second (Blackwell) Street, off the southeast corner of the factory building. 

By 1890, the Duke's American Tobacco Company owned 90 percent of the tobacco business in the county. The ornate brick buildings at American Tobacco and on West Main Street were built between 1887 and 1906. They conveyed a corporate image of power and success. 

OldBullBuilding_1895.jpeg
Old Bull with power plant behind it, 1895.
(Courtesy Duke Manuscript Collection / Digital Durham )

BlackwellsFactory_painting_1880s.jpeg
A wider view - a lot of details differ here, and I wonder if a bit of artistic license was involved.
(Courtesy Duke Manuscript Collection - Wyatt Dixon Collection)

In 1898, the Union Tobacco Company, which appears to have begun as a vehicle for financiers from New York and Philadelphia to acquire other companies, purchased the Blackwell company through the acquisition of the million in company stock.
In 1899, Union acquired a controlling interest in the Liggett & Myers Company of St. Louis. James B. Duke, intending to monopolize the tobacco industry, formed a subsidiary of his American Tobacco Company - the Continental Tobacco Company. This subsidiary purchased Union (including Blackwell's) and Liggett and Myers. By 1901, Duke merged Continental and American to form the Consolidated Tobacco Company. 

Thus began a rapid expansion of brick structures at the old Blackwell plant - in 1902, the horseshoe shape of the Old Bull Factory was enclosed by another wing on the south side, forming a 'box' shape. The Hill warehouses were built immediately to the west of Old Bull in 1902 as well. The Cigarette Building (later known as Lucky Strike) was built just to the south of the power plant in 1903, and the Reed Building just to the south of it in 1902. The Burch warehouse, oriented East-West, was built to the south of Reed sometime before 1913. The long series of warehouses along Carr St. (on the west side of the property) known as the Washington building was built from 1904-1905. It had 12 bays, excepting Bay 5, which was missing to allow for a drive from Carr St.

oldbullbuilding_1905.jpeg
Old Bull, the power plant, Lucky Strike, Reed and Hill - looking southwest, 1905.
(Courtesy Duke Manuscript Collection / Digital Durham

The Noell building, just to the west of Lucky Strike, was added in 1906.

BlackwellsDurham_pcard.jpeg
Looking southwest and down Blackwell St., 1906.
(Courtesy University of North Carolina)

"The Trust" as the Consolidated/American Tobacco company was called, engendered more resentment and distrust after the economic crisis of 1907 - a suit was filed against the company that same year for violation of the Sherman anti-trust act. A series of litigations occurred over the next 4 years, finally resulting in the Supreme Court-ordered dissolution of the trust in May 1911. The American Tobacco company was divided in 14 companies. Liggett and Myers returned to its home base of St. Louis, but with control of the former W. Duke and Sons Factory on West Main St. The former Blackwell plant became known as the (reorganized) Durham Branch of the American Tobacco Company under the leadership of Percival Hill. The company restarted the "Bull Durham" advertising campaign, putting signs in the outfield of baseball stadiums with an offer of to any baseball player who hit the Bull.

AT_Sanborn_1913.jpeg
Campus in 1913 - north is to the right.
(Copyright Sanborn Map Company)

Bull Durham smoking tobacco was the most popular brand in the country, and its stature only increased during World War I, when it was included in the rations given to soldiers on the front lines, and in 1918 production was temporarily taken over by the US government to exclusively supply soldiers with tobacco.

Bull Durham tobacco, to be clear, was not produced as cigarettes - cigarettes were "roll your own." Tobacco was placed in cotton bags manufactured and strung at the Golden Belt Hosiery Mill, which Carr formed in 1887 for the particular purpose of manufacturing tobacco bags. Golden Belt was originally located in the original wing of the Old Bull Building before outgrowing the space and moving to the old Whitted factory in 1899 (now Venable) and to its own factory in Edgemont in 1901.

These bags were typically tagged by home workers (a true 'cottage industry'). Women and children in particular would tag thousands of bags, often on their front porches.

By the 1920s, Bay 5 of the Washington warehouse had been filled in, making the Washington building a continuous series of bays.

americantobacco_E_early1920s.jpeg
Looking east, 1920s. From left to right: Hill, Old Bull, Washington (foreground), Old power plant, Noell, Lucky Strike, Reed.
(Courtesy Duke Manuscript Collection / Digital Durham

AmericanTobacco_SW_1920s.jpeg
Looking southwest, 1920s, at Old Bull, the Hill Warehouse, the old power plant, Lucky Strike, and Reed.
(Courtesy Duke Manuscript Collection / Digital Durham

OldBull_SW_1920s.jpeg
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

The 1920s brought new challenges to the company, as ready-made cigarettes became increasingly popular. The company tried to go head-to-head with cigarettes, but was fighting a losing battle. The company shifted to ready-made cigarette production, but its iconic brand had lost momentum, and sales suffered. However, Lucky Strike did become an increasingly popular cigarette, and Percival Hill's son George Washington Hill, emphasized the brand after taking over the company in 1925.

The relatively better position of Durham in the great Depression was exemplified by the increases in employment and sales at the American Tobacco in 1930. The company slashed prices of Bull Durham (bag) tobacco, and the brand saw a resurgence in sales. The company employed 3500 people in 1931, and produced 1.75 million cigarettes and 1.5 million pounds of smoking tobacco a month.

In 1930, the company constructed a new power plant, and the iconic Lucky Strike smokestack and water tower.

americantobacco_NW_1920s.jpeg
Looking northwest at the factory from near Morehead Ave. and Blackwell, early 1930s. The Washington warehouses are on the left, and the Burch warehouse straight ahead on the right.

It was around this same time that the original wing of the Old Bull Building was 'decapitated' and reduced from 4 stories to 2. I'm still not sure what the real reason for this was - I've heard a variety of explanations. Fire insurance, fires, utility costs, architectural style - I don't know the real reason.

Below, a series of views of the campus in 1937. The Hill Building (CCB/Suntrust building) is visible under construction in the background.)

americantobacco_courtyard_N_1937.jpeg
Looking north from near Morehead through the middle of the complex, 1937. The Washington warehouses are on the left, Burch, and beyond it, Reed on the right.
(Courtesy Robby Delius)

Blackwell_NfromMorehead_1937.jpeg
Looking up Blackwell from Morehead, 1937.
(Courtesy Robby Delius)

CarrSt._NfromMorehead_1937.jpeg
Looking north from Morehead up Carr St., 1937.
(Courtesy Robby Delius)

AmericanTobacco_frmVivian_1937.jpeg
Looking west down Vivian St. at the old power plant and the east side of Old Bull.
(Courtesy Robby Delius)

CarrSt._N_AT_1937.jpeg
Looking north up Carr St. alongside the Hill Warehouse, 1937.
(Courtesy Robby Delius)

americantobacco_NWfromBlackwell_1937.jpeg
Looking northwest from Blackwell St. at the Reed building, 1937.
(Courtesy Robby Delius)

In 1939, American Tobacco built the large Fowler Building at the southeast end of the campus (Blackwell and Morehead).

americantobacco_frmtrks_SW_1940s.jpeg
Looking southwest from the railroad tracks, 1940s.
(Courtesy the Herald-Sun)

In 1946, the Burch warehouse was torn down, and the Strickland Building was built just to the south of the Reed Building (George W. Kane was the general contractor,) and in 1955, the Crowe Building joined Strickland with Fowler.

americantobaccocourtyard_N_1950s.jpeg
Looking up the center of the campus, 1955, with Fowler in the foreground and Crowe under construction just beyond.
(Courtesy the Herald-Sun)

americantobacco_eastconst_1950s.jpeg
Looking northwest up Blackwell at the Crowe Building under construction, 1955. Strickland is to its right.
(Courtesy the Herald-Sun)

Two pair of additional warehouses were built to the south of the complex, across Morehead, and to the west of the complex, on Portland Avenue.

americantobacco_aerial_N_1950s.jpeg
Aerial view from the south, looking north, 1950s.
(Courtesy the Herald-Sun)

AT_Sanborn_1950.jpeg
Map of the campus, 1950. north is to the right.

americantobacco_SE_1950s.jpeg
Looking southeast down Carr St. and at the full complex, late 1950s.

Blackwell_S_060853.jpeg
Shift change on Blackwell St., 06.08.53
(Courtesy the Herald-Sun)

americantobacco_CarrSt._NE_1950s.jpeg
Shift change on Carr St., 1950s.

By the late 1950s, the old power plant / machine shop / smokestack, to the south of Old Bull were demolished.

americantobacco_SW_1950s.jpeg
Looking southwest, late 1950s.
(Courtesy the Herald-Sun)

In 1957, the last of the Bull Durham smoking tobacco production was moved from Durham to Richmond, and the Durham plant became exclusively a cigarette manufacturer.

FireatAT_1958.jpeg
Looking south down Blackwell St., 1958 (during a fire at the complex.)
(Courtesy the Herald-Sun)

The complex in 1959, annotated with buildings and dates - north is to the right.

AT_annotatedaerial_1959.jpeg
(Original aerial courtesy Durham County Library

AmericanTobacco_S_1965.jpeg
The complex, 1965, looking south.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

The rather unfortunate decision was made in 1965 to cover the facade of Old Bull with pink metal. It's hard to even begin to channel the aesthetic at work here.

AmericanTobacco_1965.jpeg
Preparing the facade for metal covering, looking southwest.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

americantobacco_metal_sw_1965.jpeg
Fully metallic, 1965.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

A view of the company on a company postcard, 1967. You can see the cleared urban renewal areas in the background, mostly covered by giant cigarette packs.

AmericanTobacco_1970.jpeg
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

Cigarette production persisted into the 1980s, while continuing to decline throughout the 1960s and 1970s with decreases in smoking post-surgeon general's warning.

americantobacco_SE_1981.jpeg
Looking southeast, 1981.
(Courtesy Robby Delius)

In 1987, the American Tobacco Company shut down operations in Durham and moved all remaining production to their plant in Reidsville.

Thus ensued a series of proposals to redevelop the plant into something else.

The complex was bought by J. Adam Abram / ABD Associates, who intended to redevelop the campus. The success of the Durham Bulls under Miles Wolff, particularly post-"Bull Durham", coupled with the deteriorating condition of the DAP led to plans for a new ballpark, located on the University Ford site. But the primary motivation was that Jim Goodman was in talks with Wolff to purchase the Bulls - and wanted to move them to "Triangle Central Park," located mostly in Wake County.

In 1989, the city responded by promising Wolff a ballpark downtown, along with a sizable private investmen - GSK planned a move downtown, ADF and the Museum of Life and Science all would be part of the the new ballpark/ complex. ABD associates planned to commence their American Tobacco renovation as part of the development. The plan was approved by the city council, but rejected by the county, on the premise that it needed to be put to a vote.

When the vote failed in 1990 (with some strong editorializing against it by Jim Goodman), Abram abandoned plans to redevelop the complex, but retained ownership.

The city, as many know, wisely ignored the voters and built the ballpark on the east side of American Tobacco, rather than the west. Fortunately Wake County began to question paying for "Triangle Central Park", and Durham retained the (then Goodman-owned) Bulls. The DBAP was completed in 1995.

The American Tobacco Complex had sat idle during this time, but after the construction of the ballpark, a couple of former Duke basketball players who called themselves "Blue Devil Ventures" became interested in redeveloping the site. They acquired an option to purchase the site from Abram for .6 million. They attempted to obtain million in investment to renovate the property, but could not put together a package. Their option expired, and they moved on to develop West Village in 1998.

Third time, fortunately, became the charm. Capitol Broadcasting obtained an option to purchase the tobacco complex in 1999, and proposed an ambitious redevelopment that would include 3 new Diamond View buildings north of the ballpark (in addition to the one east of the ballpark.)

Thus ensued a protracted wait/delay from the original plans/schedule, and hopes began to diminish for people thinking that, once again, an American Tobacco redevelopment would prove a pipe dream. The city/county proposed a joint incentive of ~ million, including two new parking decks for .1 million. This would eventually become .2 million as the languishing plans stretched into 2002 (when, in April, Capitol finally closed on the property.)

The renovation of the campus was planned in two phases - with the southern ~2/3 of the campus first, accompanied by the city and county parking decks. The campus would include a central pedestrian-focused area as the nexus of activity with a 'river' coursing along the former rail passage through the center of the campus.

The first tenant, Glaxo, moved in by June 2004; work continued throughout the remainder of 2004 and 2005 to complete the first phase, which included corporate tenants, 4 restaurants, and that imprimatur of corporate acceptability, a Starbucks.

In June 2005, Capitol announced that it would partner with Streuver Brothers, Eccles, and Rousse - of Baltimore, to build Phase II - the northern and older portion of the property.

That work has been underway for some time, with construction finally wrapping up on the last renovated, and oldest, building on the campus - the Old Bull Building. One of the most exciting events of the early construction was the removal of the pink metal facade from the Old Bull Building.

AT_SW_1006.jpeg
Old Bull, October 2006.

AT_OldBull_093007.jpeg
Old Bull, September 2007.

OldBull_cornice_1207.jpeg
Rebuilding the cornice on the east and north facades of Old Bull, December 2007.

AT_SW_032308.jpeg
Old Bull and the remainder of the campus, 03.23.08

AT_Hill_SE_032308.jpeg
Hill Warehouse, looking southeast, 03.23.08

MachineShop_W_032108_0.jpeg
Location of the former power plant and machine shop - and a view of the south and final wing of Old Bull, 03.21.08

AT_Washington_S_032108.jpeg
Washington Warehouses, looking south, 03.21.08

Noell_SE_032108.jpeg
Noell Building, 03.21.08

LuckyStrike_SW_032308.jpeg
Cigarette Factory aka Lucky Strike, 03.23.08

AT_NW_031208.jpeg
Reed Building, 03.21.08

AT_PowerPlant_NE_032108.jpeg
1930 Power Plant and Smokestack, 03.21.08

AT_courtyard_N_032108.jpeg
Courtyard with the east side of Washington on the left, 03.21.08

AT_Fowler_NE_032108.jpeg
Fowler Building, looking northeast, 03.21.08

AT_Fowler_NW_031208.jpeg
Fowler Building, looking northwest, 03.12.08

AT_Strickland_NW_031208.jpeg
Strickland Building, 03.21.08

AT_Crowe_NW_031208.jpeg
Crowe Building, 03.21.08

AT_SouthDeck_NE_032108.jpeg
South (county) Deck - formerly the location of Bays 1-4 of the Washington Warehouses, 03.21.08

[The history section of this post relies heavily upon the excellent little book Bull Durham Business Bonanza by Ben and Snow Roberts.

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LIGGETT AND MYERS NEW CIGARETTE FACTORY

701
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1948
/ Modified in
2016
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Wed, 12/07/2016 - 2:27pm by gary

Location

United States
35° 59' 55.6728" N, 78° 54' 29.1456" W
US

Comments

701
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1948
/ Modified in
2016
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 

---

The site just to the west of the first Duke Factory was Washington Duke's first in-town home.


(Durham Historic Inventory)

In 1884, Duke built a new brick factory, just to the east of his house and original factory. In 1888, he built a new house, which he called Fairview.


Looking west, with the old factory building to the right. The steeple of Main Street Methodist Church is just visible above the roof of Fairview.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

And soon after, his new factory.


The view from the Southgate Jones property, looking northwest at Fairview, the old house, the old factory, and the new factory.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

Soon thereafter, the older house (and factory) were torn down.


Facing Northeast, from Peabody and Duke Sts.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)


Looking north from Peabody
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

And a closer view of the house, from Peabody looking north.

(Courtesy Durham County Library)

Sometime in the early 20th century, Fairview was torn down, and the L&M offices were built on site. This view is looking southeast, with the offices in the one story building to the right.
dukefactory3_0.jpeg
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

This aerial shot shows the offices just to the west (left edge of frame) of the main factory building.
LMaerial_0.jpeg
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

Before construction of the New Cigarette Factory, L&M moved the office building across Main Street.

L&MOfficeMove_062846.1_0.jpeg
Looking east, 06.28.46
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

L&MOfficeMove_062846.4_0.jpeg
Looking west-southwest, 06.28.46
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

L&MOfficeMove_062846.5_0.jpeg
Looking south, 06.28.46
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

L&MOfficeMove_062846.3.jpeg
Looking southeast, 06.28.46
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

L&MOfficeMove_062846.2.jpeg
Looking southwest, 06.28.46
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

For a brief period, the future site of the New Cigarette Factory served as a parking lot.


Shot from the Durham Ice Cream company building, looking southeast towards the intersection of Duke and Main Streets. The former entry stair to Fairview is visible at the corner - 1947.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)


The Old Cigarette Factory from the site/parking lot, prior to decapitation - looking east - 1947.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

Ground was then broken on the New Cigarette Factory; the office building is visible on the other (north) side of West Main St.
dukefactory4_0.jpeg
(Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection - Wyatt Dixon Collection)

A view of the building under construction. The current Brightleaf area is in the background, with Main Street Methodist Church and other businesses in view on the site of the Brightleaf parking lot.

(Courtesy Duke Archives)


Nearly completed, looking northeast (with the Old Cigarette Factory just to the east, still un-shrunken.)
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)


Strike at the construction of the New Cigarette Factory, 05.18.49
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

This view shows the completed New Cigarette Factory.
dukefactories_aerial_NW_1950-1.jpg
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

The factory building hosted tours for the general public; numerous promotional postcards were produced, featuring the New Cigarette Factory.

An aerial view of the building for a postcard, looking southeast.

(Courtesy Durham County Library)


Postcard of the New Cigarette Factory
(Courtesy The University of North Carolina)


Postcard of the New Cigarette Factory
(Courtesy The University of North Carolina)


Looking southeast from West Main St., 1952
(Courtesy Duke University)


New Cigarette Factory, 07.31.58
(Courtesy The Herald Sun)

Production of cigarettes dwindled towards the end of the 20th century. I'm not sure when production actually ceased at the New Cigarette Factory, but it was fairly moribund by the 1990s, and Liggett left for good in 2000.


Liggett Complex, 08.05.92
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

While the building has, to my aesthetic, a certain brutal and unforgiving utilitarian bulk, this was somehow mitigated by the iconic Chesterfield sign that sat atop the building, facing west. The bright red sign with three-dimensional cigarette pack, welcoming visitors, went a long way to cheering the face of the dour structure. Unfortunately, this was replaced in the mid-1980s with the corporate and utterly soulless black billboard with the Liggett and Myers name and logo.

The building, looking southeast from Duke and Main Streets, Fall 2006

The fate of this building was in the balance for awhile, but the Blue Devil Ventures folks decided to keep the building and develop it as residential space. The plan has been to cut a 'light shaft' down the center of the building to create a courtyard/open space in the center and open up some more window space on the sides. My understanding is that, in the 'divorce' between partners in Blue Devil Ventures, custody of the New Cigarette Factory (known to the partnership as 'West Village Phase III') went to now-former partner Tom Niemann. If they could put back the big red and white Chesterfield sign, I think that would be fantastic.


New Cigarette Factory from the West Village parking deck, looking south, 05.24.08

In early 2009, the city (with an assist provided by some Federal funding) moved towards improving the streetscape between the loop and Duke Street - giving the streetscape much the same treatment provided to in-loop sidewalks, utilities, etc.

In 2015, Wexford began renovations of the building to house new office / biotech space.

New window openings being cut into the building, 12.14.2015 (G. Kueber)

10.19.16 (G. Kueber)

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LIBERTY WAREHOUSE (NO. 3)

603-615
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1940
/ Demolished in
2014
People: 
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

The last-built and last-standing (as of 2011) of Durham's once large set of tobacco auction warehouses, the Liberty stopped auctioning tobacco in 1984, but was used as storage and cheap office space for several decades afterwards. In May 2011, a large section of roof collapsed in a rainstorm, rendering the southern portion of the warehoues unusable. In 2012, Greenfire announced plans to demolish the southern portion of the building (retaining the primary facade Rigsbee Ave. portion) to replace it with apartments.

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In tours

Last updated

  • Thu, 08/28/2014 - 4:42pm by gary

Location

36° 0' 5.7312" N, 78° 54' 1.8252" W

Comments

603-615
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1940
/ Demolished in
2014
People: 
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 


Liberty and Mangum Warehouses, looking east from ~Gregson St., 1948.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

The No. 3 Liberty Warehouse was built around 1940, just to the north of the Mangum Warehouses and extending from Rigsbee Ave. to Foster St. along West Corporation St. The last of the large tobacco auction warehouses built in the Durham warehouse district, the Liberty was evidently well known as the venue where auctioneer 'Speed' Riggs plied his trade.


Tobacco Warehouses in the warehouse district, 1959.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)


Planting tobacco in front of the Liberty Warehouse, looking north, 07.04.64
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

libertywhs_1970.jpg

Liberty Warehouse (with Mangum WH in the background) - mid to late 1960s.

The Liberty was still holding tobacco auctions up until 1984, but even after that point, the Liberty Cafe (which had moved north with the warehouse ~1940) was still serving up guaranteed artery-clogging fare for many years afterward.


Liberty Warehouse, looking northwest from Rigsbee Ave., 1987.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

(Photo by George Pyne, courtesy Milo Pyne)

The Liberty was purchased by Greenfire Development in October 2006.


Looking southwest, 06.07.08

It's a bit of a curious acquisition, although I've never quite understood Greenfire's acquisition strategy. Although they've hosted arts-related programming in the space, I think such a large parcel of DDO-1 land underneath the warehouse is rather concerning to me, vis a vis the future of the Liberty. As Durham's last surviving tobacco auction warehouse, I hope that it has a long future ahead of it.

Update: In 2010, Greenfire recieved local landmark designation for the property.

Update: In April of 2011, the city began to take action out of concern for the stability of the structure's roof; per the Herald-Sun, years of persistent leaks had resulted in rotting of the structural supports below. The structure had received a "Condemned" sign courtesy of NIS and a meeting was to have occurred on May 4, 2011 between Greenfire and the city to resolve what was to be done to repair the roof.

On 05.14.11, a large section of the warehouse roof collapsed in a brief but violent thunderstorm.


(WTVD)

Fortunately, no one was hurt, but businesses were flooded, and of course it is a terrible thing to happen to Durham's last tobacco auction warehouse - for which Greenfire sought and received local landmark designation last year. Commercial spaces on the south side of the warehouse, mostly artists and The Scrap Exchange were flooded. The city condemned the entire property and barred entry except for brief periods to remove items, and by the weekend of 5.21.11, there was a frantic push by tenants on the south side of the building to remove their belongings.


Portion of the collapsed roof, 05.21.11


Same area from Foster St., 05.21.11

Greenfire has sounded positive in public statements regarding their intention to repair the warehouse after meetings with their insurer and the city. It would, of course, be terribly tragic to lose Durham's last standing tobacco auction warehouse.

Update - 09.12.12

Greenfire has announced that they will demolish the southern 1/3-1/2 of the warehouse (the portion closest to Durham Central Park) in order to build a new podium-style apartment building. With some circumspection, I can't say I'm terribly broken up by this result, although I'd rather see this along the Foster Street side than the park side. I'm not sure how one doesn't affect the Rigsbee facade with the below rendering.

With the persistently poor economy beating the crap out the rents that office and retail tenants will pay for space, coming up with a way to redevelop the majority of this building - which is, architecturally, essentially a glorified windowless shed with some great interior materials and amazing history - is very challenging. How it got here is essentially irrelevant at this point - the intersection of the economy, its deteriorating condition, and limited flexibility of most of the architecture for adaptive reuse with historic tax credits mean that this is the only probable, viable path forward at this point. (I don't think Target is going to move here.)

Liberty_greenfire.jpeg

(Greenfire Development / News and Observer)

 

Below in italics from the Durham Herald-Sun: The Herald-Sun - Greenfire unveils plans for Liberty Warehouse

By Cliff Bellamy

DURHAM – Greenfire Development has unveiled a plan to save part of historic Liberty Warehouse and demolish a currently condemned portion for apartments, office and retail. The redevelopment plan comes more than a year after part of the roof collapsed on the southern end of the warehouse, displacing a number of tenants.

Greenfire plans to build four floors of residential units atop a parking garage on the southern portion of the building, according to a press release from Paul Smith, managing partner for Greenfire Development. When completed, the southern portion of the warehouse would have 160 residential units, along with retail space. The warehouse is bounded by Foster Street, Corporation Street and Rigsbee Avenue.

The northern part of the warehouse would be renovated for commercial use, and Greenfire would try to attract retail tenants that would fit in with Durham Central Park’s emerging food and entertainment venues. Some tenants already are using the space as storage.

The redevelopment for the southern part of the warehouse calls for preserving historically significant elements on Rigsbee, along with the city-owned southern wall that faces part of Central Park. A drawing Greenfire submitted shows the Liberty Arts foundry that sits next to that wall intact. (The city also owns the foundry.) “The remainder of the existing distressed southern warehouse building will be demolished only when financing for the project is in place,” the release states. The developers will use as much original material as possible in the redevelopment.

In February, the Durham City-County Planning Department declared the southern part of the warehouse, where part of the roof collapsed in May 2011, in a state of demolition by neglect. The demolition-by-neglect order did not apply to the northern warehouse.

The Planning Department gave Greenfire an Oct. 15 deadline to complete numerous repairs to the southern part of the warehouse. In an email message Tuesday, Smith stated that the Planning Department has agreed to stay enforcement of the order while it works through “the de-designation process.”

Smith was referring to the building’s current designation as a local historic landmark. Greenfire has applied to take away that designation, and is applying for a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission. Under local landmark designation, state law allows local government to delay a request for demolition for up to a year.

Earlier this year, Durham’s Historic Preservation Commission applied to the state Department of Cultural Resources to have Liberty Warehouse designated as a structure of statewide historical significance. The state denied that application, which would have given local government the authority to deny outright demolition of the warehouse.

It appears that local preservationists, who have been meeting with Smith, support the proposal. “While we would like to see the entire building preserved, we understand the economic reality of making a project of this scale work and generally support the plan that Paul has shared with us,” stated Josh Parker, board chairman of Preservation Durham, in the release.

Greenfire has also met with members of Durham Central Park as well as Preservation Durham on the proposal.

City planning officials also could not be reached for comment before deadline on what impact Greenfire’s new plans might have on the demolition-by-neglect proceedings and deadline.

Greenfire must receive building permit approval before the work on the demolition-by-neglect order can begin. As of Tuesday, the permits had not been issued.

The roof collapse forced several tenants, including Liberty Arts, to relocate. Cassandra Gooding, president of Liberty Arts, said her organization had not seen the new plans for redevelopment and had no comment. Liberty Arts continues to use the foundry, although its offices have been relocated to the Cordoba Building on Franklin Street in Durham.

The community will have a chance to comment on the plans during the formal design process, Smith stated. The pre-development phase will take from 12 to 18 months before any ground is broken, the release stated.

---------------

Update May 2013.

The city council is seeking to remove the landmark designation from the property, as it is cited as an "impediment" to redevelopment of the property. The latest suitor is Roger Perry of "East-West Partners" - developer of the Meadowmont ~new urbanist subdivision on Highway 54 outside of Chapel Hill. The proposal involves demolition of the entire structure save the Rigsbee facade and the brick southern wall that faces on Central Park. Not very creative, to say the least, and an unfortunate - but somehow fitting end to the history of tobacco auctions in Durham - which seems perpetually determined to erase its history and culture and to be forever new.

An anonymous user sent me some wonderful interior photos of the Liberty that show just how well preserved much of the original structure is. All photos ~February 2013.

 

East-West partners released their rendering of their proposed development on 1/23/14

From the Herald Sun on 1.23.14

A Chapel Hill development firm will hear feedback Thursday on a proposal to demolish most of the Liberty Warehouse, the former tobacco auction warehouse buildings located between Rigsbee Avenue and Foster Street, to build a mixed-use project with apartments and shops.

East West Partners has proposed a development that would include 246 apartments, ground-floor retail shops, a parking deck, and several interior courtyards, according to plans filed with Durham City-County Planning. The developer wants to incorporate an existing wall that now stands along the Durham Central Park side into the project, as well as existing signs and recycled building materials.

“But other than that, the rest of the building will be coming down,” East West Partners President Roger Perry said in an interview about the project Wednesday. “The building is beyond repair. In addition, it’s functionally obsolete. As you know, a huge hole in the roof (is) leaking, and the way the building is built, it’s not constructed in a way that allows for rehabilitation as a residential and retail building. We’ve been very clear about that all along – we’ve said all along that the building will have to be razed.”
The development would have five stories along one side and four stories along another. Perry also said the firm wants to make sure the new construction fits in with the Durham Central Park area architecture, but also makes a statement about “what is being done today.”

Wendy Hillis, executive director of the historic preservation advocacy group Preservation Durham, said she initially concerns that while the plans call for preserving of potions of the wall on the park side, versions she had seen earlier Wednesday appeared to not include a portion of brick wall that stands at the corner of Rigsbee Avenue and West Corporation Street.
However, according to an email from East West Partners’ Bryson Powell, there are “brick signage elements” that are proposed to be included in the design.

“Yes we are committed to incorporating the brick signage elements currently on Rigsbee and are planning to relocated them to a more appropriate location within our new building,” Powell said in an email sent Wednesday evening.  “I'll touch on this at tomorrow's meeting.”

Hillis said the keeping the corner was one of the stipulations of a deal that the group had reached with the developer in exchange for support for the Durham City Council removing the building’s landmark status.

The council voted 6-0 in May of last year to remove the landmark designation, reversing a decision the council had made in 2011. While Preservation Durham came to an agreement with the developer to support the decision, the council’s vote last year went against the advice of a city and county advisory board, the Historic Preservation Commission.

Hillis said that although Preservation Durham leaders felt that the building was a historic landmark, and “never wanted to see the building come down,” she also said group officials felt the “writing on the wall” was that the landmark designation would be removed. She said they tried to find a way to best partner with the developer to ensure portions of the Liberty Warehouse would be retained.

In addition to incorporating the brick façades on the sides of the building, the letter-agreement Preservation Durham reached with the developer also stipulated that the developer use wooden building materials in the construction of the building and to incorporate an outdoor exhibit or indoor museum space in to commemorate Liberty Warehouse’s use as a tobacco auction warehouse.

In addition, the agreement also called for “regular communication and meetings as the project proceeds towards construction.”
Perry said that the Liberty Warehouse wall at the corner “may be something we’ve got to work (out) together.”
Going forward, Hillis added that a concern for the group is making sure that the building fits in with what she said is a post-industrial, grungy, “do-it-yourself” aesthetic of the surrounding neighborhood.

“(We want to make sure) that this is not just any other multi-family development because the fear is that that would fly in the face of a lot of what has made this area successful aesthetically,” she said.

She added that while the building is not an “architectural gem,” Liberty Warehouse is important to Durham’s history as the city’s last tobacco auction warehouse property.

“I think the difficult thing is that it’s not an attractive building from the outside; it’s an interesting building because of its association with the tobacco trade,” she said.

Ann Alexander, executive director of Durham Central Park Inc., which is the 5-acre park adjacent to Liberty Warehouse, said the developers came to park’s board meeting last year to talk about the development plans.

“So we are anticipating being able to work well together,” she said. “(The project is) going to change the whole area, but maybe it’ll change it for the better. Who knows? That warehouse is just sitting there empty and full of water, so we’re hoping to work well with them and have it be great for Durham. We are their front yard; we’re a very important park for them.”

Heavy rains in May 2011 caused a portion of the building’s roof to collapse. The collapse forced nonprofits, artists, and other tenants who were leasing space there to move to new venues.

East West Partners, a Chapel Hill-based firm that was behind development of the Woodcroft residential neighborhood in southern Durham and other development projects in the Triangle, is under contract to buy the property from Durham-based Greenfire Development by April. Perry said the company “fully intends” to comply with the closing date.
The community meeting on the project will be held from 6 to 7:30 in the third-floor conference room at the Durham County Library, 300 N. Roxboro St.

----

I share with Wendy, the director of Preservation Durham, her concern that the building as pictured above will not fit in with the aesthetic of the neighborhood. But I think that group and others were naive to think that by pitching what the developer said they wanted to do all along as a 'partnership' between PD and East-West Partners would result in better access or influence. Notice how retention of the facade elements on Rigsbee has been manipulated to a fairly cynical interpretation of - yes, preservation of signage elements that will be relocated to a more appropriate location.

1) This is the kind of stuff that gives developers a bad name. 2) All of this "working together" is overrated when it's really just the wishes and gain of one party that dominates. This has always been a problem with Preservation Durham - they never want to upset anyone by, say, fighting for preservation. 3) I understand the political speak of "functionally obsolete," etc. that Roger Perry uses, but it's nothing more than that. It's a meaningless assessment that means "the buildings doesn't look like I want it to look." 4) the fate of this building was sealed when the City Council voted 6-0 to remove the landmark status. Will Durham voters care? Will they hold the entire city council accountable for that action? That removed the power of the public to have any say over the design of this building - as if we need East-West Partners to build yet-another cookie-cutter apartment building in Durham on the site of the last tobacco auction warehouse?

If Durham continues on its current pace, there will be a lot more of this in future. And will Durham ultimately care? It has never been a town that cares on a broad scale about its buildings and history. I've done my best to educate folks about that history, so that they can make informed decisions. But we seem to be a city that's okay with whatever gets torn down, as long as the new thing will have fancy coffee, food trucks, and hipster thrift stores nearby.

Update, July 2014:

Demolition of the building started on 07.31.2014. It's unfortunate that we're not the kind of city that can do the really innovative stuff in the urban realm - we simply don't have the will, the vision, the sense of urbanism or importance of the center city - that many other economically-successful urban areas have. We're not the worst, by far, but we're very middling in our efforts. Better sidewalks and streetlamps, check. Visionary infrastructure refits - not so much.

Liberty Warehouse is typical in this regard. While I very purposefully eschew talking about broader politics on here for a reason (this site is about a specific set of issues that don't fit neatly into a 'liberal' or 'conservative' box) Durham is curious in its socially liberal but economically conservative attitudes. So we see lots of local public sector concern over broad issues of social dysfunction, but when it comes to land use, we have a developer-knows-best / not-local-government's-problem attitude. That peculiar admixture generates a lot of problems. I.e., you have a local government that wields its police power like a billy club in enforcing the minimum housing code - with the staunch defense that they are protecting the public - with no concern over the effect of demolition after demolition. The private sector will take care of it, right?

We've been fairly lucky in avoiding repercussions of this split personality during the 2000s, as we've had some folks in the private sector with a good sense of aesthetics who actually cared about Durham's infrastructure (industrial buildings) and saw an opportunity to make money - doing well by doing good, if you will.

We're moving out of that arena now, and there's a big question whether we will be victims of our own success. The success of the renovation projects has attracted people and businesses, and that has attracted developers who are less creative. They know how to make money, but that doesn't mean that they are going to build good stuff. For the most part, the bland apartment complexes being built in a 2014 frenzy have been placed on parking lots and underutilized land, so it's, at worst, no harm, no foul. At least they are urban in their massing, even if the construction is cheap and cheap looking. The second (third?) generation of Durham redevelopers didn't fall in love with the gritty down-on-its-luck city with the beautifully decaying buildings; they fell in love with millenials paying for some dumplings at a food truck.

The destruction of Liberty for another stick-built apartment-heavy generibuilding is where the repercussions come home to roost; we're beginning to replace the interesting stuff with the flavor-of-the-month. Many people don't care, because, much to my ever-present dismay, most people can't see anything in a building other than what's right in front of them. So if it's dilapidated, it's an eyesore - tear it down. If it's sparkly, it's amazing and we can't live without it. Those of us who care about the urban realm have to continually work hard to keep these people's opinions from carrying the day - otherwise any old building will be torn down as soon as it is uglified or abused by someone with no sense of aesthetics.

With Liberty, we have a perfect storm of a great, historic structure made ugly, a chorus of visionless "it's dilapidated! Get rid of it" people, permissive zoning to allow dense urban development, the 2nd generation of Durham developers, and an area that is suddenly very 'hot' in a very 2010s kind of way - people sitting in pseudo-gritty settings and doing selfies in the DIY (ugh) district. The substance ain't bad, for sure, but the hype has far outpaced it.

It's hard not to look at this in the context of past demolitions in Durham and voice that concise phrase of defeated acceptance coined by one of by favorite authors: "So it goes."

07.31.2014 (Photo by G. Kueber)

07.31.2014 (Photo by G. Kueber)

07.31.2014 (Photo by G. Kueber)

07.31.2014 (Photo by G. Kueber)

07.31.2014 (Photo by G. Kueber)

08.28.14 (Photo by G. Kueber)

08.28.14 (Photo by G. Kueber)

08.28.14 (Photo by G. Kueber)

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609Foster_060708.jpg609Foster_plat_1937.jpg609Foster_SB1950.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2014_5/609Foster_072814.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2014_5/609Foster_2_072814.jpg

609 FOSTER STREET

609
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1938
Construction type: 
,
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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  • Mon, 07/27/2015 - 3:39pm by gary

Location

United States
36° 0' 9.6912" N, 78° 54' 6.084" W
US

Comments

609
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1938
Construction type: 
,
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 

609Foster_060708.jpg

06.07.08

609 Foster Street was built in 1938 as a tobacco prizery and warehouse for the RJ Reynolds Company. Presumably, given the size of the Durham auction market, Reynolds wanted a presence convenient to the auction warehouses to press and store tobacco for shipping to their factories. 

609Foster_plat_1937.jpg

1937 plat. Note the reference to the "Big Bull Warehouse" that stood on W. Corporation until replaced by the Nu-Tread Tire Co.

 

609Foster_SB1950.jpg

1950 Sanborn map.

The property was later owned by the Ray family, owners of Nu-Tread. Sam Ray sold the property on 11.19.07 to 609 Foster, LLC, a Greenfire entity, for 0,000.

From the National Register listing:

The eleven-bay-wide building is built of one-to-five common bond brick, on top of a poured concrete foundation, with parapet walls with terra cotta coping. The east-facing façade contains one service bay with a shed-roof porch and, at the lower north end, a group of three service bays sheltered by another shed-roof porch. Two of these bays contain original paneled doors with diagonal batten construction, and one of the door surrounds has an unusual peaked top. The other two have replacement metal doors. Both of the porches are constructed of steel frames, with corrugated metal roofs. Windows are large metal ones, each with thirty glass panes, with heavy metal screens. Several are infilled with brick. Side elevations, with stepped parapets, are eight bays wide. The south side contains two pedestrian doors. At the rear bay of the north side is a service door and an adjacent metal loading platform. The rear wall is painted “Durham Bulls” blue.

It's been pretty moribund since that time. I don't pretend to know Greenfire's plans, although it seems a shame that this and the Uzzle Cadillac dealership remain in underdeveloped shape while the Geer/Foster district has burgeoned around them (along with the sad rotting of the Liberty Warehouse.) I assume that the long term plan was to tear them down.

Which, as of 2007, was the long term plan for much of the Central Park area. It's one instance in which I can be really happy about the crash of the real estate market - it occurred before ambition led to demolition in this area - as a result we have Motorco, and King's, and Fullsteam, and the Trotter building, etc. It's really where these buildings should head as well.

But, like with a lot of Greenfire's buildings, the basis is too high - ~0/sf for acquisition - to make a rehab make sense. Rough numbers, let's say it costs 0/sf to fully renovate this building. That + the acquisition cost = ~.15M. Let's say you get a mini perm loan, 30 year am, 5% fixed on that amount. The debt service is ~0K per year. A bank is going to want at least a 1.25 debt service coverage ratio, so that mean you need to net 5K on rent. That = a rate of .75/sf, triple net. Let's say /sf for operating expenses, and that's .75 full service / sf to break even, with no positive cash flow (return.) That's very, very tough right now. Market for this is probably - triple net once renovated right now. 

(This property isn't on the national register, but historic tax credits would certainly help.)

The numbers make sense with a bigger project, but that's not financeable right now.

So whither this building? As long as Greenfire can support their current basis on the building (i.e., pay their debt,) nothing will happen other than as-is rentals, which are unlikely to fully support the current debt on the building. Eventually, they may have to sell the building, and it won't be for 0/sf. Which may bring the basis down to a point that renovating the building makes sense for someone else. But until someone has to absorb the loss from resetting the high acquisition price, there it'll sit - at least until the economy recovers enough and rents get high enough to either make a renovation generate a return, or a larger project financeable. 

___

Update August 2013

The Herald Sun reported on 08.10.2013:

Craft distilling is seeing a resurgence, says Tyler Huntington, founder of a chain of restaurants and bars in the Triangle who plans to open a distillery in Durham focused on whiskey and rum production.

Huntington, 47, is the founder of Tyler’s Restaurant & Taproom, with locations in Carrboro, Durham, Apex and Raleigh. In late July, he and his partners purchased a former tobacco warehouse at 609 Foster St. in Durham where they plan to open an event space, a commercial kitchen for catering or other food preparation needs and a distillery.

They bought the property for 1,000 from a limited liability company connected to Greenfire Development.

He said they plan to renovate the building and to add an 1,800-square-foot deck on the back that would overlook the Durham Athletic Park.

“We want this to be a very Durham-like place with the great exposed ceilings, the beam work, the flooring, and taking all the views that this building has and the interior beauty, and just kind of enhancing that with the copper distilling equipment,” Huntington said.

They want to start construction to allow for the event space to open in no more than eight months, he said. The opening of the distillery may be at least a year away because of the time it will take to get the needed equipment and permits.

He said they envision setting up the distillery in about 4,000 square feet of space and using it as a backdrop for the event space, which he said will be in about 6,000 square feet.

Their plan initially is to focus on whiskey and rum production, but he said they also could make gin and possibly vodka.

07.28.14 (G. Kueber)

07.28.14 (G. Kueber)

07.28.14 (G. Kueber)

07.26.15 (G. Kueber)

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