121 East Main Street - Paris / Uptown Theaters

35.994682, -78.899788

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Year(s) modified
Year demolished
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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.


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)



(Courtesy Herald-Sun)



(Courtesy Herald-Sun)



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.


Looking northwest, 1969.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)


(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

121 East Main is to the far left.

(Courtesy Herald-Sun)


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)



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 $1.2 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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