Help Date This Photo!

Help Date This Photo!


Scroll down to see a running account of the buildings identified in this (as of yet) undated aerial photo looking northeast across the railroad tracks at Duke East Campus. Their location is also shown in the map at left. So far, we know this has to be post-1930 and pre-1957. Can you pick out any others and help narrow it down further?

In trying to update Open Durham, add attributions, and link to resources that have been digitized either through its creators' effort or in the years since it started, fragments of aerial photos like the one below keep popping up.

This, it turns out, is an image from the Duke University Archives - a full-resolution copy can be viewed on their Flickr page - but they have not been able to date it.  In addition to featuring the school's recently completed East Campus, the photograph is rich with information that we can use to solve this question.  Dozens of other buildings, from the edges of the historically-black Brookstown community in the foreground to Trinity Park and Club Boulevard moving up to the middle and background, offer potentially helpful hints.

Though hardly a tour in the traditional sense, this page is designed to consolidate crowd-sourced efforts to identify structures visible in the image - to map what we can see and know about the development of this part of Durham from this single snapshot.  A link to this page was posted to Open Durham's Facebook account in early April 2020, and comments posted here, there, or sent to our email (opendurham@preservationdurham.org) will be incorporated in updates as we find out more.

To start, let's establish what we're looking at with a few contemporary street names:

Now for a few examples of how identifying the structures shown helps narrow the timeframe and flesh out the story a single image can convey, starting with the low-hanging fruit.

Watts Street Baptist Church is a distinctive building visible in the middle-distance.  It was built in 1923, so the photograph must have been taken after that.

/sites/default/files/images/2010_7/wattsbaptist_1925.jpgwattsstreetbaptist_1950s.jpeg/sites/default/files/images/2010_7/wattsstreetbaptist_100309.jpg

WATTS STREET BAPTIST CHURCH

800
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1923
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Fri, 07/08/2011 - 11:41pm by gary

Location

36° 0' 32.7708" N, 78° 54' 38.6316" W

Comments

800
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1923
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

 


Watts Street Baptist Church, 1925

Watts Street Baptist Church was organized in 1923 to accomodate a growing Baptist community in north/west Durham that was somewhat far from First Baptist and Second/Temple Baptist.

The initial group raised funds for a sanctuary, which was built in the Gothic Revival style, using stone similar to that utilized for the wall constructed around now-East Campus.

wattsstreetbaptist_1950s.jpeg
Watts Street Baptist Church, 1950s.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

It remains an active congregation.


Watts Street Baptist, 10.03.09.

Find this spot on a Google Map.

36.009103,-78.910731

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Directly below the church, at what we've established is the northeast corner of Buchanan and Dacian, the bungalow at 602 N Buchanan can be picked out by its side and roofline.  Unfortunately, our information on that house from its blurb in the National Register listing just says it was built in the 1920s - not specific enough to help us narrow down the chronological window.

/sites/default/files/images/u24/102198.jpg

602 NORTH BUCHANAN BOULEVARD

602
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1920-1929
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

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In tours

Last updated

Location

United States
36° 0' 28.476" N, 78° 54' 43.1244" W
US

Comments

602
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1920-1929
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

 

(Below in italics is from the National Register listing; not verified for accuracy by this author.)

This shingled Type A bungalow was constructed in the 1920s and occupied first by John Carr Jr., professor at Duke. Typical features include a gabled dormer, multi-paned windows which are paired or grouped by three's, and a rectangular shed-roofed bay marking the dining room on the north side.

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Moving to the foreground, we have an unobstructed view of the East Campus Steam Plant at the bottom right.  We know from other photos in the Duke University Archives included on its page that the power plant was built in 1926.  Since the work shown from that fall is well cleaned up and trees have leaves, we can safely assume this means our picture was taken no earlier than mid-1927.

EastCampusSteamPlant_102826.jpgECSP_construction_06021926.jpgECSP_construction_NW_1926.jpgEastCampusSteamPlant_102826.jpgEastCampusSteamPlant_aerial_1930s.jpg

EAST CAMPUS STEAM PLANT

,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1926
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Thu, 12/01/2011 - 10:38am by gary

Location

United States
36° 0' 12.1392" N, 78° 55' 0.174" W
US

Comments

,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1926
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

 

EastCampusSteamPlant_102826.jpg

(Courtesy Duke University Archives)

10.28.26

ECSP_construction_06021926.jpg

Under Construction, 06.02.1926

(Courtesy Duke University Archives)

ECSP_construction_NW_1926.jpg

(Courtesy Duke University Archives)

EastCampusSteamPlant_102826.jpg

10.28.1926

(Courtesy Duke University Archives)

EastCampusSteamPlant_aerial_1930s.jpg

1930s

(Courtesy Duke University Archives)

EastCampusSteam_aerialNE_1930s.jpg

1930s

(Courtesy Duke University Archives)

EastCampuSteam_042608.jpg

04.26.08

SteamPlant_eastcampus_110611.jpg

11.06.11

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Moving on to the college campus, there are plenty of recognizable buildings.  The Southgate Dormitory, at the left edge with cars in its driveway, went up in 1920 - good to know, but already out of our range.

/sites/default/files/images/2013_11/southgate_1913.jpg

SOUTHGATE DORMITORY

,
Durham
NC
Built in
1920
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Use: 

The people of Durham raised funds through a subscription drive to build Southgate dormitory, and name it in honor of James H. Southgate, Chairman of the Trinity Board of Trustees. Then Trinity President William Preston Few issued this statement regarding the fundraising drive to construct the building

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In tours

Last updated

  • Sun, 07/20/2014 - 9:14pm by gary

Location

United States
36° 0' 21.5208" N, 78° 55' 4.8792" W
US

Comments

,
Durham
NC
Built in
1920
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Use: 

 

Many pieces of historical record attest to the different relationship once enjoyed between Trinity/Duke and the citizenry of Durham - particularly on the part of Durham-folk, one of pride in 'their' institution.

In that context, it is less surprising that the people of Durham raised funds through a subscription drive to build Southgate dormitory, and name it in honor of James H. Southgate, Chairman of the Trinity Board of Trustees. Then Trinity President William Preston Few issued this statement regarding the fundraising drive to construct the building

"The executive committee of the trustees have directed me to thanks the citizens of Durham for making the James H. Southgate memorial in the form of a building for women at Trinity college and also to thank the people of the whole community for their hearty cooperation in the undertaking which this Friday [March 26, 1920] at noon became a glorious success.

The movement began with 0,000 offered by a friend of Durham and a friend of Trinity College, on condition that at least 0,000 in addition be raised. Durham's answer is to date 0,000 and other contributions will come from friends of Mr. Southgate and of the cause here and elsewhere.

The college gratefully accepts the trust and will undertake to administer it in such a way as to do the most good. The building will be begun at the earliest possible moment.

The value of the college to the town from the business viewpoint has received some emphasis, and that is well. But everybody will of course always expect the college to be influenced not by commercial value and to go forward along solid lines and with high aims rather than take short cuts that lead to mushroom growth and doubtful success. Especially will all our people need patience as administrators of higher education seek to adjust the processes of intellectual training to the new responsibilities that are coming to the women of America.

Southgate, early 1920s (Duke Yearlook)

Mr Southgate saw before most men that women were to have a larger and juster share in the life of the world. Trinity was among the first of the colleges, if the not the very first, of the colleges for men in the old south to offer to women opportunities of higher education. This memorial, in this form, in this place, seems then most appropriate and we are all most grateful for it.

I am particularly grateful that Durham united whole-heartedly in this campaign. It means much for the college and for the town. With this unity made permanent Durham can become the most influential center of population in North Carolina. I am glad that Durham in this great way has honored one of her noblest sons. Durham is blessed perhaps above every other town in the state with public-spirited citizens and generous benefactors. It is well for us to give expression to our gratitude and now we have set an example that is sure to be followed not only here but elsewhere.

...

Southgate would open as a dormitory for female students that year and would remain so for a period after Trinity became the Women's college. For a brief period during the 1930s, though, the building housed male engineering students - in the late 1930s it reverted to a women's dormitory, which it remained until after 1972.

Southgate, looking east from Broad St., 1920s.

Southgate, looking northwest, 08.22.10 (Photo by Gary Kueber)

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While that building still stands, the two houses a little up and to the right have been relegated to campus history.  Though the further of the two, the Robert Flowers House, survived into the twenty-first century, the nearer President's House holds a more productive clue.  Built in the early 1900s, it appears to have been demolished to make way for the Gilbert-Addoms Dormitory - not shown here because the picture predates its 1957 construction.

PRESIDENT'S HOUSE

Durham
NC
Built in
1901
/ Demolished in
1957
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

Little information is available regarding the President's House, or what function it served after the construction of the President's house at the entry to Duke's West Campus in the 1920s. It was likely designed by CC Hook and built contemporaneously with the Flowers House.

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In tours

Last updated

  • Mon, 08/22/2011 - 4:02pm by gary

Location

United States
36° 0' 22.0392" N, 78° 54' 59.2272" W
US

Comments

Durham
NC
Built in
1901
/ Demolished in
1957
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

 

 

Little information is available regarding the President's House, or what function it served after the construction of the President's house at the entry to Duke's West Campus in the 1920s. It was likely designed by CC Hook and built contemporaneously with the Flowers House.

The house appears to have been torn down in 1957 for the construction of Gilbert-Addoms dormitory.

August, 2010

Location of the President's House

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Another building we can use to narrow the search somewhat is the Erwin Apartments - midway up the right edge of the photograph, at the southeast corner of Buchanan and Trinity.  These were completed in 1930, so we're out of the 1920s altogether now.

/sites/default/files/images/2010_2/erwinapts_010356.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2010_2/ErwinApts_1980.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2010_2/ErwinApts_NE_102109.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2010_2/ErwinApts_SE_102109.jpg

ERWIN APARTMENTS

310
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1930
/ Modified in
2017
Architect/Designers: 
Construction type: 
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

The most impressive of the various 1930s apartment buildings of Trinity Park.

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In tours

Last updated

  • Mon, 07/03/2017 - 12:22pm by gary

Location

36° 0' 19.188" N, 78° 54' 43.4304" W

Comments

310
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1930
/ Modified in
2017
Architect/Designers: 
Construction type: 
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 


Erwin Apartments from W. Trinity Ave. - 01.03.56
Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

Although Trinity Park has some wonderful early-mid 20th century detached houses, I remain most intrigued by its relative abundance of early 20th century apartment buildings. Of those still standing, the Erwin Apartments are my favorite. The relative elegance of early 20th century apartment buildings when compared to the junky sameness that characterizes most apartment 'complexes' built from the 1950s to present is a relief. (I always think of the development process for most contemporary apartment complexes as such: developer buys raw land; developer hires engineer to lay out parking lots; developer hires architect to lay out the most number of units that can fit in the interstitial spaces around the parking lots.) It's refreshing when people figure out how to build at this scale again - like Scott Harmon's Mangum 506 (condos, not apartments, but that's irrelevant to the point.)

Designed by Durham architect RR Markley, and built in 1930 on the vacant southeast corner of West Trinity and N. Guess (Buchanan Blvd.) the four-story building is described by the historic inventory as "Modernistic":

"The sharply incised windows and the flat walls, occasionally broken by a projecting or receding plane, contribute to the austerity of the design. Decoration is reserved for the cornices, water table, and entrances, which feature a bronze fanlight grille and a cartouche at each side of the door. Large casement windows, a stone flower box, and a cartouche in the cornice mark the slightly projecting entrance bay."


Erwin Apartments, ~1980
(Courtesy Steve Gaddis)

I find austere a bit too harsh of a word to use to describe the design - perhaps only with respect to the contrast between the modernistic style and the Art Nouveau style that preceded it (although never in great abundance in the US.)

Perhaps it betrays my urban leanings, but the Erwin Apartments seem like they would fit in well in some northeastern metropolis, where similar apartment buildings would line the street (if not replaced or atomized for a parking lot.)

I haven't been in the building since 1993, when I remember being enamored of its ancient elevator (even in helping friend bring a washing machine to the fourth floor.) I make no commentary on whether the property management is great, terrible, or somewhere in-between. (My pre-emptive disclaimer for the long comment from someone with a beef about their security deposit or similar.) But I love its appearance from the exterior, and the still-active (I believe) commercial space at the northeast corner of the building completes my affection for this structure.


Erwin Apartments, 10.21.09


Erwin Apartments, 10.21.09

Update 2017 by "luketheplumber":

 Unfortunately the building has suffered from a complete gut. they ripped out everything except the windows and the hardwood floors (they will most likely cover them up. The building is hollow right now there are no walls except for the stairwells.  They are putting all modern trends in which in the next 20 years will no longer look good (trust me look at a 1990s bathroom and kitchen in a 1920s house) they are completely changing the layout of the building and turning it into condos they ripped out almost everything interesting in the building there seems to be almost nothing left of the inside. But I saw them throw the what they called the waste in those dumpsters I wasn't letting those doors go to the landfill I dove in those dumpster after them and I salvaged them I took them to the ReUse warehouse for A new life some of those doors got salvaged for reuse. But then they started to cut the old doors up so they could fit down the trash chute I came with a screwdriver and salvaged the old mortise locks and saved them if you know of an old building that is going to have its windows replaced or going to be gutted or torn down try to salvage from the dumpsters you could end up saving historic building parts

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