Movie Theaters of Durham

Movie Theaters of Durham


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EJ PARRISH / DUKE POWER BUILDING

112-114
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1885-1887
/ Modified in
1918
/ Demolished in
1973
Architect/Designers: 
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Tue, 06/26/2012 - 8:45pm by gary

Location

United States
35° 59' 43.26" N, 78° 54' 0.4464" W
US

Comments

112-114
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1885-1887
/ Modified in
1918
/ Demolished in
1973
Architect/Designers: 
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 

 

In 1879 EJ Parrish (the first man to auction tobacco in Durham) built a tobacco warehouse on the southeast corner of Mangum St. and the eponymous Parrish St.

 


(Courtesy Durham County Library)

No records exist of the exact location of the warehouse, but I do know that it was on the "western portion of the site", which would imply that the above view is from Mangum St. The Conestoga wagons were used to haul the tobacco to the warehouse for auction.

By the 1880s, this warehouse had burned, and Parrish built a new warehouse on the north side of the street. Julian Carr owned the site and constructed the 3-story Parrish Building soon thereafter.


Looking northeast from Corcoran St. ~1900
(Courtesy Durham County Library)


Above, the Parrish Building, ~1920s, looking northeast.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

Multiple businesses used the building during the first part of the 20th century - the first offices of the Golden Belt Hosiery Company, the first location of First National Bank, and Durham's first movie theater - the Dreamland theater.

In 1918, the building became the headquarters of the Duke Power Company. Soon thereafter, the building was remodeled.


Looking southeast.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

It lost some of its late 19th century ornamentation and, it appears, received the stucco treatment.


Looking southeast, 1930s.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)


Looking southeast, 1940.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

The Duke Power Company had quite the electrified Xmas display. I guess they sold appliances as well, from the looks of the window displays.


Looking east.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

I find the anti-window fetish of the 1950s-1960s truly bizarre, and this was the typical approach. I can only imagine that it was an attempt to save energy, but it seems sort of baffling to me.


Parrish Building after the demolition of the buildings to its south, on East Main St., 04.05.68
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

In 1972, Duke Power constructed the building just to the south of this site - I guess the bricked in windows still weren't modern enough. This building was torn down soon thereafter.

ejparrish_bricked.jpg
Looking southeast, 1972, after construction of the new Duke Power building.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)


Looking east, 1973.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

Oddly enough, it was replaced several years later with a somewhat similar building - which seems to echo some of the elements of the original building. I believe that it contains law offices.


Looking southeast, 2007.

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BLACKNALL'S DRUGSTORE / STOKES HALL

,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1873
/ Demolished in
1914
Businesses: 
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

The northeast corner of Main and Corcoran Street has seen its share of building drama Blacknall's Drugstore was one of the first in the city, and Stokes Hall acted as a meeting place, courthouse, entertainment venue, etc. The buildings were destroyed in the fire of 1914

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In tours

Last updated

  • Thu, 08/18/2011 - 12:47am by gary

Location

United States
35° 59' 44.358" N, 78° 54' 5.85" W
US

Comments

,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1873
/ Demolished in
1914
Businesses: 
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 

The northeast corner of Main and Corcoran Street has seen its share of building drama. For much of the 20th century, it was the location of one of the buildings on my Top Five list of How-Could-They-Have-Torn-That-Down buidings in Durham: the Geer building.

Before that, two buildings sat on the site of the later Geer Building: Blacknall's Drugstore was on thie corner, and Stokes Hall (the Opera House) sat immediately to its east.

(Courtesy Durham County Library)

Blacknall's Drugstore was established in 1873 by Richard Blacknall and his father.


Interior of Blacknall's Drugstore, 1900.
(Courtesy The Herald Sun)

Stokes' Hall, also known as the Opera House, was a performance venue and site of city council meetings prior to the construction of the Municipal Building / Academy of Music. The hall hosted theatrical performances, the Durham Choral Society, and early movies.


Looking east from Corcoran and West Main, circa 1900.
(Courtesy State Archives of North Carolina)

A dramatic fire in 1914 that broke out in the Brodie Duke Building (taller structure mid-block) destroyed much of the block (all except the easternmost two storefronts):


(Courtesy Durham County Library)


Destroyed structures, 1914.

A new building was constructed on the corner of Main and Corcoran Streets, modelled on a Florentine Palace. It was called the (Frederick) Geer Building, and designed by Alfred C. Bossom, British-born (and later member of Parliment) and nationally renowned for his bank designs.

 

 

Architectural Plans for the Geer Building.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

Construction of the 5-story building, L-shaped, with the L at an obtuse angle to match the angle of Corcoran and West Main Sts., was completed in 1915.

The Geer Building, 1915
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

Fidelity Bank was the major tenant of the building. Fidelity was organized in 1887, capitalized with ,000 by Washington Duke, Benjamin Duke, MA Angier, and George Watts. Fidelity was initially located in the Wright Building, diagonally across the intersection from this location. Presumably after the falling out between Wright and the Dukes/Watts, Fidelity moved to the Trust Building after it was completed in 1905. After the completion of the Geer Building, Fidelity became the anchor tenant, with the main branch and offices in the building.

Blacknall's Drugstore returned after the fire, located on the ground floor facing Corcoran, and remained a tenant until 1932, when it moved west on W. Main St. and became "Durham Drug Co." Woolworth's was located on the West Main St. ground floor of the building. The Geer Building helped form part of a corridor of signficant, sizable structures that straddled Corcoran Street. Multiple independent professionals (doctors, lawyers, accountants) had offices in the Geer Building.


Above, a view of the buildings lining Corcoran: the Geer Building, First National Bank building, the Durham Hosiery Mills buildings on the east side; the Croft Business School, and the roof of the old post office are visible on the west side. This was taken from the top of the Washington Duke Hotel; (all are gone except the First National Bank building) - late 1920s.
(Courtesy Durham Country Library)


A closer view.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)


Corcoran Street, looking south from close to Parrish Street. The old post office is on the right, the Geer Building, First National Bank Building, and Durham Hosiery Mills on the left.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

It was a popular place for watching parades on Main Street. (Courtesy Duke Archives)

John Wily succeeded Benjamin Duke as president of the bank in 1922, and was succeeded by Jones Fuller in 1938. By 1939, Fidelity's offices has continued to expand, and they purchased the entire building, renaming it The Fidelity Bank Building. They later acquired the commercial structures immediately to the north of the building as well.

John Sprunt Hill was known to have been in keen competition with the Fidelity through the mid-20th century with his Durham Bank and Trust Company. In 1953, Fidelity was the largest bank in Durham, with ,000,000 in assets; Durham Bank and Trust was second, with ,932,000. Fidelity never expanded beyond Durham, with one branch in West Durham, one in East Durham, and one in north Durham.

In 1956, Fidelity Bank was acquired by Wachovia Bank of Winston-Salem, and absorbed under the Wachovia name.


Geer Building, known in the 1960s as the Wachovia Building - 02.20.61.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun)

Geer_1971.jpeg
Geer Building, 1971
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

Wachovia demolished the original home of Fidelity, the Wright Corner / Croft Business School building and built a new branch on that corner (the southwest corner of Main and Corcoran).

In 1972, the vast majority of the Geer Building (and the Nancy Grocery to its north) was demolished.


Looking south, 1972.
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

Curiously, a not-so-large portion of the building remained - the part containing Woolworth's.

And you can see that they just chopped it off where they felt they needed to, leaving a chunk of the old arched doorway on the left side.


Vacant lot next to Woolworth's, 1990s. (Courtesy Durham County Library)

Woolworth's eventually donated the remainder of the Geer building to the city, which let it languish.
Fire ravaged the building next door (on the Parrish Street side) and caused additional water damage to the building. The city eventually stated that there was a "toxic mold" problem in the building, and asbestos, and that it needed to be torn down. It would be good if they read the CDC page about so-called toxic mold. And asbestos, well, that's pretty much in every old building. But the city had plans.


The bulldozers are back, 2001. Think they cleaned up the 'toxic mold' before they aerosolized billions of evil spores through demolition?
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)


Getting ready to take down the last remnants of the Geer building, 2001.
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

To quote the Office of Economic Development website:

"Woolworth Site Redevelopment"

" – 15 M – Woolworth Site Redevelopment — located on the site of one of the first civil rights sit-ins in the country, the historic building stood abandoned for a number of years, simultaneously growing a toxic mold problem coupled by the presence of asbestos. Noting the serious problems of the old building, the City of Durham financed the demolition and cleaning of the site. Next a call was issued for proposals on the redevelopment of the space, and a local development team was selected. OEWD is currently discussing a development agreement with this team for a signature 75,000 SF building at the historic Woolworth Site."

So, the last vestiges of the Geer Building were in the way of economic development, and the building was torn down. The coda to this saga is the city's attempt to expand this vacant area for their "signature building" by going after privately-owned 120 West Main Street with the demolition crew back in January. But that's a story for another post.


View of site of Geer Building, looking north on Corcoran, from similar vantage point to 1971 photo, 2006.


View of vacant Geer Building/Woolworth's site, 2006.

After this site was acquired by Greenfire Development, there has been much talk of their development of the "signature building" on this site. As of June, 2009, Greenfire released renderings showing what their proposed structure would look like - an improvement over previous iterations that would have demolished much of the remaining structures in the block.


Looking northeast from Corcoran and West Main.
(Courtesy Bob Bistry / Built Form Architecture)


Looking southeast from Corcoran between W. Parrish and E Chapel Hill.
(Courtesy Bob Bistry / Built Form Architecture)


Looking southeast at the 100 West Parrish St. storefronts from W. Parrish and Corcoran.
(Courtesy Bob Bistry / Built Form Architecture)

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206-208 NORTH CHURCH STREET / CRITERION THEATER

206-208
,
Durham
NC
/ Demolished in
1970s
Construction type: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Tue, 07/12/2011 - 3:48pm by gary

Location

35° 59' 42.3312" N, 78° 53' 55.644" W

Comments

206-208
,
Durham
NC
/ Demolished in
1970s
Construction type: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

 

206-208 North Church Street was the location of the Criterion Theater. By the early 1960s, as downtown theaters struggled to find their audience in the midst of the urban diaspora, the theater had become an 'art house theater' - I'm not sure if that's what it would have been called at the time.


"New City Parking Lot Area on Church and Parrish St., 01.17.63"
(Courtesy the Herald-Sun)

Evidently that didn't work. Increased competition by the air conditioned theaters at the shopping centers put more pressure on the theaters to find a way to survive. So the theater, by the mid-late 1960s, had switched gears to, well, embrace the heat.


Looking northeast from N. Church and East Parrish, late 1960s.

I have to say that it was a relief to find an X-rated movie theater in a historic photo - from the bulk of the photographic archive out there, you would think that nothing lascivious or libertine ever happened in historic Durham, despite its written reputation as a town of ill-repute. My suspicion is that much of that history occurred during the first ~40 years of the town (and places like Prattsburg and Pinhook.) By the time the first photos showed up - 1890s - prohibition was in place, and much of the illicit activity had been clamped down.

So - in the 1960s, you could have caught "Daringly Different" or "Love and the Frenchwoman" at the Criterion, two doors down from Trinity Methodist. Perhaps by 1970, near its end, the forces that be had prevailed upon the theater to advertise a bit more chastely.


Criterion Theater, 07.07.70
(Courtesy the Herald-Sun)

criteriontheater_1974.jpg

Criterion Theater, 1974.
(Courtesy Norman Williams Collection)

The building was torn down for a parking lot in the mid 1970s.

Find this spot on a Google Map.

35.995092,-78.89879

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121EMain_1915.jpg100EMain_NW_1895.jpeg100EMain_N_1895.jpeg/sites/default/files/images/2007_5/100emain_N_1905.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_5/100emain_nw_1915.jpg

121 EAST MAIN STREET - PARIS / UPTOWN THEATERS

121
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1890-1905
/ Modified in
1930-1940
/ Demolished in
1971
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Mon, 10/16/2017 - 7:50am by gary

Location

35° 59' 40.8552" N, 78° 53' 59.2368" W

Comments

121
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1890-1905
/ Modified in
1930-1940
/ Demolished in
1971
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 

121EMain_1915.jpg

100EMain_NW_1895.jpeg
Looking west-northwest from Church St. and East Main St., 1895.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

The 100 block of East Main St. was part of the central core of downtown that developed during the 1880s, with early frame structures transitioning to brick by 1890. Clothing and drugstores were common tenants, and another of Durham's early newspapers, the Durham Globe was located on the northwest corner of Church and East Main Sts. Another notable element in this drawing of the street is the large version of a pocket watch, mounted over the street from an electric pole. I thought that this might just be artistic license until I found the photo below.

100EMain_N_1895.jpeg
Looking northeast from the south side of the 100 block of East Main St., 1890s.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)


Looking northwest, 1905.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

The building to the west of Yearby's drugstore at 121 East Main was the Paris theater, which expanded to three stories in the 1910s-1920s.


Looking northwest - the Trust building and Geer building are visible in the distance. The theater building is at the right. The ticket window and early movie posters (they acutally look like cloth) are visible.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

This theater would receive a complete Art Deco redo in the 1930s and was renamed the Uptown Theater.


Looking west-northwest, 1940. The white facade of the Uptown is difficult to make out in this picture.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

100EMain_020148.jpg

02.01.48

(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

uptown_020148.jpg

02.01.48

(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

uptowntheater2_032261.jpg
03.31.61

In April, 1969, fire broke out on this end of the block - I don't know in which building, but it eventually spread to at least 3 of the buildings.

NWchurch_Emain_fire3.jpeg
Looking northwest, 1969.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

100EMainFire_NW_041869.jpeg
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

121 East Main is to the far left.

(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

NWchurch_Emain_fire3.jpg
Looking northwest, 1969.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

The fire decimated these buildings, leaving only shells.


Looking northwest, 1969.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)


Looking northwest, 04.19.69.
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

uptowntheaterteardown_031071.jpg

03.10.71

The Uptown theater does not appear badly damaged by the fire. But whether or not it was, it too was torn down soon after these three.


Looking northwest, 03.10.71
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

The vacated space became a surface parking lot which it remains.


Looking northwest, 2007.

This is one of the many sites in downtown that screams infill. It is owned by, I believe, a law firm on Parrish St., which uses it as parking for their business, so it is unlikely to be redeveloped soon (unless they do it themselves.)

I had planned this post prior to the fire at the Snow Building yesterday, but, as I said in that post, we can't assume that if we 'only knock down X buildings' that the generously spared ones will survive. As NIS requests .2 million solely for demolition in the upcoming budget, will there be anything left of our historic, but more impoverished neighborhoods once the ravages of time and nature have taken their toll as well?

 

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arcadelochmoorYMCA_pcard.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_5/ymca_1890.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_5/YMCA_SW_pcard.jpgarcadelochmoorYMCA_pcard.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_5/emain_lkwfromrox.jpg

ARCADE THEATER

212
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1909
/ Demolished in
1910s
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Sun, 11/20/2011 - 8:42pm by gary

Location

United States
35° 59' 38.0292" N, 78° 53' 56.6196" W
US

Comments

212
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1909
/ Demolished in
1910s
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 

arcadelochmoorYMCA_pcard.jpg
Looking southeast from East Main St., ~1910.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

The southwest corner of Roxoboro and East Main St. initially was the location of a home, although I don't know the original inhabitant. This house was still in place when the first courthouse was built immediately to its west.


Looking southeast from East Main St., 1880s. The first county courthouse is to the right.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

In 1888, the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) was established in Durham, with James Southgate as its prinicipal proponent, and the additional support of George W. Watts (its first local president) and EJ Parrish. The small group rented space on S. Church St. offered by EJ Parrish and began raising money for a building fund. However, opposition from local ministers (one of whom, unnamed by Boyd in his history of Durham ridiculed the organization, calling it the "XYZ") doomed the group. It disbanded in 1894.

However, through the First Presbyterian Church and George W. Watts, the YMCA was restablished. In 1905, a church-led organization called the "Covenanters Club" proposed a club-specific facility, and George Watts offered to help pay for the cost. A member of the club, JL Conrad, noted that the club would serve only Presbyterians, and what was truly needed was a social club to serve the needs of "Durham['s] large number of young men, members of other churches or of no church." He proposed that a YMCA would be more appropriate. Watts agreed, and consulted with the state officials of the YMCA about re-starting the organization.

The group purchased the lot at the southwest corner of Roxboro and East Main from Capt. EJ Parrish for 00. Watts financed a significant portion of the construction of a new YMCA building on the southwest corner of Roxboro and East Main, completed in 1908 at a cost of ,000 and supplemented with ,000 of additional construction several years later.


Looking southwest from Roxboro and East Main.

EJ Parrish retained the remainder of the land between the original courthouse and the YMCA. In 1909, he built a building containing shops, and in 1911, he built a hotel between this structure and the YMCA, which he also called the Arcade. He built an extensive complex with a glass walled dining room facing Union Station, 62 rooms and 24 bathrooms. Another expansion brought a wing extending behind the courthouse towards Church St., with enclosed gardens and sitting areas to entice travelers disembarking from the station. Parrish attempted to lure the luxury clientele who were drawn to a newer deluxe hotel across the street, the Hotel Malbourne.

Parrish couldn't compete with the Malbourne and sold the hotel, which was renamed the Lochmoor by its new owner, Hubert Latta, in honor of Parrish (whose large country estate, out Roxboro Road just north of where Duke and Roxobro now converge, was called Lochmoor.)

arcadelochmoorYMCA_pcard.jpg
Looking southeast from East Main St., ~1910.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)


Looking west from Roxboro, ~1920. The YMCA and Hotel Lochmoor are on the left, the Hotel Malbourne on the right.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

The Arcade theater/shops were torn down sometime in the 1910s. The hotel changed hands several times, and served as the public library while the new library was being constructed on East Main St.


Looking southeast, ~1940 at the Lochmoor and a bit of the YMCA.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

The Hotel Lochmoor was sold to the Elks by 1919, who used the building for a meeting place until 1943, when they sold the building to the city, which tore down the structure.


The YMCA, looking southwest, ~1950, with the absent Lochmoor.
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

By the late 1950s, the YMCA had tired of their downtown location and tore down the old Pearl Mill Lyceum (school) on the north side of Trinty Avenue near Duke St. to build a new campus. The facility is now a Duke diet facility of some kind.


Looking west, 1960.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

In the early 1961, the YMCA sold this building to the county, which tore it down.


Looking northeast, 04.26.61
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)


Looking west, early 1960s.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

The building still present behind the courthouse had been used by the county as "Welfare offices", but may have been part of the original Hotel Lochmoor. By 1964, it was gone as well.


Looking southwest, 1964. The eastern portion of Union Station is visible, and the Austin-Heaton Co./Peerless Flour Mill is in the distance.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

In 1966, the county built a new courthouse annex building on the location of the YMCA and Hotel Lochmoor.

courthouseannexconstruction_080166.jpg
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

Which would become the Durham County Office Building


Looking southwest, ~1970.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

And later, Durham County Social Services.


There are some odd similarities between the YMCA building and this building - most notably the arches at the cap of the building. I don't know if that was intentional.

It will be interesting to see what happens with this building with the upcoming construction of the new Human Services Complex. Presumably, the offices in this building will be moving to that structure.

As for the YMCA, after a stint away from downtown, having moved on from their Trinity Ave. location to the Lakewood Ave. branch as their sole Durham location, they moved back to downtown in the 1990s, first to a location at the northeast corner of Morgan and Foster Sts., and then, more recently, expanding into a second branch in the American Tobacco complex.

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219 EAST MAIN STREET / ORPHEUM THEATER / RIALTO THEATER

219
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1916-1919
/ Modified in
1920s
/ Demolished in
1974
Construction type: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Sat, 01/21/2012 - 9:34pm by gary

Location

35° 59' 38.6448" N, 78° 53' 55.5396" W

Comments

219
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1916-1919
/ Modified in
1920s
/ Demolished in
1974
Construction type: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 

-----


Looking northeast from Church St. and East Main St., 1890s.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

Commercial development of the north side of the 200 block of East Main St. proceeded eastward from the commercial core. The western half of the block was developed by commercial structures by the 1890s, two of which are visible above.

The eastern half of the block converted to commercial somewhat later; the Malbourne Hotel and the Shevel Building were built in 1913. Between the two, a frame boarding house remained until sometime between 1916 and 1919, when the Orpheum Theater was built.

orpheummalbourne_pcard_1920.jpg
Looking northeast, ~1920
(Courtesy Durham County Library)


A nighttime view of the entrance to the Orpheum, looking north, 1923 (from the dates and days of the week.)
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

At some point in the 1920s, the Orpheum became a multi-story structure. Whether this coincided with conversion of the theater to "The Rialto" is unclear, but on 10.22.28, the Rialto theater (with Vitaphone!) opened.

With all the fanfare and Interest of an historical event. the Rialto theatre will introduce to the people of Durham today the invention that revolutionized the motion picture industry and enhanced the entertainment value of the scree, Vitaphone talking pictures.

The very same artists who thrilled a New York audience when Vitaphone made its debut in the center of the theatrical world will be present in the Vitaphone presentation program at the Rialto theatre where the device which had evoked the praises of scientists, editorialists, and artists will be displayed for the first time to the motion picture fans of this city.

Vitaphone, with its roster of famous artists such As Al Jolson, Fannie Brice, Gigli Martinelli, Talley, Carillo, Dolores COstello, Conrad Nagel. Irene Rich. Van Schenck, Winnio Lightner, Joe E. Brown, Lionel Barrymore, Mischa Elman, Rosa Raisa, Willie and Eugene Howard and Elsie Jamis has come to the Rialto theatre because the management desires to give local theatre goers the best that the amusement world affords. A new thrill never before known to local motion picture audiences awaits the people of this city when they see and hear Vitaphone talking pictures.
(From the Morning Herald, 10.22.28)


This photo shows the fire department is demostrating their new ladder truck in front of the Orpheum, ~1928. The structures visible in the 1890s photo can be noted further down the block in this picture. This may be from
(Courtesy Durham County Library)


Looking northwest, late 1920s
(Courtesy Durham County Library)


217 E. Main

rialto_032261.jpg

rialtotheaterblockofmainst_071568.jpg
07.15.68
(Courtesy the Herald-Sun)

The Rialto closed between 1968 and 1970.


05.27.70
(Courtesy the Herald-Sun)


05.27.70
(Courtesy the Herald-Sun)

These structures were taken by the city and demolished using urban renewal funds, along with the remainder of the block. To some extent, this entire block fell victim to the pipe dreams of an Oklahoma developer named - Barket, and the anxiousness of a city to do whatever it could to a attract a developer who promised a 40 story building to be constructed in downtown Durham on the block between E. Main, Church, N. Roxboro, and E. Parrish Sts.


Barket's rendering of the 40 story building to sit at 200 East Main St., 07.16.68
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun)

The on-again-off-again flirtation between the city and Mr. Barket persisted throughout the later half of the 1960s, until he finally pulled out, never to be heard from again.

In 1978, the city built a new courthouse on the block, which looms, Death-Star-like, over the street. It seems that they tried their best to emulate Barket's Folly, but could only afford the first ~5 stories.


Looking northeast, 2007.
 

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REGAL THEATER

324-328
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1927
/ Modified in
~1940s
/ Demolished in
~1975
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Wed, 06/11/2014 - 10:01pm by gary

Location

35° 59' 29.094" N, 78° 53' 53.8692" W

Comments

324-328
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1927
/ Modified in
~1940s
/ Demolished in
~1975
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 


Regal Theater, late 1930s or early 1940s.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

The Regal Theater was built in 1927 by George Washington Logan - providing a variety of entertainment, including musical performances by the likes of Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and others. By the 1930s, it seems that the theater had become predominantly a movie theater.


MGM Lion on a tour stop in front of the Regal, 1931.


MGM Lion on a tour stop in front of the Regal, 1931.


The Biltmore Hotel, Regal Theater, and Donut Shop, 1940s. The Regal has been remodeled to include two storefronts as well. The left storefront housed the Regal Barber Shop.


The Regal Theater at night, 1947.


The Regal Interior.


Regal Theater - 1940s.

Below, an excerpt from "Negro Durham Marches On" - 1949.

The later life of the Regal is a bit hard to piece together, as the city directories paint a fairly confusing picture. It does appear that the Regal existed in some form until at least 1968 - whether at this location or down the street.

This location housed the "Your Own Thing Theater" beginning in July 1969.

Photo from Carolina Times, July 26, 1969. Caption reads: "Early arrivals of 'first nighters' at the gala opening of 'Your Own Thing,' Durham's first and only theater devoted exclusively to the revival and presentation of the arts of black people."

Ervin L. of radio station WSRC was master of ceremonies at the opening night of Your Own Thing Theater.

An article in the July 26, 1969, Carolina Times covered the theater's opening:

The July 16 opening of the former Regal Theater, this time with a new name, new purposes, and under new management, marked the beginning of what promises to offer excitingly different entertainment for theater goers of Durham and the surrounding community. "Your Own Thing," as the new theater is called, opened last Wednesday evening to an enthusiastic audience which included fans ranging in age from "eight to eighty." The entertainment bill featured many local musicians including the "Lee Darvis" combo, as well as the famous Donald Bird modern jazz group imported from New York City, especially for the theater’s premier opening...

According to Miss Karen E. Rux, a 1969 graduate of North Carolina Central University and the director of "Your Own Thing Theater," the presentation marked the beginning effort to bring to the Durham community, a spirited revival of the black arts which have been existing somewhat "incognito."...

Tentative plans include daily classes, workshops, all phases of dramatic productions, and films to be shown at 1, 3, and 7 p.m. The theater will be run for a year on present funds received through an agency of O.E.O. Although the present building has been made available until urban renewal necessitates its razing, long range plans hope for the construction of a new theater building...

 

The theater, notably, was bombed on June 22, 1970.


Theater after bombing, 06.22.70


Theater after bombing, 06.22.70

The building appears to have been torn down by ~1975. The site has been some form of parking lot since that time.


Site of the Regal Theater, looking south from the railroad tracks, 08.20.08. The theater would have been located on part of the driveway and part of the landscaping to the right of the driveway.

35.991415,-78.898297

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418-422 EAST PETTIGREW / THE WONDERLAND THEATER

418-422
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1920
/ Modified in
1940s
/ Demolished in
1970s
Construction type: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Sat, 08/13/2011 - 7:50pm by gary

Location

35° 59' 26.07" N, 78° 53' 52.0512" W

Comments

418-422
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1920
/ Modified in
1940s
/ Demolished in
1970s
Construction type: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 


Wonderland Theater, looking southwest from East Pettigrew and Ramsey Streets, 1922.
(Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection / Digital Durham)

The Wonderland Theater was built in 1920 by Frederick K. Watkins, self-described "Movie King" (his house at 1218 Fayetteville St. still bears this description) at the southwest corner of East Pettigrew Street and Ramsey Street.

Mr. Watkins built the "first [African-American] theater in Durham" in 1913, per the 1951 "Durham and Her People." (It isn't noted which theater this is, although I suspect it may have been the Rex or the Electric.) Per Andre Vann, Mr. Watkins initially shot his own films and screened them in public schools, charging students 5 cents each at showings.

His theater holdings grew to 16 theaters in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia during the 1920s.

The theater initially showed silent films with an accompanying musician (likely a pianist). Dorothy Phelps describes that Mrs. Hattie Shriver Livas would create music for each scene "for horror movies a creepy sound, playful tunes when children appeared, soft flowing tunes for the love scenes, and 'oh so many creations to follow the theme of the pictures.'"

The northeast corner of the building housed Dodson's Drug Store (the mortar and pestle sign can be made out hanging from the corner of the building in the picture above.)


Wonderland Theater, looking southwest from Ramsey St. and East Pettigrew St., 1926.
(Courtesy The Herald Sun Newspaper)

Mr. Watkins retired from management of the movie theaters in 1929, and delved into real estate soon thereafter (developing the former Durham Hosiery Mill No. 2 into a multi-tenant structure in the 1940s.) He married his wife, Parepa Bland Watkins that same year; she became principal of the East End School for ten years.

The theater appears to have shut down at the time of Mr. Watkins retirement, and was used as a union hall during the 1930s. The former drugstore portion of the building housed the Wonderland Barber Shop.

The city directories become quite confusing after this, primarily because the addresses seem to change as often as the businesses did. However, it appears that the building housed a Goodwill Store, and Papa Jack's package store for periods in the 1930s and early 1940s.

For some brief period during the 1940s, the building housed the John Avery Boys' Club.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)


418-420 East Pettigrew, 1940s.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

By the 1950s, the building seems to have housed Big Wheel Record Bar and Smith's Grocery, Fruit, and Produce Market. By the 1960s, the Triangle Barber Shop and an increasing number of apartments, as well as the Apter Cut Rate Food Store.


(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

By the mid-1970s, the building appears to have been abandoned.


418-420, likely early 1970s. Note the stucco cracking along the former arch.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

The building appears to have been torn down in 1977.

The parcel became overgrown and wooded for the next ~15 years before being converted into a gravel parking lot by Rick Hendrick Chevrolet.


Looking southwest at the site of the Wonderland, 09.04.08.
(The corner of Ramsey and Pettigrew was ~30-40 feet west of the corner of S. Dillard and E. Pettigrew. S. Dillard did not extend south of East Pettigrew. The present-day "East Dillard" is a post-urban renewal street. You can note in the mid-1970s photo above that the corner has already been 'moved' to the east. You can also note the manholes in the street and sidewalk in the 1970s image and present day to orient yourself the location of the building.)

Below, an overlay of Hayti streets on a 2007 satellite image.


Google Maps Link to this spot

35.990575 -78.897792

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ERWIN AUDITORIUM

1701
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1922
/ Demolished in
1984
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Sun, 08/19/2012 - 4:45pm by gary

Location

36° 0' 22.7664" N, 78° 55' 28.0236" W

Comments

1701
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1922
/ Demolished in
1984
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 


Erwin Auditorium, 1920s.
(Courtesy Durham County Library - North Carolina Collection)

Built in 1922 by Erwin Cotton Mills, the Renaissance Revival, 2 1/2 story Erwin Auditorium was designed by Hill C. Linthicum to provide all-purpose recreational space for the community. The construction was not entirely benevolent, as William Erwin used money that would have otherwise been distributed to workers as bonuses to construct the building.

Nonetheless, it quickly became a beloved hub of social activity for West Durham, open from 8:30am to 10:30pm daily, except for Sundays. A 1000-person capacity two-story auditorium (in the rear of the building) hosted concerts, meetings, lectures, shows, plays, and twice-weekly movies. When the chairs were removed, it also served as a gymnasium where basketball games and other athletic activities were held. A swimming pool was located in the basement. The front of the building contained a library, a cafeteria, a baby clinic, a game room, a bowling alley, and a soda fountain. Classes were offered in the building as well, including crafts/arts/sewing/cooking classes as well as night school trade/professional classes that had been offered by Erwin Mills for a number of years. Community groups, such as scouts, would utilize the auditorium for meetings as well. Outdoors in the adjacent park, (extending to the east) there were tennis courts, playgrounds, and a zoo (which had, at least, a bear, an eagle, monkeys, goldfish, and squirrels.) Showers and changing rooms were located on the south side of Erwin Road (where Sam's Blue Light would later be located.)

CB West was the director of Erwin Auditorium and Rosa Warren supervised 'women's programs'.

Movies were a significant attraction at the Auditorium. Many residents saw their first 'talkies' at the Auditorium - children were admitted for 5 cents, and adults for 10. Zeb Stone noted in a 1975 oral history that movies would be originally be shown on Tuesday and Saturday, and that Thursday nights were later added to the schedule as well (other sources note that the third day added was Friday.) The fourth of July was evidently a major event for the community, celebrated in the Park and auditorium.

Residents of West Durham recalled in the same oral history the sense that what they had at the auditorium was a significant cut above what was available / provided by the city in other parts of Durham.

It appears that any program sponsored by the mill was likely to utilize the auditorium. Below, employees of Erwin Mills receive blankets from the company at Christmastime.


Looking northwest from the upper floors of the Erwin Auditorium towards Mill No. 4, 12.22.49. Employees are lined up from the entrance back to the railroad tracks (West Pettigrew was apparently closed between Oregon and Alexander when the Auditorium was built.)
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)


Employees receiving free blankets, 12.22.49
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

Even as control / ownership of Erwin Mills shifted in the 1950s, the auditorium remained a hub for social activity, classes and the like.


Erwin Auditorium, looking southwest from Mulberry St., 1950s.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)


Erwin Auditorium, looking northwest from Erwin Road and Oregon St., 1950s.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)


Erwin Auditorium in the background, looking south from Mulberry St. during the 1951 Erwin Mills Strike, 1951.
(Courtesy the Herald-Sun)


Aerial shot looking southeast over the Erwin Mill with the Erwin Auditorium in the right background.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)


Looking northwest towards Erwin Auditorium, 1950s
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)


Two women taking ceramics classes at Erwin Auditorium, 04.17.58
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

After 1956, the Auditorium was jointly owned by Erwin Mills and the City of Durham, and from 1966-1976, it was a city recreation center.

erwinauditorium.jpg


Erwin Auditorium, August 1975
(Courtesy Old West Durham Neighborhood Association)

Jean Anderson tells the story of Erwin Auditorium's connection to the eventual arrival of the American Dance Festival in Durham; when a group of local dance enthusiasts sponsored "A Day for Dancing" at Erwin Auditorium in the early 1970s, they expected 50-75 participants - they got 600. The level of support gave them a substantive base to build upon, establishing summer programs that eventually led to ADF's migration from Connecticut. Similarly, the Durham Symphony was formed after a group met at the Auditorium after recruitment by Vincent Simonetti, the eventual first conductor for the Symphony.

In 1976, the Edison Johnson Rec Center opened, and Erwin Auditorium was closed. The city continued to use the building for storage for another 3 years before it was abandoned.


Erwin Auditorium Pool during abandonment.
(Courtesy Old West Durham Neighborhood Association)

In 1984, the Erwin Auditorium was torn down in advance of the extension of the Durham Freeway from Erwin Road to 15-501.


Erwin Auditorium demolition, 02.16.84
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)


Erwin Auditorium demolition, 02.16.84
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)


Erwin Auditorium demolition, 02.16.84
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

Some of the site of the auditorium still exists as woods, sandwiched between the RR tracks and the Freeway, but the building footprint hovers above you as you travel westbound on 147.


Site of Erwin Auditorium from West Main Street, 04.12.09


Former Air Raid siren located at Erwin Auditorium, still sitting in the woods between the tracks and the freeway - 04.12.09

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36.006324,-78.924451

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705 FAYETTEVILLE / THE ELECTRIC THEATER

705
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1913
/ Demolished in
1920-1930
Construction type: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Wed, 01/02/2013 - 2:45pm by gary

Location

35° 59' 10.2984" N, 78° 53' 50.1108" W

Comments

705
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1913
/ Demolished in
1920-1930
Construction type: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 

A row of 2-story commercial structures were built at the northern peak of the 'triangle' formed by the acute angle of the intersection of Fayetteville and Whitted Sts. These seem to have housed barber shops at 701 and 703 Fayetteville; 705 Fayetteville was the Electric Theater, a vaudeville and movie theater opened in 1913 by FK Watkins, the 'Movie King'.


1913 Sanborn map of the 700 block of Fayetteville (the 600 block in this map, renumbered by the 1920s.)

By 1915, this theater was renamed the Rex Theater. To date, I've not found a picture of the theater. By ~1920, the Rex had moved to 522 East Pettigrew St. Shortly thereafter, 701, 703, and 705 Fayetteville were torn down for the People's Service Station.


Partial view of the new 701 Fayetteville at the left edge of the picture, mid-1920s
(Courtesy Duke University Rare Book and Manuscript Collection. Scanned by Digital Durham)

The People's Service Station at 701 Fayetteville was established between 1920 and 1923, likely the earliest service station on Fayetteville St. By the 1930s, it had become the Bull City Service Station, which it remained throughout the mid-twentieth century, at some point becoming an Esso station.


701 Fayetteville, looking southeast, 1962.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)


701 Fayetteville, looking east, ~1970. You can see most of the surrounding structures have been demolished, and the Fayette Place housing project has been constructed to the east.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

This structure was torn down ~1970. It is the backyard of a house now.


Site of 701 Fayetteville, looking southeast, 10.05.08. You can see the roofs of the former Fayette Place housing project in the background.

Find this spot on a Google Map.

35.986194,-78.897253

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306-308 E MAIN - STATE / RUSSELL/ASTOR THEATER

306
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1924
/ Demolished in
2006
Architectural style: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

A 1930s Spanish Revival movie theater that many people remember as the first place they saw foreign films in Durham. Although long closed as a theater, the building survived into the 2000s, only to be torn down by the County Gov't.

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In tours

Last updated

  • Fri, 08/24/2012 - 10:56pm by gary

Location

35° 59' 36.1032" N, 78° 53' 53.6352" W

Comments

306
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1924
/ Demolished in
2006
Architectural style: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 


State Theater, 1937.
 

The JR Day house was built during the 1880s, and took up about half the block between Queen and Roxboro Sts. The above is a sketch from 1895 of this large, elaborate house.

I haven't located a photograph of the front of the house, but I noticed that a picture that purports to show something else entirely - the explosion of Durham's first electricity generator - actually shows the back of the JR Day house. I also think it may show the steeple of the first St. Philip's church, just visible through the trees.


Looking north from ~Ramseur near Roxboro, 1899.

This house was torn down in the 1910s, and the land was used to develop several commercial structures - including the row of the Eligibility building, the State/Russel/Astor theater, and the Durham Sun - during the 1920s.

The Russel Theater was established at 306 East Main St. in 1935. By 1938, it had changed to the State Theater.


State Theater, 1938.

statetheater_1939.jpg
A 1939 night view of the theater shows a bit of the somewhat Spanish Revival style structure, with its patterned brick facade and tile above the marquee.
(Courtesy Library of Congress)


Looking west from the front of the theater, late 1930s.

In 1949, the theater became the Astor Theater. According to "Durham and Her People" the theater was "the first to show foreign language films in the Carolinas [and] cooperates with all local colleges and schools in presenting its program."

The theater seems to have closed prior to the 1970s, but I'm unsure of exactly when. It became a church by the late 1960s

statetheater_1960s.jpg

Looking southeast, ~1970.

306EMainSt_1976.png

This photograph was taken in February 1976 by a consultant to the NC Historic Preservation Office.

By the 1980s, it had become the "River of Life" church.


Looking southeaast, 1986.

The building was sold by River of Life to Durham County in 1988. This building was still standing up until ~2006; when the county decided to put this and the Eligibility building on the market, it demolished the structure (which had pretty bad roof damage.)

It was sold with the Eligibility Building to David Revere in March of 2007.


306 E. Main, 2007.

As of 2012, the vacant lot created by the county remains empty and overgrown. Yay for for the perpetual Durham policy of city-building by taxpayer-funded clearance. Which usually ends up a taxpayer-funded infrastructure project 30 years down the line.  Good to know some things about constantly-reinventing Durham will never change.

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/sites/default/files/images/2010_2/211WestMain_Grand_1914.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2010_2/200wmain_1910s.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2010_2/200-300WMain_SW_1920s.jpg211WestMain_1950s.jpeg/sites/default/files/images/2010_2/211WMain_1970s.jpg

211 WEST MAIN

211
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1910
Construction type: 
Local historic district: 
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Sun, 07/10/2011 - 11:39pm by gary

Location

35° 59' 44.7216" N, 78° 54' 8.5716" W

Comments

211
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1910
Construction type: 
Local historic district: 
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 

211 West Main ~1914.
(Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection)

211 West Main has led a very varied life - it appears to have been constructed ~1910, supplanting an earlier frame structure. The Grand theater opened for business at the location in 1914.


200 block of West Main St., 1910s.
(Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection)

By the early 1920s, the Grand had become the Savoy theater, but by the mid-1920s, it was no longer in business.


Looking southwest with 211 West Main in the foreground.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

In the 1950s, the facade was dramatically remodeled for the Lipscomb-Gattis department store, which had started as the Gattis-Newton company next door in the Jordan building.

211WestMain_1950s.jpeg
211 W Main, 1950s.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

The demolition of the three buildings to the east of 211 for a new Thalhimer's department store in the early 1960s left Lipscomb-Gattis intact. However, after the Thalhimers was renovated in the early 1970s for a new Wachovia building, the front facade of 211 West Main was completely obliterated - becoming a flat, black panel.


Looking southwest, early 1970s.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

When Self-Help remodeled the former Wachovia bank building, they added a bit of character back to the front of 211 West Main St. in the form of a brightly colored facade with a few windows. Although it could use a front door again, it's certainly far more cheerful and interesting than the Kubrickian, full-of-stars architectural style.


211 West Main, 02.04.07

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35.995756,-78.902381

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/sites/default/files/images/2007_1/academyofmusic_rendering.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_1/academyofmusic.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_1/FirstAcademyofMusic_1907.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_1/FirstAcademyofMusic_SW_1907.jpgAcademyofMusic_copy_.jpg

ACADEMY OF MUSIC

,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1904
/ Modified in
1909
/ Demolished in
1924
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Tue, 06/26/2012 - 7:12pm by gary

Location

35° 59' 47.7348" N, 78° 54' 6.4332" W

Comments

,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1904
/ Modified in
1909
/ Demolished in
1924
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 

Just after the turn of the century, the City decided to replace the scattered offices of the city along Main St. as well as the old city market that was supplanted by Union Station with a new, impressive municipal building known as the Academy of Music, which would be located between East Chapel Hill St., Corcoran, Market, and Parrish Sts. The site cost ,000. The city commissioned architects Hook and Sawyer of Charlotte, who also executed the Southern Conservatory of Music and Fire Station #2, to design the structure.


Rendering by Hook and Sawyer, 1902.
(Courtesy University of North Carolina.

Completed in 1903-1904 at a cost of ,000, it contained the offices of the city government and a market on the first floor (thus Market Street;) the second floor was "almost entirely taken up" by a performance hall, the remainder being devoted to a "small city auditorium."


Academy of Music, looking northwest from W. Parrish and Corcoran.

Stokes Hall, at Corcoran and West Main Sts., had provided both performance and meeting space prior to the construction of the Academy of Music (including courtroom space prior to the construction of the courthouse,) but no longer operated after the opening of the new building. Wyatt Dixon relates:

"The Academy played a major role in providing entertainment for the people of the community. Dramatic plays and musical comedies were regular attractions, and for a number of years, the theatrical season was opened by the appearance of Al G. Fields Minstrel. May concerts by prominent singers of the day were presented by the Durham Kiwanis Club and other organizations, and local talent shows attracted capacity audiences. Public meetings in the promotion of the city's interest also made use of the building a for a number of years the Elks' annual memorial services were held there."


Academy of Music, 1907
(Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection - Wyatt Dixon Collection)


Rear of the Building, looking south-southwest from East Chapel Hill St., 1907
(Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection - Wyatt Dixon Collection)

AcademyofMusic_copy_.jpg

Photo undated - copy of a photo of a photo for a Wyatt Dixon article in 1969. Dixon noted that the original belonged to "Mrs. Theodore Herndon." (Courtesy Herald-Sun)

On June 17, 1909, the first Academy of Music was completely gutted by fire. The fire was discovered by employees of the Durham Morning Herald, whose office was directly across Market St. The walls remained upright immediately following the fire.

It was replaced with a very similar building, dubbed the "New Academy of Music." It was the city's primary performance venue - musical theater, orchestra, comedy acts - all performed at the Academy of Music. The market, however, was moved out of the building, relocating to the area between Corcoran, Morgan and Holland.


New Academy of Music, 1910s
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

Next to the Academy of Music (on the west side) was a city park; this was the original Rotary Park with its bandstand, which had been established in 1916 as the first public gift of the Rotarians.


Looking south from East Chapel Hill St. and Market. The back of the post office and the Trust Building are visible, and the front of the Jordan Building is visible at the end of Market St.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)


Herald-Sun employees in Rotary Park - note the Academy of Music in the background.
(Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection - Wyatt Dixon Collection)

In 1924, the decision was made to build a new performance venue (the Durham Auditorium, now the Carolina theater) and to move the city hall into the former high school. The New Academy of Music was demolished. The bandstand at Rotary Park was moved to Bennett Place, where it still stands.

The Washington Duke Hotel was constructed on the site between 1924 and 1925. It was designed by Stanhope S. Johnson of Lynchburg, VA. Standing 16 stories tall at a cost .8 million, it was one of the most impressive hotel structures of its era.

I put together a little 'video' consisting of existing still frames of the hotel construction. (sorry for this annoying, cycling graphic - I'm having trouble getting YouTube to work for this one. If you didn't see it cycle, reload the page, as I had it cut off after 4 cycles.)


(Courtesy Durham County Library)

Below, near the completion of construction, looking northwest from Corcoran St.

(Courtesy Durham County Library)

Below, the Washington Duke in situ, soon after completion. Notable structures surrounding it include (moving, roughly, left to right) the Temple building, the Trust Building, the Wright Corner, the old Post Office, and the Geer building

(Courtesy Duke Archives)

It was part of an active streetscape - people have told me of regularly going to the newsstand on the first floor.

(Courtesy Durham County Library)

The main entrance - approximately 1950s.

(Courtesy Durham County Library)

The lobby was an impressive art deco interior.

(Courtesy Durham County Library)


1950s shot, looking northeast from W. Parrish and Market.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun)


1950s Bird's Eye aerial, looking southeast.

By the 1960s, the hotel had become the "Jack Tar Hotel" - evidently part of a chain. The impressive first floor was dampened by the decision to brick up the large windows - trying to give it that 'modern' look, I guess. It was later referred to as simply the "Durham Hotel".


Looking south on Corcoran from East Chapel Hill.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

As previously noted in the post for the Washington Duke Motel, the owners had attempted to keep up with the motel era by demolishing the buildings across Corcoran St. to build a motel structure with a rooftop pool. It was connected to the older hotel via a skybridge across Corcoran.

Looking west on Parrish St.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

Brad Bradsher, whose mother was the convention / sales manager for the hotel in the 1960s and 1970s told me about his experience of the hotel in that era:

"I spent many an afternoon roaming around the halls in the early '70's. I can remember staying there in the '60's when you could pull into the parking deck across the street and register via closed-circuit TV. Pretty cool for 1968!"

By the mid-1970s, the hotel was evidently no longer profitable and was no longer being used, pending needed repair work. As Mr. Bradsher recalls:

"They tried to sell it repeatedly...It just needed too much repair work (asbestos, etc.). At the end, they tried to give it away. They almost cut a deal with, of all things, the Boy Scouts of America, to use it as a national convention center of sorts--but the cost of fixing it up was too much. As I recall it came down to not even being able to GIVE the building away, and it was costing them a fortune just to let it sit empty."

George Watts Hill, the owner of the building, made the decision to demolish the building.

I rate the demolition of the Washington Duke Hotel as a tie (with Union Station) for the worst single-structure architectural/cultural loss for the city of Durham. The hotel was an icon - seemingly, among those I've spoken with, beloved by those who grew up here mid-20th century. George Watts Hill gets oddly reverential treatment in Preservation Society circles in Durham (with various awards named after him for big donors.) To me, that just about sums up what's wrong with traditional preservation societies. Tear down some of the best architecture in Durham (between this and Harwood Hall), but it's ok if you're a generous donor.

Below, the walkway being taken down in preparation for demolition.

(Courtesy Duke Archives)

In 1975, early one morning, the streets were closed and the hotel was imploded. I've made another little 'movie' of a few still frames below.

(Courtesy Durham County Library)

A friend of a friend was in high school in Durham when this occurred, and made a movie of the event for school, which is below. It takes a bit to get to the the actual demolition, but very worth watching.


(Courtesy Durham County Library)


From the present-day (2011) location of Durham Central Park/ the Farmer's Market, looking south (just north of Hunt St.)
(Courtesy Bob Blake)

The more people I have talked to about growing up in Durham, the more I realize that this was one of those major life events that people remember with great clarity - just within the last month (May 2011) I've spoken to three people who were children at the time - all of whom remember with great detail where they were standing, what happened during, and what they did afterwards.

Below, the streetscape after demolition.

(Courtesy Durham County Library)

Inexplicably, the site became a longstanding surface parking lot, commonly referred to as "Bare Square."

(Courtesy Durham County Library)

When a 1980s push came along to build a hotel and convention center in downtown, Watts Hill made a push for his site, but the city, in its infinite wisdom, tore down the entire adjacent block (the 200 block of East Chapel Hill St.) instead.

The Bare Square remained a parking lot, owned by Oprah fan Ronnie Sturdivant, up until a couple of years ago. Under Nick Tennyson's administration and at DDI's urging, an important pillar of downtown revitalization became the construction of a direct connection between Corcoran Street and Foster Street. The benefits of a seamless north-south thoroughfare through downtown would evidently - well, I don't know what it would do, exactly. But it was Necessary.

This roadway (which I like to call the Kalkhof Konnector) now splits the former Washington Duke site into two pieces, one of which has become part of the block directly to the east. As a part of the streetscape work, these spaces are being turned into a brick plaza.

Looking north from Parrish, 2007.

I don't think this is the way to create public space - by chopping up space for roadways so as to move traffic more expeditiously and then primping the leftovers. I'd like to be optimistic about it - and the prospect of a place to sit and enjoy treats from Locopops on Market St. this summer sounds good. But it's an awkward space. Perhaps someday we'll get rid of the Washington Duke Motel ('Oprah') and build a new, trapezoidal building out to the new street-line. If that hypothetical building had the requisite first floor activity, it might create the kind of tight, active enclosure that feeds public spaces.

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/sites/default/files/images/2007_1/carolina_1925.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_1/carolinatheater_1926.jpgCarolina_NW_1930.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_1/carolinafront_1947.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_1/carolina_1940s.jpg

CAROLINA THEATRE

209-211
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1924
/ Modified in
1986
Architect/Designers: 
,
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
Local historic district: 
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

The "Durham Auditorium" was the grandest theater in the age of downtown theaters, transitioning from live performances / to moving pictures early on. Spared the wrecking ball in the 1960s, it is the only downtown theater that survives - as a center for independent film, live performance, and movie festivals.

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In tours

Last updated

  • Wed, 09/26/2012 - 11:23am by gary

Location

United States
35° 59' 52.296" N, 78° 54' 10.2492" W
US

Comments

209-211
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1924
/ Modified in
1986
Architect/Designers: 
,
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
Local historic district: 
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 

The Durham Auditorium, designed by Milburn and Heister of Washington D.C., was constructed in 1926 as a replacement for the "New Academy of Music" which was destroyed to make way for the Washington Duke Hotel. As detailed in my post about the first Durham High School/City Hall, the Durham Auditorium was attached to that building, which was remodeled by Milburn and Heister to match the style of the newer buildling.


(Courtesy Duke Archives)

This shot, taken in the mid 1920s, shows the Durham Auditorium either during or immediately after construction. (It appears the site around the building hasn't been completed.) Many other interesting sights are visible in this shot -the large houses lining Morris St. north and south of the Imperial Tobacco building, the modest housing on Roney, the new Durham High and Carr Jr. High in the distance, and more.


Carolina Theatre, under construction, 1926
(Courtesy Duke RBMC - Chamber of Commerce Collection)

The theater showed a mix of live performances and movies. This shot from 1930 shows the original marquee, which (although the resolution is too poor in this digitized version to see it) says the theater is showing "The Cuckoos". The sign to the left of the marquee says "Carolina Soda Shop."

Carolina_NW_1930.jpg
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

The auditorium appears to have been called the Carolina Theatre from a fairly early point in its existence, perhaps to highlight the movie showings, which, over time, began to increasingly dominate the theater's programming.

This shot from 1947 gives a closeup of the marquee.

(Courtesy Durham County Library)

Three shots from 1949 may be overkill, but I find them all fascinating, so why not.

(Courtesy Durham County Library)


(Courtesy Durham County Library)


(Courtesy Durham County Library)

moviestarsintown_011057.jpg

"Movie Stars in Town" - 01.11.57. Bob Nocek and Jim Carl at the Carolina were kind enough to identify John Saxon, and, most likely, Luana Patten - co-stars of "Rock, Pretty Baby" doing publicity for the opening of that film.

(Photo courtesy of The Herald-Sun)

carolinatheatre_032261.jpg

03.22.61

The Carolina was segregated; African-Americans were only allowed to sit in the balcony. I have read that this was sometimes referred to as "buzzards' roost" - a name evidently also given to the corner of McMannen and Pettirew Streets. During 1962, a rolling 'line protest' went on for months, as African-Americans would attempt to buy tickets to the whites-only section and, when refused, would return to the back of the line to try again.


(Courtesy Durham County Library)

I believe the theater was desegregated in 1963.

carolina_1967.jpg

1967 (Louise Hall Collection, NC Collection, DCL)

By the 1970s, the management of the theater shifted to the Carolina Cinema Corporation, a non-profit group that focused on showing foreign and independent films.

Below, a shot taken from the CCB building by Ralph Rogers around 1986 shows the Carolina Theatre, Roney St. and the surrounding area just before it was drastically changed by the construction of the Omni, Convention Center, and the People's Security Insurance building on Morgan St.

(Courtesy Durham County Library)

carolinatheater_1981.jpg
Carolina Theatre from Roney St., southwest, 1981

(Courtesy Robby Delius)

Below, looking south from the closed Roney St. in front of the theater, the convention center is being constructed., 1988.

(Courtesy Durham County Library)

By 1989, the plaza is essentially completed, and the Carolina Theatre was closed for renovation.

(Courtesy Durham County Library)

The theater was closed for a few years, as I remember, and I believe it reopened around 1992. A movie theater was constructed to the south of the original theater, which primarily hosts live performances (although the occasional popular independent film will be shown in the original theater.)

It's very fortunate that the Carolina Theatre dodged the parking lot-bullet aimed its way in the 1960s. It is, in my opinion, the crown jewel of Durham's architectural heritage. I do feel that its energy is diminished by the configuration around it - the strange plaza, the Loop, the parking garage, the odd orientation of the hotel entrance, etc. It's configurations like these that make me distrustful each time Durham says they are going to build a new, grand project.


The plaza and Carolina Theatre, looking south, 2006.

2006

carolinatheatre_072012.jpg

07.20.12

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/sites/default/files/images/2008_9/DurhamHosieryMillNo.2_1940s.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2008_9/CarolinaFurniture_Sanborn_1902.jpgDHM_No2_pcard.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2008_9/DurhamHosieryMillNo.2_1940s.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2008_9/LouisAustin_Carolinatimes.jpg

DURHAM HOSIERY MILL NO. 2 / SERVICE PRINTING COMPANY / ELVIRA'S / CAROLINA TIMES

426-504
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1903
/ Modified in
1947
,
1974
/ Demolished in
1995
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Tue, 01/14/2014 - 9:15pm by gary

Location

35° 59' 24.1224" N, 78° 53' 51.144" W

Comments

426-504
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1903
/ Modified in
1947
,
1974
/ Demolished in
1995
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 

 


Carolina Furniture Company on East Pettigrew St., 1902.
(Copyright Sanborn Map Company)

The block of East Pettigrew Street between Ramsey St. and Branch Place was the site of the wood-frame Carolina Furniture Company building. The Carolina Furniture Co. building had been constructed in the 1880s as the "Wortham Wooden Mills." This venture became the Carolina Furniture Co. in the 1890s. The buildings were purchased in 1903 by the Durham Hosiery Mill Company and Julian Carr and converted to the first branch of the Durham Hosiery Mill Company, Durham Hosiery Mill No. 2. The Durham Hosiery Mill had constructed their No. 1 mill a few blocks to the northeast in Edgemont in 1900.

DHM_No2_pcard.jpg

From a postcard - this doesn't appear to much resemble the later mill - given the artistic license used for DHM No. 1 on the same postcard, it seems possible that this is inaccurate. 

One piece of particular uniqueness surrounding Durham Hosiery Mill No. 2 is the fact that Carr hired African-American workers to operate the machinery of the mill, and an African-American, John O'Daniel, to manage the mill. Sources documenting the mill state that, prior to that point, African-Americans has not been hired to run the machinery, based on the offensive belief, per Jean Anderson, that the "sound of the machinery would lull [them] to sleep" - and, likely, a host of other excuses. African-American workers had typically been hired by manufacturing plants only in more menial positions. Carr is quoted in 1919 regarding the 'experiment':

"Negroes had never before been employed in knitting mills; their work had been 'stemming' in the tobacco factories - pulling the leaves from the stems; they had never been used around machinery or in competition with white people.... There was a distinct shortage of white workers, and we could not have manned the mill with trained hands. when we announced the plan, the opposition was instant."

(Note: this is not the mill mentioned by both Booker T. Washington and WEB DuBois in 1911-12. That mill was located on Fayetteville St., and will profiled soon.)

Carr is an interesting fellow - both an innovator/philanthropist and a decidedly paternalistic old south Democrat who was likely looking for the cheapest labor he could find. I like anyone who, in my mind, so resists classification.

The historic inventory states that the old mill building was demolished in 1913, and a replacement mill constructed on the same site. I'm not sure that I believe that to be true, and I don't know their source. The Sanborn maps appear to show a faithful adherence to the original outline of the main building between the 1907, 1913, and 1937 maps.

There is little history available regarding the actual operation of the mill, other than that the intent was to produce marketable socks using cotton that mills typically discarded; O'Daniel died in 1917. Carr, upon purchasing the former Paragon Hosiery Mill on Gilbert Street, renamed the mill in O'Daniel's honor.

Hosiery Mill No. 2 appears to have gone out of business in 1930, and thereafter was leased by Liggett and Myers for warehouse space until the late 1940s.


Former Durham Hosiery Mill No. 2 in the background from the railroad tracks east of Dillard St., late 1930s to mid-1940s.

By 1947, the former mill had been converted to retail bays. Tenants would come to include some of the most important businesses in the Hayti community, such as the Service Printing Company and the Carolina Times newspaper.

The Carolina Times began as The Standard Advertiser in August, 1921. The newspaper was a weekly, which did not begin to flourish until Louis Austin came to head the paper. The motto of the paper was "The Truth Unbridled." Austin was heavily involved in the Durham Committee, née the "Durham Committee on Negro Affairs". The Times was located in multiple locations before moving into a portion of the Hosiery Mill in 1958.


Louis Austin.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

The Service Printing Company began as a part of the Times. In 1932, Mr. and Mrs. TD Parham purchased the Times' printing operation and moved it to 608 Fayetteville Street, renaming it the Service Printing Company. In 1939, Day F. Reed, Walter G. Swann, George D. White, Jr. and Nathaniel B. White took over management of the company and purchased it outright in 1941. In 1947, the company moved to the hosiery mill building - into the 504 East Pettigrew bay. The printing company was, until its demise, the oldest African-American owned printing company in the United States. It primarily served the African-American community, printing forms for varied businesses - menus for the Donut Shop, stationery for the Biltmore, programs for White Rock Baptist, the school paper for Hillside High School, etc.


Interior of the Service Printing Company.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

Other businesses included Faison's Market (later Johnson's Fish Market) in the 426 bay, Midway Sport Shop (later the Art Neon Sign Company) in the 428 bay, EN Toole's Electrical Contracting business in the 432 bay, Turner's Beauty Shop in the 438 bay, Elivra's Blue Dine-Et in the 440 bay, Southern Cleaners in the 442 bay, and Pee Wee's Shoe Shop in the 502 bay. Around 1949, approximately 1/4 of the warehouse was torn down - oddly, not an end of the warehouse, but, if one were to move from west to east, the '2nd 1/4' - and replaced with the Booker T movie theater. The pictures below are from 1965s, after the Booker T had closed (it closed by 1954) and been replaced by the "Church of the Lord Jesus Christ Apostolic."


426 East Pettigrew.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)


430 East Pettigrew, 1965 - the former Booker T theater.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)


434-440 East Pettigrew, 1965.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

Edward N. Toole came to Durham in 1926 from Chester, SC, where he had been an electrician. He was the first licensed African-American electrician in Durham. Per Dorothy Phelps, he was still a licensed and practicing electrician in 1993, at the age of 95.


(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)


436 East Pettigrew - The Carolina Times, and 438 East Pettigrew, housing Turner's Beauty Supply.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)


440 East Pettigrew - Elvira's Blue Dine-Et.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)


The Service Printing Company, 1965.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)


The Service Printing Company, 1950s.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)


Rear of the Service Printing Company, from Branch Place, looking northwest, July 1965.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

By the late 1960s, the western bays (426-428 East Pettigrew) had been abandoned. On October 25, 1969, they were converted to a 'breakaway' university called "Malcolm X Liberation University". The school was an outgrowth out of the Allen Building (administration building) protests at Duke University in February of 1969.

The opening was evidently a festive affair, with bands, food, dancers and singers. Current city councilman Howard Clement, then a community activist, addressed the crowd with these remarks: "It has become evident that the existing educational system does not respond to the needs of the Black community. It does not provide an ideological or practical method for physical, social, psychological, economic, and cultural needs of all Black people."

The school was spearheaded by local activist Howard Fuller, who had come to Durham to work with Operation Breakthrough, along with a group of Duke students. The group received initial funding from the local Foundation for Community Development. By the Spring of 1969, the group was holding classes at the Your Own Thing (one-time Regal) Theatre.

In September 1969, the group obtained the use of the 426-428 section of the old hosiery mill (west of the Booker T theater) for the school. The exterior of the structure was painted red, green, and black to reflect the commitment of the school's founders to Pan-Africanism. Due to fundraising by Fuller and a grant from the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina of ,000, the school was able to open its doors.


(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)


(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

A full treatment of the evolution of the Black Power/Pan-Africanism movement in the late 1960s/early 1970s and the difficulty, for the entire community, in understanding how to negotiate a transition from the traditional segregated city to integration is beyond the scope of this site. But, to reduce it immensely - the struggle over identity, and whether racial identity would be subsumed by integration, was, at a minimum, palpable and passionate. The amount of anger, distrust, guilt, racism, pride coursing throughout cities such as Durham ensured that an institution such as MXLU would both be deemed a necessity, and be highly controversial to many members of the community. Per Jean Anderson, Fuller's initial fundraising tactic was to "demand reparations" from all of the 'white churches' in Durham. The grant from the Episcopal diocese generated a furor amongst some Episcopal churches; pledges at St. Philip's (one block north of the building) evidently dropped ,000 immediately following the grant.

The school struggled in its first year, with few assets available to match spending. The commitment to a Pan-African curriculum and mission strengthened over the initial year, with the school first year dedicated to "reordering of priorities, development of a Pan-Africanist perspectives, and de-colonization of the mind."

After the first year, however, struggles to keep the school afloat figured in a move from Durham to Greensboro, with some small presence still in Durham. The school evidently continued to struggle in Greensboro, and formally closed its doors on June 28, 1973

(Most of this information was obtained from Brent Belvin's excellent thesis on MXLU, available here. I highly recommend it for further reading on the rise and fall of the university and the broader context in Durham.


Looking southwest at the 438-440 section of the warehouse - it appears the Booker T is being torn down - early 1970s.

It seems that the 426-428 section of the building (that had housed MXLU) and the former Booker T theater at 432 were torn down by the early-1970s.

The 434-504 section of the building, housing the Service Printing Company, Elivra's, Turner's, the Carolina Times, and EN Toole persisted as the last vestige of Hayti north of the Durham Freeway.

Mid-1970s (Photo by George Pyne via Milo Pyne)

Mid-1970s (Photo by George Pyne via Milo Pyne)

Mid-1970s (Photo by George Pyne via Milo Pyne)

Mid-1970s (Photo by George Pyne via Milo Pyne)

 

A fascinating article from 1979, published in a publication called "Tobacco Road" chronicles these last holdouts. When the author of the article, interviewing the Redevelopment Commission in 1978 (the agency tasked with carrying out Urban Renewal) why, despite 106 businesses having been cleared from Pettigrew and Fayetteville Sts., no redevelopment has occurred, the Redevelopment Commission representative points to this one last building on the map.


(Courtesy The Herald Sun Newspaper)

"This block of buildings hasn't been cleared yet, and it's holding everything up. There are these businesses at the end - the Service Printing Company, The Carolina Times, and an electrical supply store which haven't been moved."

Author: "Does the Redevelopment Commission own the buildings?"

"Yes, but those people refuse to move. We tried to relocate them, but they refuse to cooperate."

Author: "Why don't you evict them?"

RC: "If we evicted them we'd have a race riot on our hands."

The author notes that one month after the Redevelopment Commission moved their offices downtown at the end of 1978, the building burned in a suspicious fire, destroying the offices of EN Toole and the Carolina Times. Vivian Edmonds, daughter of Louis Austin and longtime editor of the paper was quoted as saying:

"I was in one of the closets, no lights ... and I heard with my ears ... I heard three firemen, who were standing maybe eight feet from where I was. They didn't know I was there- and they were just hanging and carrying on. 'The boys down at the police station gonna be mighty happy now the Carolina Times is out of business.' I came out of there at said 'well at least someone is telling the truth.' And there mouths went together like that. I said, 'You won't even admit now that you said what you said, would you?' Not a word. And they all turned their backs to me."

The Carolina Times moved to 'Tin City' on Old Fayetteville St. (metal buildings put up by the Redevelopment Commission for the purpose of relocating businesses evicted during urban renewal.) They remain in one of these buildings, since remodeled, in the 900 block of 'Old' Fayetteville St. Unfortunately Vivian Edmonds died in May 2008.

In the early 1980s, the single-bay remnant of the Durham Hosiery Mill No. 2, still housing the Service Printing Company, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. By 1985, however, a second fire, also considered suspicious, sent the Service Printing Company out of business. The building remained standing through 1995.

(Photo by George Pyne via Milo Pyne)


Looking west on East Pettigrew St., 1994, at the remnants of the hosiery mill, mostly destroyed by fire.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)


1994 aerial showing the small remnant of the Hosiery Mill Building.

After all the land north of the Durham Freeway - site of hundreds of homes and businesses - had sat vacant for 10-20 years, the Hayti Development Corporation brokered a deal with Rick Hendrick Chevrolet to buy the land. The last piece of the hosiery mill was demolished in January 1995 to make way for the dealership, which was completed ~1998. The head of the Hayti Development Corporation said it was "sad, but progress had to come."


Progress, on the site of the Durham Hosiery Mill No. 2, looking southeast, 09.09.08.

Below, an overlay map of Hayti streets.

35.990016 -78.897521

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/sites/default/files/images/2006_10/CenterTheater_1965.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2006_10/313-315EChapelHill_pcard.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2006_10/corcoranandchapelhill002.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2006_10/corner_corc_echst_1920.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2006_10/hotelcorcentrance.jpg

CENTER THEATER

313
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1938
/ Demolished in
1967
Architectural style: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Wed, 11/07/2012 - 9:15pm by gary

Location

United States
35° 59' 49.7184" N, 78° 54' 3.3588" W
US

Comments

313
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1938
/ Demolished in
1967
Architectural style: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

 

The Center Theater replaced half of an earlier structure, which half was replaced again 29 years later - moving from Mansard to Modern to Launch Vehicle.

The building at 313-315 East Chapel Hill Street was constructed around 1907 as the Corcoran Hotel, but did not survive for long due to stiff competition from the other downtown hotels. It became Mercy Hosptial, then the Durham Business School.


From the Washington Duke Hotel, looking northeast, likely mid-1920s.
(Courtesy Duke Archives, Wyatt Dixon Collection)


From the corner of Corcoran and East Chapel Hill St., looking northeast. Probably a little bit later than the above picture, but before 1934, when the Post Office was built.
(Courtesy Duke Archives, Wyatt Dixon Collection)

The entrance

(Courtesy Duke Archives, Wyatt Dixon Collection)

The business school appears to have closed by the 1930s. The "Tip-Top Tavern" was located on the first floor during this era.

(Courtesy Durham County Library)

As seen from the east, looking west from Rigsbee, mid-1930s.

(Courtesy University of North Carolina / North Carolina Collection)

In the 1938, the 313 half of the building was torn down and replaced with a art deco/moderne movie theater known as the Center Theatre, built by general contractor George W. Kane.


Looking east, Foster St. in the foreground. The Center Theater is under construction, and 315 E. Chapel Hill perists to its east.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

Below, the completed Center Theater and 315 East Chapel Hill, 1940. This is the only picture I've seen with a complete Center Theater and an unmodified 315 East Chapel Hill.


(Courtesy Library of Congress)

Below, a closer picture of the Center from about 1948, going by the movie title.

(Courtesy Durham County Library)

In 1951, 315 East Chapel Hill St. was 'modernized' by removing the mansard roof, parging the exterior of the building, replacing the windows, and other changes that fundamentally changed the character of the building.

Above - being 'updated' for the demanding standards of the 1950s, 02.22.51
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)


Above, the Center Theater and 315 E. Chapel Hill from the Washington Duke Hotel, looking northeast, mid-1950s
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

Like all downtown movie theaters, the Center was segregated.  As a result, it was a focus of civil rights protests, like the one pictured below.


Looking east, 03.10.61
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)


Looking east, 03.10.61
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

By the mid-1960s, this incarnation of the Center Theater was reaching the end of its lifespan, short of 30 years old. I'm not sure if it ever de-segregated at this location.


(Courtesy The Herald Sun)

Above and below, the Center Theatre around 1965, again by the movie titles, looking northeast from Corcoran, near Chapel Hill St.


(Courtesy Durham County Library)

centertheater_fromccb_1960s.jpg

By 1966, the Center theater moved to Lakewood Shopping Center. The building was sold to the next-door neighbor, Home Savings and Loan, which demolished the theater.


Demolishing the theater, looking north, 01.09.67
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)


Demolishing the theater, looking south, 03.30.67
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

centertheaterdemo_color.jpg


Demolishing the theater, looking northeast, 03.30.67
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)


(Courtesy Durham County Library)

The building which replaced it, the Home Savings Bank, is what you get when you combine modernism with whimsical.


(Courtesy Durham County Library)


The Home Savings and Loan Building, 01.30.69
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

The same building today, now the Mutual Community Savings Bank

While I feel like I should dislike this building because of unclear openings for doors and windows, on most days I can't help but like it. Unlike a lot of stolid modernism, this just seems sort of irrepressibly geeky, in that Revenge of the Nerds/Napoleon Dynamite kind of way.

The building immediately to the east of the bank remains the original 315 East Chapel Hill St., albeit radically transformed. Visible around the window frames is brick, underneath the parged concrete exterior (on the sides.) Not much other clue to its origins, except for the general size and massing (minus the mansard roof.)

Looking northwest from East Chapel Hill St., 2007.

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