The intersection of S. Alston Ave. and Angier Ave., looking northwest from ~the railroad tracks. The intersection of E. Main and S. Alston is in the background. Taken sometime in the 1950s.
As Angier Avenue follows the railroad tracks and the southeast-northwest ridgeline they sit upon (while E. Main St. tracks in a more easterly direction) the streetcars of the early 20th century followed this path as well - heading east on E. Main St. until reaching Alston Ave. At that point, they would turn south for a block before turning east again on Angier Avenue.
This area became small commercial nexus - at the turn of the line, and at the border between Edgemont and East Durham. On the southeast corner sat (and sits) the Branson Memorial Methodist Church while commercial enterprises occupied the other corners.
This area faded along with the other neighborhood commercial areas. Ironically, the beginning of this commercial transformation is visible to the northeast - in the form of a new supermarket.
Today, although the church remains in good repair, commercial structures have disappeared from the western corners. Abandoned structures remain on the northwest corner.
Looking northeast from S. Alston and Angier, 2007.
Folks have been chomping at the bit to tear these buildings down. The city's RKG report - which I belatedly came to realize informs quite a bit of our decision-making - wholeheartedly endorses making these buildings go away. Frankly, I think right now the only reason they are still standing is that perhaps the city hoped the state would pay to get rid of them in widening Alston Ave.
As you would expect, I think it's a mistake to get rid of these buildings. What I really can't understand sometimes in Durham is an odd pairing of mercantile boosterism with a complete lack of faith in the market to turn buildings like this around. Given the huge investments being made around this by HOPE VI (which is about to build several dozen single family homes 1-2 blocks to the west,) the city, and private developers, why would you believe that this needs to be destroyed? To my way of thinking, if you create stable neighborhoods and amenities around this, then people will want to live and work in this area. That's when people see these buildings as an opportunity.
That isn't to say they aren't a problem. The roof is collapsed on one of them, and they've been empty quite awhile. The owner that lives either out on Hollow Rock Rd. or in Trinity Park should be getting spanked with hefty fines for keeping them in this kind of condition. One would hope that would prod them to either 1) fix them up or 2) be appropriately motivated to sell them to someone who would.
In September 2011, a few weeks after acquisition by the Durham Rescue Mission, 1205-1207 was demolished.
09.12.11 - 1201-1203 Angier is almost completely down, with 1205-1207 coming down.
The aerial photo at the top of this page was the subject of a What's It Wednesday?! post on Open Durham's social media accounts (Facebook and Instagram), the week of June 12, 2019. Follow us and stay tuned for more finds!
Submitted by Phil (not verified) on Fri, 11/2/2007 - 3:14am
I used to drive the length of Angier Ave. daily (when I was taking care of a friend who we had moved out to way-east-Angier). That drive took me past the one-day-maybe-beautiful-again Angier/Driver business district, and then to this corner.
There's so so much that could be done again along Angier. And I'm not just talking about finding the prostitutes a better way of living.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/2/2007 - 1:04pm
It is too bad about their condition, and the owners should either have to sell them or have them taken away from them. Commercial structures in Durham's value/prices are going through the roof [no pun intended with this structure!], and even this area will one day be expensive.
I still feel that the main reason Durham's bureaucrats are so short-sighted about wanting historic structures torn down is that Mayor Billy has created a culture (so to speak) of getting old buildings torn down, mainly thanks to his employment with UDI.
Submitted by John Schelp (not verified) on Fri, 11/2/2007 - 1:29pm
Today's Herald-Sun has an article on the new use for the Citizens National Bank (East Main & Mangum).
Photo credit goes to... Endangered Durham. :)
Family & Youth Services bought the 10,000 sq ft building for $1 million on Wednesday.
Submitted by Gary (not verified) on Fri, 11/2/2007 - 10:28pm
Indeed - what's left of it. I just hope someone can put the brakes on the insatiable desire to demolish out here. It's so odd to me to recapitulate the same mistake. Perhaps the commercial area at Angier and Driver will be spared - but we're turning it into an island.
No doubt we have a culture of demolition in Durham, and a lot of suburbanites in office. There are still people that think we should be creating cul-de-sacs and plastic houses downtown with public money.
Thanks - they called me yesterday for permission (which was nice of them.) I'm shocked that Family and Youth Services is paying $1 Million for downtown real estate. Isn't there something cheaper around?
Submitted by John Martin (not verified) on Sat, 11/3/2007 - 3:50pm
Does anyone know what the large white building to the west of the A&P was?
Submitted by Gary (not verified) on Sat, 11/3/2007 - 5:12pm
Edgemont School. Coming up next week.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 11/4/2007 - 4:07am
I wondered if that was Edgemont School! Can't wait until next week!
Submitted by Barry Yeoman (not verified) on Fri, 11/9/2007 - 3:27am
That Pope Mattress building housed Bell's Used Merchandise for many years. I have fine memories of the place. In the late '80s I bought an antique armoire there for $200. (I still use it.) The place was heated with a kerosene heater, and the air was thick. You had to climb over furniture. But he had pretty much anything you wanted.
Submitted by Gary (not verified) on Mon, 11/12/2007 - 3:02am
Thanks for the additional info - incidentally, I enjoy your work!
Submitted by Jackson (not verified) on Sat, 9/28/2013 - 1:36pm
I recently moved into a house on Chapel Hill Rd. in Tuscaloosa-Lakewood. Apparently the Pope family used to own my house and one next door. There is a large concrete pad near the rear of the property which apparently used to be the foundation of the building where they manufactured the mattresses. According to neighbors, it was falling in and torn down in 2011 when the house was renovated.
Submitted by Audrey (not verified) on Wed, 8/10/2011 - 2:00am
I remember when there was a grocery store (I think-maybe a Colonial Store-pre the one on Main St) and Grace's 5 & 10 next door. (Bell's and Pope's Mattress buildings) Drug store used to be on the southwest corner (late 40s, early 50s). Also in the 60s NC News (newspaper/magazine distributor was along that same area). Can't remember the name of the drug store.
Submitted by Gary (not verified) on Tue, 9/13/2011 - 2:00am
Anon I hadn't notice a change in that wall, which had been in terrible shape for a long time. (top collapsing inward, old tie-rods installed to hold it in place.) Regardless, no argument that it couldn't persist in that condition and would have needed to be repaired for the buildings to remain viable / stable. GK
Submitted by robby (not verified) on Tue, 9/13/2011 - 2:00am
This was a Penders grocery in the 30s
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 9/13/2011 - 2:00am
I drive by those buildings quite often and had noticed during the past month the wall (that's a half wall now in the picture) closest to Alston Ave had collapsed to what looked to be an extreme hazard to pedestrians and vehicles. Then I saw the green signs.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 9/13/2011 - 2:00am
I bought some used furniture there years ago. It has been closed and vacant for years now...
Submitted by K.G. (not verified) on Tue, 9/13/2011 - 2:00am
Oh that means Bell's Furniture is no longer there. Remember for years seeing the sign and all he had for sale sitting out front, going to my grandmothers house on Hyde Park. Mr. Bell and his wife are awesome people, sad to see buildings that are part of my childhood memories, and others before me, being torn down instead of used.
Submitted by Curtis (not verified) on Tue, 9/13/2011 - 2:00am
I used to visit with C. A. Pope, the owner and manager of Pope Mattress, frequently when I was a young man. He was about 90 years old at the time, but was full of wonderful Durham stories. He was the son of George and Nannie Carlton Pope and the grandson of Erasmus Pope. Erasmus is buried at Mt. Sylvan Church just down Roxboro from where he and his second wife, Jane Markham, lived with his son and daughter-in-law, Henry Jackson and Anna Emerson Pope, in the beautiful steamboat gothic house where H J and Anna Pope's great-granddaughter lives today. If you haven't done a post on that house (and the multi-generational Pope houses that surround it), you should. I think the house was built by the original superintendent of Orange Factory.
Submitted by April (not verified) on Wed, 9/14/2011 - 2:00am
Curtis, do you know if this is the same family as that of dear Velera Pope, who recently passed at the age of 92? I'm guessing it must be, as her family was in the mattress business, though I thought they manufactured mattresses at a different site.
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