111 North Duke St.

35.999882, -78.908163

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Looking northwest at the later intersection of Duke and Main, 1890.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection

The area around the Duke & Sons tobacco factory still had quite an agrarian feel to it into the 1890s; only the factory itself and Fairview, Washington Duke's mansion at the left edge of the picture, betray something more afoot.

In the above Picture, Duke St. barely extends north of Main St. (it's on the far side of Fairview). The "Duke" name appears to have arisen from the fact that the street north of Main led (ended) at Brodie Duke's house and large estate one block north.

It was Brodie Duke - the least discussed and rather eccentric (and not uncommonly inebriated) Duke brother - who amassed the most significant real estate holdings in Durham or any of the Duke family. The undeveloped area northwest of the intersection of Duke and Main was one of his holdings, and one he donated for the first playground in Durham.

Looking west-southwest from Duke Street toward Main. The Main St. Christian Church is in the background. - circa 1910.
(Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection / Digital Durham)

Looking northeast towards the Toms and Hicks warehouses
(Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection)

By the 1920s, though, the playground had been developed into a series of buildings, including the Durham Ice Cream Company, Pashcall's Bakery, and a Studebaker dealership.

The dealership was built in 1928, and was intially called "Henry's Motor Sales." It didn't last for long, though - it appears to have closed around 1930. It became Brown's Auto Supply on July 1, 1943, described as "wholesale automotive replacement parts jobbers and automotive machine shop services," as seen in this 1948 photo.

Looking northwest, 1948.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

It remained an auto-related venue into the 1980s; the adjacent car lot filled in with a Dodge service building.

During the 1980s, some portion of the building was used as Brunson's TV/appliance repair center/electronics store. Brunson's was located on the northwest corner of Duke and West Main.

Looking northwest from N. Duke, 1981.
(Courtesy Robby Delius)

It appears that it also became Lane's Auto Supply at some point, as seen from the below shot of the rear of the building. I don't know if this followed or preceded Brunson's use of the building.

The two buildings from the rear, looking southeast, 1985
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

In the late 1980s, the Studebaker building became part of a restaurant 'complex' along with the building next door, the former Pachall's Bakery Building. You can read more at that post about the series of failed restaurants to occupy these spaces, but the sequence began with the Weeping Radish, followed by Old Heidelberg Village.

Looking at the rear of the Studebaker Building, 08.11.92
(Courtesy The Herald Sun)

Things have gone upscale as of late. The Studebaker building has been renovated into office space for Ogilvy, an advertising agency. The utilitarian Dodge Service building next door has become a private garage for an RTP CEO's personal Porsche collection - and I used to get my car fixed in that building.

Studebaker (Ogilvy) and the Palais de Porsche, 12.17.07

The adjacent building, 115 N. Duke St., was destroyed on April 10, 2019 when a 2" gas line was hit during construction, badly damaging 111 N Duke St. as well.

Screen grab from the News and Observer (https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/article226255170.html)



brilliant photo - kids standing still on swings on a hill - sure cure - no dope - 12 kids per slide - tobacco shed - no fire ants - nice elm


Interesting -- I wonder if it's safe to assume that the (failed) developers of "The Playground" recreation/bar/whatever venue had this history in mind when they started their effort to renovate northernmost section of this building set.

If you drive down Morgan St., you can see the white patch of paint on the northern wall where "ThePlayground.com" (or something like that) used to be painted in several colors.

I remember seeing some of the presumed developers walking the property with some of their contractors, a year or two ago. I feel for their expired dreams.

The windows in this building now say "for rent."

I used to joke that the land must have been some old Indian burial ground, which would explain why businesses there always failed -- from the Weeping Radish to Steve and Clark's and whatever else was before/after/in-between.


Pretty cool, huh? I have one more pic of it that I'll use next week.


Ya know, that's pretty interesting; I never considered that the Playground non-starter might have actually known about the original playground (perhaps because, at the time that sign persisted for a year or so with no follow-through, I didn't know about the playground.) Maybe so - or maybe just coincidence.

I'll talk about the long series of restaurants in the next building to the north next week.


In the last photo dated 12-17-07, the mauve looking building was part of the Dodge dealership that face Main St. The building next to it on the corner of Main and Duke Streets was Brunson's Inc. Brunsons was the largest appliance/TV dealership in the area . They moved from Chapel Hill street in late 1960's when the Express Way was starting construction . I belive they stayed in business until the early 1980's .Brunson's also had several other stores , including a tire/auto repair on Main St and one on Morgan. They also hadseveral others. The building with the Studebaker sign facing Duke St, was Brunson's TV/apllicane repair center( again the largets in the area0 from the early 1970's until Brunson's closed . It would be nice to see you do a story on Brunson's since they were in business a long time and were the largest of it's kind in the Durham area.

there is some coverage of Brunson's/Durham Ice Cream, back in 2006:

I am curious as to why the street-level spaces in the Studebaker and adjacent building to the north are still vacant. Although, it seems as far back as I can remember (growing up on Englewood in the early 1980s) those buildings seemed to be a revolving door for retail/restaurant tenants.

Finally, I have to than the dearly-departed (?) Blazer Manpurse for identifying 114 N. Duke Street, the "Ingram Collection." I am curious as to how much enjoyment Bob can get out his "rare" Porsches, given the condition of most of Durham's surface streets and the steep gutter cuts that this city seems to pride itself in.

Anonymous 2:

As "duke university" mentioned, I covered the Durham Ice Cream company building that housed Brunson's at this post.

although I didn't know much about the store, so thanks for the additional info. Feel free to email me with more. I also covered their W. Chapel Hill St. Building here.

Just an additional note - from time to time I've had people comment that I neglected their favored business or spot. I assure you that I don't seek to give short shrift to any particular use of a buiding. If I didn't mention something, I probably don't know about it - and I welcome the additional info from folks in the community to help fill in gaps in my knowledge.

By "Dodge Dealership on Main St." do you mean the current Fishmonger's building?


Although I think the developers of these two huge interconnected buildings had the right idea to split the space up for multiple tenants, I think it's been difficult to fill up those ground floor retail spaces for several reasons.

There is no off-street parking dedicated to this building and very little adjacent on-street parking (a few spaces on Duke, none on Morgan). Prospective retail and restaurant tenants want convenient parking, and the owners of Brightleaf Square have it all locked up.

This block of Duke Street is also a virtual no man's land. You've got the blank walls of the now vacant Liggett research lab on the east side and the ass end of Toreros - with ever present bags of trash, grease receptacle etc. - on the west. The exotic car collection/private garage or whatever it isn't particularly welcoming or interesting either.

You'd think there would be a lot of foot traffic from Bullington and West Village to Brightleaf/J.Joyce/Federal down this block, but I don't ever see it. I think pedestrians avoid this dead zone and cut through the parking lot to the west.

It will be interesting to see what impacts the renovation of the research lab and the West Village streetscape project have here.

Gary , I had not seen your previous covers for Brunson's . You do a great job with this site . I visit most evry day . I grew up in Durham and it informs me and brings back memories lost . I didn't mean to infer that you did not cover something, just trying to bring information to light.
Fishmongers was the main street site of the showroom for the Dodge dealership. Also the last building in the group was JM Mathis co. It sold to small stores things like candy ,cigars ect."Anonymos 2"

The Dodge dealership was Ilderton Dodge. As I recall, it went out of business in the seventies when Chrysler itself nearly went bankrupt and was saved by a federal bailout. As usual, I could be off on the timing.

Sorry, I didn't realize that I was signed in under a Google-Analytics account, for work. Obviously, I was not speaking on behalf of Duke, it's administrators or students. (Oops)

'Anon 2'

Thanks - and thank you again for the additional info - I've updated this post and the Durham Ice Cream one with what you provided me. No negativity intended - I just want folks to know that I certainly don't miss things/not cover things intentionally.


The current Duke St streetscape (the stretch from the Duke St side of Torerros and down to the intersection at the DSS) is a posterchild for why underground electric utilities are important. This particular photo doesn't show the real ugliness of it. Next time you ride down there, look up above the grease bins and the dumpster, and you will see what I'm talking about. It's a real eyesore.


I love reading your blog - it's really neat to see the rich history of Durham laid out in buildings and pictures. It might be helpful for some of us who are newer to the area to have a small map... it would help me visualize exactly where you are talking about to compare to what is now there! Thanks!


On newer posts than this, I post a link to a google map of the location. I haven't gone back to the older posts to add this. You can also use the "Endangered Durham Map" on the sidebar to see all posts geographically.


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