119 East Main Street

35.994733, -78.899852

Construction type
Local historic district
National Register
Building Type
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Looking northeast from the south side of the 100 block of East Main St., 1890s.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

The first brick structures on the north side of the 100 block of East Main St. were built during late 1880s-early 1890s, including the midblock structures of 113-119 E. Main. 119 East Main notably included the Rawls Store, which later became the Rawls-Knight department store.

By the 1910s, the Rawls-Knight store had moved to 114 West Main St. and 119 East Main was occupied by the Royal Cafe, a popular establishment ("For Ladies and Gents" with "Quick Service," "Day and Night.")

Looking northwest, ~1915. The Uptown movie theater is at the right. I can only make out "Poteat" on the facade of 117 E. Main, and haven't been able to correlate that with a business yet.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

In the early 1920s, 113-117 East Main was torn down and replaced with two new structures. 113-115 East Main was built in a style similar to others of the period in downtown Durham - a brick facade with small stone inlays - still present on buildings at Five Points and on West Chapel Hill St.

Looking northwest, 1924.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

119 remained the Royal Cafe through the early 1930s, when it became the G&T Cafe.

Looking northwest, late 1930s

1934 G&T Cafe calendar card (Courtesy of Christopher Goodwin)


By 1940, it had become the Durham Book and Stationery Co., and by 1944, The WR Murray Co. had a presence there.

Looking west, northwest, 1940 (nothing like a movie title to help me pin down a date.)
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

It remained there through the 1950s. In 1960, the building was vacant. It then became the "Wee Shop"



In the 1960s, all of the structures in this block to the east of 119 burned and were torn down, leaving an island of three structures.

Looking northwest, 2007.

119 East Main (the white building,) the oldest structure here, (modified with replacement window badness) contains law offices. These buildings are a great contribution to a walkable streetscape - there are just too few of them left in this block.



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