Tobacco Auction Warehouses of Durham

Tobacco Auction Warehouses of Durham


americantobacco_1870s.jpegBlackwellsFactory_painting_1880s.jpeg/sites/default/files/images/2008_1/CarrSt_NW_1880s.jpgamericantobacco_1870s_2.jpeg

REAMS WAREHOUSE

,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1874
/ Demolished in
1902
People: 
Construction type: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

The first tobacco auction warehouse in Durham- run by Henry Reams, with auctions by EJ Parrish

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In tours

Last updated

  • Fri, 02/19/2016 - 12:03pm by gary

Location

United States
35° 59' 42.8604" N, 78° 54' 15.3324" W
US

Comments

,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1874
/ Demolished in
1902
People: 
Construction type: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 

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

The Reams Warehouse was likely the location of the first tobacco auction in Durham in 1871.

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

 

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

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BANNER WAREHOUSE (WEST MAIN STREET)

212
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1880s
/ Modified in
1890s
/ Demolished in
1905
Construction type: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Wed, 07/20/2011 - 4:47am by gary

Location

35° 59' 45.7332" N, 78° 54' 7.8048" W

Comments

212
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1880s
/ Modified in
1890s
/ Demolished in
1905
Construction type: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 

The 200 block of West Main St. was first the site of one of Durham's earliest major warehouses: The Banner 'Drive In' warehouse was built on the site during the 1880s.


Banner Warehouse, ~1884, looking north from south of West Main Street.
(Courtesy Duke RBMC - Wyatt Dixon Collection)

The Banner Warehouse later was enlarged under the management of Lea and Gattis.


Looking east on West Main St. from ~Market St. (before Market St.)
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

The Banner warehouse moved to another frame structure on Morgan St. around the turn of the century, and was replaced by the Trust Building.

The Trust Building was Durham's first true 'office building of stature' - reportedly the tallest office building in the state at the time of its construction in 1905. Although one sources states that the Trust Building was designed by Hill C. Linthicum, a Durham architect, more definitive sources point to Hook and Sawyer, Charlotte architects who designed the Academy of Music, Southern Conservatory of Music, and Fire Station #2 in Durham. The building was constructed by Norman Underwood, and featured Durham's first elevator.


The Trust Building, soon after construction.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

The major tenants for the building for many years were the Fidelity Bank, presided over by Benjamin Duke until his death in 1920, (his houses, 'The Terrace' and 'Four Acres' have been previously profiled) and the Home Savings Bank, established in 1904 by George W Watts, and John Sprunt Hill. The Fidelity was located to the right of the main entrance, the Home Savings Bank to the left. Multiple office tenants took space upstairs.

The Fidelity Bank moved to the Geer Building in 1915, and the Home Savings Bank later located on the former site of the Center Theater, at East Chapel Hill St. and Holland St.

While the Trust Building stood alone amongst the surrounding 2 to 2 1/2 story structures initially, other impressive structures, such as the old post office, the First National Bank Building, and the Geer Building soon followed.


Above, the Trust Building, behind the old post office and south of the Academy of Music, early 1920s.


Above, the Trust Building amongst its peers, late 1920s.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)


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

Below, a view of the eastern facade of the Trust Building, taken from behind the old post office, looking west.


(Courtesy Duke Archives)

In 1932, a sixteen foot deep addition was made to the north side of the building. Designed by Winston-Salem architects Northrup and O'Brien, the modernist/art deco styling of the addition was a stark contrast to the classical details of the original building.


Looking south, ~1932
(Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection - Chamber of Commerce Collection)

The construction of the Hill Building in 1937 unfortunately obscured the architecture of the Trust Building considerably, burying much of the eastern facade. The above picture would not be possible today.

The ground floor of the Trust building was remodeled, apparently when the Hill building was erected, replacing the first floor glass storefront openings with masonry archways.

In the 1960s, the bottom floor underwent further 'modernizing' that befell so many of the buildings downtown, as the quoins on the pilasters were filled in to create a smooth stuccoed surface.


Looking northwest, 1960s
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

The Trust Building, below, mid-1970s.

Fortunately, by the mid-to-late 1990s, the building was bought and renovated - the first floor was improved, although not restored to the original.

(Courtesy Durham County Library)

The Trust Building, 2007.

I've always thought that the Hill building's intrusion on the 'prow' of the Trust building is rather obnoxious architecture. The western end of the 'short portion' of the Hill building could easily have been stepped back a few feet to allow a full view of the curve of the building from the east. It's usually pretty easy to tell when an architect or owner is/was disdainful of a particular building or architectural style; the choice to push the hard edge of the Hill building right up against the Trust building seems a clear display of ego to me.

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/sites/default/files/images/2007_3/firstparrishwhse_1870.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_3/FNB_Parrish_1900.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_3/ejparrishbuilding_1922.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_3/EJParrishbuilding_1920.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_3/ParrishBuilding_SE_1920s.jpg

EJ PARRISH WAREHOUSE (FIRST)

112
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1879
/ Demolished in
1885-1887
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Thu, 07/21/2011 - 10:57pm by gary

Location

United States
35° 59' 43.2348" N, 78° 54' 0.4824" W
US

Comments

112
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1879
/ Demolished in
1885-1887
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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SECOND PARRISH WAREHOUSE

202
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1880s
/ Demolished in
1913
Construction type: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Sat, 07/23/2011 - 11:13pm by gary

Location

35° 59' 43.9224" N, 78° 53' 59.1288" W

Comments

202
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1880s
/ Demolished in
1913
Construction type: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 

Looking northeast from the corner of Parrish St. and N. Mangum St., 1890s
(Courtesy Duke Archives)


(Courtesy Duke Archives)

After his first warehouse on the south side of the 100 block of E. Parrish St. burned in the 1880s, EJ Parrish built a second warehouse that eventually extended most of the length of the block, although it was set back from Mangum St. with a grassy area in front and places to park your mule along the north side of the building.


(Copyright Sanborn Fire Insurance Co.)

Above, the intersection of Parrish, Mangum, Orange, "Hollaway" (now City Hall Place), and North (later Rigsbee, now parking lot) - 1893. Fire Station #1 is located just to the north of the warehouse, and the Parrish building is just to the south. First Baptist Church is located west, across Mangum St.

Below, a fuzzy bird's eye view shows the EJ Parrish building (with some interesting protruding bays on the front that I hadn't previously noticed), the Parrish warehouse, and the first Fire Station #1. Trinity Methodist Church is in the background.


Looking east, 1905.
(From "Images of America: Durham" by Steve Massengill)

By the January 1913, the Parrish warehouse was torn down by RH Wright. He announced that month he would tear down the ware house and begin construction on "six of the handsomest business buildings in the city - four [of which would] face Mangum street while the other two [would] face Parrish street" to be completed before 1914.


Above, looking north from the 100 block of North Mangum St., around 1914. On the right, the EJ Parrish Building, and just beyond that, the northeast corner of Parrish and Mangum. There is a scale outside the front door, and it appears that there is a sign that says _Levin on the Mangum St. side.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

Public Hardware was an early tenant. By 1923, they had moved a few doors east on Parrish St., and this building became the Rogers Drugs Co.


Above, the view looking east-northeast, 1923. Moving left to right, a bit of the First Baptist Church is visible at the left edge of the picture, the first Fire Station #1, Rogers Drug, and the EJ Parrish building. ( I surmise 1923 because Trinity Methodist Church is missing in this picture - it burned in January 1923 and was rebuilt in 1924).
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

The Rogers Drugs Co. was the longstanding occupant of this building during the 20th century, A small view of their sign is visible at the left edge of the shot below, looking east on Parrish St. ~1940.
parrishandmangum_east2.jpeg
(Courtesy Duke Archives)


A shot of the south side of the building looking west down Parrish St., 1950s.
(Courtesy Bob Blake)

The business lasted into the late 1960s.


Above, the Rogers Drugs Co., 1968 - note the multiple building entrances/storefronts.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

A 1970s redo deprived the building of its original windows and much of its variety of entrances on the first floor for a feast of plate glass, but helped meet the wig needs of Durham.


Above, looking northeast, 1979.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

Another redo in 1980 reformulated the entryways with arches and different doors.


Looking northeast, 1979.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)


Looking east down the 100 Block of East Parrish
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

I think this was a Verizon building for a number of years in the 1990s. Most recently it has been occupied by Preservation Durham and the Parrish St. Advocacy Group. It is one of Greenfire's many buildings, and they are in the midst of a renovation of this building, fire station #1, and 107 E. Parrish St. (adjacent to this building on E. Parrish St.)


Looking northeast, 2007

Update 4/21/09:

Greenfire appears to have nearly completed renovations on the old Rogers' drugstore, and has "For Lease" signs up. They've done a marvelous job with the exterior, returning to the original form windows, which elicits a sigh of relief after looking at this structure with terrible solid 1980s tinted windows for decades.


Looking northeast, 04.14.09.

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/sites/default/files/images/2007_7/planterswarehouse_1960s.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_7/planterswarehouse_interior_1905.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_7/planterswh_1905.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_7/planters_aerial_1924.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_7/NE_aerial_1960.jpg

PLANTERS WAREHOUSE

406
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1876
/ Demolished in
1962
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Sun, 01/22/2012 - 11:34am by gary

Location

United States
35° 59' 47.562" N, 78° 53' 53.8584" W
US

Comments

406
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1876
/ Demolished in
1962
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 

 

The interior of the Planters Warehouse, 1905.

The Planters Warehouse was one of the earliest brick tobacco warehouses in Durham, built in 1876. As the tobacco trade grew in and around Durham, the need for an active tobacco market in Durham - where farmers would come with their crop and auction to the highest bidder - became increasingly necessary. The Planters, Reams, Parrish, and Banner warehouses were among the first - large buildings that had roofs stippled with dozens of skylights that allowed buyers to inspect the tobacco leave


Probable view of the Planters Warehouse - looking east from Mangum St., 1905.
(Duke Archives - Wyatt Dixon Collection)

The above picture does not resemble the version in 1920s and later photographs, but is labelled as the view east on East Chapel Hill St. from Mangum St. The warehouse may have been remodeled in the early 20th century. The windows on the building at the right extreme do match the building that was adjacent to the warehouse.

As the central area of downtown grew (in large part due to all of that tobacco money) many of the early warehouses, such as the Reams and Parrish, were torn down to make way for other commercial buildings. The next generation of warehouses grew along Rigsbee Avenue, near the Banner Warehouse.

The Planters warehouse remained, however - a bit closer to the heart of downtown than the district north of Morgan.


The Planters warehouse roof, looking northwest (the current sanctuary of Trinity Methodist is under construction) 1924.

Looking northeast, ~1960.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

Looking east-southeast down East Chapel Hill St. from North Mangum. ~1960.


Looking south, from N. Mangum, 1961.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

In 1962, the Planters warehouse burned to the ground.


Looking northeast from the site, with the Fuller School and First Baptist Church in the background.

After the city bulldozed the buildings at the southeast corner of North Mangum and East Chapel Hill, the remainder of the site became surface parking.


Looking north-northwest.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

Some of the land formerly occupied by the Planters warehouse was taken over by a new roadway connecting Holloway St. with East Chapel Hill St. - a roadway that was a precursor to the Loop.


Looking northwest, 1963

You can see the McGhee Furniture building at the southeast corner of N Mangum and East Chapel Hill is still standing in the above picture.


Looking northwest, 1963

Soon thereafter, the remainder of the buildings on this side of the block were demolished.


Looking west towards the remainder of downtown.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

Above, the new roadway, dividing the block. The eastern portion of the block would become the new fire station #1. The western portion would become a new police station.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)


The police station under construction, looking north-northeast, 1964
(Courtesy Durham County Library)


Nearly complete, looking north-northeast, 1965.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)


A grainy but fascinating aerial shot, 1972, showing the halfway-done urban renewal on the east side, the pre-loop new connector between Holloway and East Chapel Hill, and the police station.


Looking southwest from East Chapel Hill, 1978.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

The police station is currently City Hall Annex, silently rebuking East Chapel Hill St.

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/sites/default/files/images/2007_5/starbrick_1940.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_5/northeast_aerial_1924.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_5/NE_from_washduke_1940.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_5/starbrick_1940.jpgstarwarehouse_entrance1.jpg

STAR BRICK WAREHOUSE

302-308
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1920s
/ Demolished in
1960s-1970s
Construction type: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Wed, 05/02/2012 - 9:49pm by gary

Location

35° 59' 53.9592" N, 78° 53' 58.8804" W

Comments

302-308
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1920s
/ Demolished in
1960s-1970s
Construction type: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 

Although our new ubiquitous 'wayfinding' (to use the earnest planning lingo) signs proclaim the area of the Liggett redevelopment as the "Warehouse District", the real warehouse district in Durham stretched along both sides of Rigsbee Ave., north of Morgan St.

The view in 1924, looking northwest. The two very large brick warehouses straddle Rigsbee - the Big 4 Warehouse on the left and the Star Brick Warehouse on the right.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

These were the warehouses where the real commerce of the tobacco industry took place - hundreds of farmers coming to market and buyers purchasing the tobacco at auction.

The warehouse district expanded to include most of the area we now deem 'Central Park'


Looking northeast from the Washington Duke Hotel, 1940 - East Chapel Hill St. is in the foreground. Tobacco warehouses cover the landscape north of Morgan St.
(Courtesy Library of Congress)

Below, the entrance of the Star Brick Warehouse - looking northeast from Morgan and Rigsbee, 1940.

(Courtesy Library of Congress)

starwarehouse_entrance1.jpg

A better, closer view of the entrance

(Courtesy Library of Congress - FSA collection)
In 1944, the Big 4 warehouse burned in a protest over the acquittal of the murderer of Private Booker T. Spicely. The Star Brick warehouse survived the fire.

Below, another view northeast, 1960.


(Courtesy Duke Archives)

The warehouses - with the exception of the Liberty - were torn down during the 1960s-1980s - not by urban renewal, but just by changes in the marketplace. From the Surgeon's General Warning in 1964 onward, the health consequences of tobacco became clear, and its fortune (and that of those who dealt in it) faded.

Never fear, though - we southerners don't give up a slow death that easily.


Looking northeast, 2007.

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big4warehouse_entry_W_1939.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_5/200morgannorth_1924.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_5/banner_big4_frmWD_1940.jpgBig4WH_WonMorgan_1939.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2013_11/big4_2_1938.jpg

BIG 4 WAREHOUSE - MORGAN AND RIGSBEE

200-210
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1910-1920
/ Demolished in
1944
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Wed, 11/06/2013 - 3:16pm by gary

Location

35° 59' 54.2472" N, 78° 54' 1.0476" W

Comments

200-210
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1910-1920
/ Demolished in
1944
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 

big4warehouse_entry_W_1939.jpg
Looking northwest from Rigsbee Ave. and Morgan.
(Courtesy Library of Congress)

The north side of Morgan St. east of Foster St. was the southern extent of the early 20th century tobacco warehouse district, which extended northward along Rigsbee Ave.


Above, looking north-northwest, 1924. Rigsbee and East Chapel Hill St. are in the foreground, and Morgan St. is the next east-west street to the north. Two large warehouses are to the west of Rigsbee Ave., separated by two small houses. One is labelled "Cozart" and "Big 4" - the other is the Banner Warehouse.


Another view of the warehouse district, significantly expanded, 1940.
(Courtesy Library of Congress)

Big4WH_WonMorgan_1939.jpg
Looking west up Morgan from near Rigsbee Ave.
(Courtesy Library of Congress)

1938 (Library of Congress)

Corner_RigsbeeandMorgan_gocart_1939.jpg

Looking south-southwest - the Big 4 warehouse is to the right.

According to newspaper accounts, around 9pm on July 8, 1944 a fire started in the the basement of the Big Four warehouse, where furniture was being stored. In less than three houses all but one building remained in the block - 0,000 in downtown property was destroyed. According to Charlotte Observer, July 9, 1944, "Other establishments burned to earth included the Central leaf redrying plant and the Dillard livery stables, where 12 cows and four horses burned to death."


Above, the view from ~Seminary St. looking south. The structures on the south side of the 200 block of Morgan St. are visible beyond the burned structure.

Both Tim Tyson and Christina Greene have postulated that the fire resulted from protests on the night of the murder of Booker T. Spicely - he was shot and killed by bus driver Herman Council earlier that day. 

There is no mention in the newspapers - either Charlotte or Durham - of soldiers called from Butner that night, protests, violence, etc - even though they report on the murder of Spicely as well. It's doubtful that such a riot would have occurred the night of the murder - rather that upon Council's acquittal several months later. It's particularly dubious that a race riot, mobilization of Butner soliders, etc. would occur with no mention in the papers.  Unfortunately, the Carolina Times from that era is lost. Greene does not source her statements; I don't own Tyson's book to check his source for the assertion.

It's also particularly dubious that, if a mob was going to start a fire to destroy white-owned businesses, they would choose one big brick tobacco warehouse. The bulk of Durham's African-American population would have had to come from Hayti, across white-owned downtown, and past white-owned factories, where they could have inflicted far more extensive damage

Sometime during the 1950s, two car related businesses, Midtown Motors and Goodyear, opened on the site.


212-222 Morgan, looking northwest, 1966.


200-210 Morgan, looking northwest, 1966

These were still in operation in 1987.

Looking northeast from the Hill (CCB/Suntrust) Building.

Midtown motors was torn down during the 1990s, and the Goodyear building persists in a more eye-catching form.

Looking northwest, 2007.

The 'fire view', looking south from ~Seminary
rigsbeefirefromseminary_2007.jpeg

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LIBERTY WAREHOUSE NO 1 / STAR WAREHOUSE NO. 2

400-408
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1930-1935
/ Demolished in
1999
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Thu, 01/16/2014 - 5:00pm by gary

Location

35° 59' 57.8796" N, 78° 53' 57.1236" W

Comments

400-408
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1930-1935
/ Demolished in
1999
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 


Looking east from Rigsbee Ave. and Seminary St., 1940
(Courtesy Library of Congress)

The original Liberty Warehouse was located at the northeast corner of Rigsbee Avenue and Seminary St. The warehouse was constructed in the early 1930s, and operated by Satterfield and Stone.


Looking north up Rigsbee Ave. from Seminary St., 1940. The Roycroft warehouse is on the left.
(Courtesy Library of Congress)

The original Liberty Cafe was part of this warehouse as well, opening out onto Rigsbee Ave.


Liberty Cafe, 1940.
(Courtesy Library of Congress)


Liberty Cafe, 1940.
(Courtesy Library of Congress)


Looking north on Rigsbee Ave. from near Morgan - the Liberty Warehouse is to the right.
(Courtesy the Herald-Sun)


Tobacco Warehouse Interior Shot (don't know for certain that this was the Liberty.)

After construction of the newer Liberty Warehouse at Corporation St. and Rigsbee Ave., the former Liberty became part of the expansion of the Currin and Cozart Star Warehouse. The original Star Brick Warehouse was located in the block immediately to the south.


Warehouses, 1959.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

Originally the No. 2 warehouse, by the 1960s, this building had become the No. 1 and No. 2 warehouses.


Looking northeast, 07.04.64.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

Although it appears that the warehouse was defunct by the 1970s, the building was still in existence in 1987.


Looking north-northeast, 1986.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

(Photo by George Pyne, courtesy Milo Pyne)


Looking west down Seminary St., 1987 - the Star warehouse is on the right.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

This next-to-last tobacco auction warehouse was torn down in 1999. Utilizing 2001 bond funding, the county constructed a .5 million "Center for Senior Life" on the former site of the warehouse, which opened in 2006.


Looking northeast, 06.07.08

Soon after it opened, people decried its low utilization. Part of this may have been attributable to difficulty completing construction of areas such as the center kitchen. I've heard little about the center since then; from outward appearances, I see little activity. The architecture of the center is adequate - although it's set way too far back from the street in my opinion, with a large lawn of questionable utility in front. At the very least, they avoided the seemingly insatiable urge to stick parking in front of the building, and it is oriented towards the street.
 

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/sites/default/files/images/2008_7/roycroft_100247.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2008_7/seminary_w_1940.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2008_7/rigsbee_N_roycroft_1940.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2008_7/roycroft_sale_nnw_1940.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2008_7/roycroft_sale_NNE_1940.jpg

ROYCROFT WAREHOUSE

401
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1928
/ Demolished in
1987
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Tue, 04/03/2012 - 12:00pm by gary

Location

35° 59' 58.6716" N, 78° 54' 2.3544" W

Comments

401
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1928
/ Demolished in
1987
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 


Sale day, 1940. Looking northwest from Rigsbee Ave. and Seminary St.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

The Roycroft Warehouse was one of a series of extremely large warehouses that covered the area north/northeast of downtown Durham. I've previously covered several of the major warehouses, including the Big 4 and Banner Warehouses, destroyed in the conflagration following the acquittal of Private Booker Spicely's murderer, as well as the Star Brick Warehouse and Planters Warehouse. These warehouses were a second and third generation of sales warehouses,having supplanted Parrish's Warehouse, the Globe Warehouse, the Reams warehouse, and others.

These warehouses were the site of the tobacco auctions - where farmers would come to market and sell their tobacco - as such, the auctions were seasonal events - predictable and yet exciting. The first tobacco auction in Durham was held on May 18, 1871 in the Reams Warehouse, which stood on the present-day American Tobacco Campus. The auction allowed farmers to sell to multiple factories and factories to buy from multiple farmers - at the same time. I very much recommend this brief video clip on YouTube from a documentary about tobacco auctioneers. I believe I first saw this linked on Whig Hill.

The Roycroft No.1 and No.2 covered the entire large block between Foster St., Seminary St., Rigsbee Ave., and Hunt St.

In 1951, the Roycroft was noted to be the "oldest tobacco warehouse to be operated continuously by the same family." Henry Roycroft started in tobacco sales in 1895 in Rocky Mount, operating a tobacco during the same period. He came to Durham in 1910, still engaged in both 'warehousing' and farming. In 1928, he went into business for himself under the Roycroft name along with his son Marvin Roycroft.


Sale day, 1940 - looking west on Seminary St.
(Courtesy Library of Congress)


Sale day, 1940, looking north-northwest on Rigbsee Ave. from near Seminary St. Evidently the man wearing the sign lost a Duke-Carolina bet and is wheeling the Duke fan around in a wheelbarrow.
(Courtesy Library of Congress)


Sale day, 1940. Looking northwest from Rigsbee Ave. and Seminary St.
(Courtesy Library of Congress)


Sale day, 1940. Looking north-northeast from Rigsbee Ave. and Seminary St.
(Courtesy Library of Congress)


Sale day, 1940. Looking northwest from Rigsbee Ave. and Seminary St.
(Courtesy Library of Congress)


Looking west-northwest down Seminary St. towards the Roycroft Warehouse, 1940s.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)


Annotated aerial of the warehouse district, 1959. I've also marked the location of the Banner and Big 4 warehouses, which burned in 1944.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

Some photos below of a partial roof collapse after a snowstorm in 1960:

roycroftwhsecollapse_3_031160.jpg

03.11.60 (Courtesy Herald-Sun)

roycroftwhsecollapse_2_031160.jpg

03.11.60 (Courtesy Herald-Sun)

roycroftwhsecollapse_031160.jpg

03.11.60 (Courtesy Herald-Sun)

roycroftwhsecollapse_4_031160.jpg

03.11.60 (Courtesy Herald-Sun)


Looking northwest, 08.21.61.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)


Blurry shot of the No. 2 entrance to the Roycroft, looking south-southwest on Rigsbee Ave.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

By the 1960s, tobacco and the auctions were on the decline. Both the general decrease in the demand for tobacco and an ongoing shift from auction sales to direct sales (from farmer to manufacturer) meant a slow ebb of the seasonal tobacco auctions.


Tobacco being brought to auction in the back of pickup, 08.27.68
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

I've been trying to nail down the date when tobacco auctions ceased in Durham - the only date I've found, associated with the Liberty Warehouse, is 1984. The Roycroft warehouse was still in existence in 1987.


Looking north on Foster St. from the Hill Building, 1986
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)


Looking west down Seminary St., 1987
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

But it was purchased and demolished for parking when the Blue Monster, i.e. the Durham Center was constructed in 1987.


Looking southwest at the Roycroft being torn down, 1987.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

It remains an immense surface parking lot, which last year served as the Centerfest tarmac. I'm certainly of the opinion that the brouhaha around this Central Park area will never amount to too much while this much open asphalt is still at the center of the landscape.


Looking northwest from Seminary St. and Rigsbee Ave., 07.06.08


Looking west down Seminary St., 07.06.08.

More broadly, and this is a recurring theme as I examine the tobacco warehouses, it seems a shame that such a vibrant part of Durham's cultural vitality has been consigned to the bin of shame with the Folium Non Grata. We should be able to celebrate the cultural history of a community that followed the rhythm of the tobacco harvest without worrying that such celebration is unseemly because of the personal and public health toll of tobacco use. The collapsing of the chronology of tobacco, casting a negative light over the lives and joy of generations of people who lived in the early to mid-20th century is rather unfair. We should hope to be luckier than to have our joys and culture caught in a reductionist swath of righteous indignation that subsequent generations will undoubtedly heap upon ours.

It takes nothing away from the myriad public health campaigns, policy measures, personal appeals, educational programs, etc. to find beauty in the cadence of the auctioneer's voice or humor in the pictures of the lost bet on a Duke-Carolina game, above - pictures entirely of people who bought and sold tobacco for their livelihood.

The Duke Homestead certainly does a fine job preserving these aspects of Durham culture, and I believe that they have an annual festival (including a mock auction). I've never been, but it looks like it's September 6 this year. Moving forward, I hope we can find ways to integrate this historical context into more central-Durham events. I'm not suggesting that we restart the yearly Tobacco Jubilee and Parade, but tobacco was, after all, Durham's raison d'etre. I doubt very much that anything we love about Durham would be in Durham without it.
 

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BannerWarehouse_Morgan_1910.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_5/200morgannorth_1924.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2007_5/banner_big4_frmWD_1940.jpgbannerwarehouse_1939.jpgbannerwarehouse_2_1939.jpg

BANNER WAREHOUSE (MORGAN STREET)

216-220
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1905
/ Demolished in
1944
People: 
Construction type: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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Last updated

  • Wed, 05/02/2012 - 10:53pm by gary

Location

United States
35° 59' 53.8188" N, 78° 54' 3.1176" W
US

Comments

216-220
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1905
/ Demolished in
1944
People: 
Construction type: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 

BannerWarehouse_Morgan_1910.jpg

Banner Warehouse, 1910

The Banner warehouse was established on West Main Street in the 1880s, moving to Watkins (Morgan) Street in 1903. From the 1910 Durham Illustrated:

Since the establishment of the first tobacco sales warehouse in 1871, this industry has grown every year more important. In 1903, JA Warren and Maynard Mangum established their business at the Banner Warehouse, and it has become an important center in this great industry. The building is a large frame structure 120 by 200 feet in dimensions, and is conveniently situated at 212- 214 Watkins Street. Every accommodation is afforded growers and planters, and with ample floor space for the display and sale of thousands of pounds of leaf, this is a popular spot with a large number of the planters of this district. Sales, which, are held daily, are attended by representatives of all the largest tobacco buyers-many out of town manufacturers and dealers having their buyers here. the year around. This insures a lively competition, and as a result prices are the best. Both partners of this business are prominent in Durham's commercial circles. J. A. Warren is Cashier of the business. and is interested in many of the city's most important enterprises. Maynard Mangum, the Sales Manager been resident here since 1892, and is an experienced man in the tobacco trade. He is himself an expert judge of leaf and knows the warehouse business clear through, from top to bottom. He has the reputation of securing for his customers the best possible prices, and he holds the respect and confidence of both grower and buyer.  

 

 

The north side of Morgan St. east of Foster St. was the southern extent of the early 20th century tobacco warehouse district, which extended northward along Rigsbee Ave.


Above, looking north-northwest, 1924. Rigsbee and East Chapel Hill St. are in the foreground, and Morgan St. is the next east-west street to the north. Two large warehouses are to the west of Rigsbee Ave., separated by two small houses. One is labelled "Cozart" and "Big 4" - the other is the Banner Warehouse.


Another view of the warehouse district, significantly expanded, 1940.
(Courtesy Library of Congress)

bannerwarehouse_1939.jpg(Courtesy LIbrary of Congress)

bannerwarehouse_2_1939.jpg

The Banner Warehouse
Looking west on Morgan from just past (to the west) of the Big 4 warehouse
(Courtesy Library of Congress)

According to newspaper accounts, around 9pm on July 8, 1944 a fire started in the the basement of the Big Four warehouse, where furniture was being stored. In less than three houses all but one building remained in the block - 0,000 in downtown property was destroyed. According to Charlotte Observer, July 9, 1944, "Other establishments burned to earth included the Central leaf redrying plant and the Dillard livery stables, where 12 cows and four horses burned to death."


Above, the view from ~Seminary St. looking south. The structures on the south side of the 200 block of Morgan St. are visible beyond the burned structure.

Sometime during the 1950s-early 1960, two car related businesses, Midtown Motors and Goodyear, opened on the site.


212-222 Morgan, looking northwest, 1966.


200-210 Morgan, looking northwest, 1966

These were still in operation in 1987.

Looking northeast from the Hill (CCB/Suntrust) Building.

Midtown motors was torn down during the 1990s, and the Goodyear building persists in a more eye-catching form.

Looking northwest, 2007.

The 'fire view', looking south from ~Seminary
rigsbeefirefromseminary_2007.jpeg

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/sites/default/files/images/2008_7/magnumwarehouses_W_1940.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2008_7/warehousedistrict_labels_1959.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2008_7/MangumWarehouse_090263.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2008_7/MangumWarehouse_082161.jpg/sites/default/files/images/2008_7/MangumWH_SW_1987.jpg

MANGUM WAREHOUSE

507-509
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1937-1940
/ Demolished in
1970s-1985
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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Last updated

  • Thu, 08/04/2011 - 10:03pm by gary

Location

36° 0' 2.2968" N, 78° 54' 2.5776" W

Comments

507-509
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1937-1940
/ Demolished in
1970s-1985
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 


Mangum Warehouse, looking west from Broadway St., 1940.
(Courtesy Library of Congress)

The Mangum Warehouses (No.1 and No.2) were built between 1937 and 1940 on sloping terrain to the north of the earlier tobacco warehouses. The Rigsbee Ave. frontage was, prior to construction of the warehouse, residential.


Warehouse district, 1959.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

Like the Liberty, the Mangum initially included a cafe, although by the 1960s, this had given way to one of several farmers' supply stores in the warehouse area.


Looking southwest, 09.02.63.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)


Looking northwest, 08.21.61
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

The Mangum Warehouse had been torn down by the mid-1980s.


Looking southwest from Rigsbee Ave., 1987
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

The land remained empty for ~20 years. By the mid-1990s, several volunteers had begun to conceive of the concept of Durham Central Park, which would utilize the former site of the Mangum Warehouse, as well as vacant land to the west of Foster St. to create an urban park.

From a perusal of their master plan, it appears that there is significant work yet to be done on the former Mangum site, particularly near Rigsbee Ave. It presents a pleasant lawn at this point with the bridge and open portion of the creek at the lower end of the slope as a distinctive feature. I personally keep hoping for some piece of additional definition that will help make it feel more park-ish to me, but the urban green is a nice addition to downtown.


Former Mangum Warehouse site, looking northwest from Rigsbee Ave., 06.07.08.


Former Mangum Warehouse Site / Central Park lawn and pavilion, looking northwest, 06.08.08. Hard to completely understand, looking at this grade, how the warehouse might have been configured on the interior.

36.000638 -78.900716

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LIBERTY WAREHOUSE (NO. 3)

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

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

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  • Thu, 08/28/2014 - 4:42pm by gary

Location

36° 0' 5.7312" N, 78° 54' 1.8252" W

Comments

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

 


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

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


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


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

libertywhs_1970.jpg

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

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


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

(Photo by George Pyne, courtesy Milo Pyne)

The Liberty was purchased by Greenfire Development in October 2006.


Looking southwest, 06.07.08

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

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

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

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


(WTVD)

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


Portion of the collapsed roof, 05.21.11


Same area from Foster St., 05.21.11

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

Update - 09.12.12

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

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

Liberty_greenfire.jpeg

(Greenfire Development / News and Observer)

 

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

By Cliff Bellamy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update May 2013.

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

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

 

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

From the Herald Sun on 1.23.14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

----

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

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

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

Update, July 2014:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

07.31.2014 (Photo by G. Kueber)

07.31.2014 (Photo by G. Kueber)

07.31.2014 (Photo by G. Kueber)

07.31.2014 (Photo by G. Kueber)

07.31.2014 (Photo by G. Kueber)

08.28.14 (Photo by G. Kueber)

08.28.14 (Photo by G. Kueber)

08.28.14 (Photo by G. Kueber)

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