From the late 1930s until their demolition to begin construction of the Durham Freeway in 1967, a pair of warehouse buildings used by the American Tobacco Company were listed right where Carrington Street and the factory's southbound supply railroad intersected Morehead Avenue.
It appears the buildings were actually leased from Central Storage Company before American Tobacco purchased them outright in 1950.
The top image from the early 1960s - reproduced at left below - holds clues as to the fate of these unassuming structures and the surrounding area. The triangle drawn in dotted purple lines marks the then-existing right-of-way for Morehead Avenue (the diagonal) and Carr Street (in the foreground). The third line demarcates a wedge of American Tobacco property being assessed for purchase by the Durham Redevelopment Commission.
Valuing the land at 75 cents a square foot and tallying the 'improvements' - the small brick equipment house at center, fencing, and paving - the Commission figured it could slice this corner off the factory complex for just over $22,000 (which would be more like $185,000 in 2019 accounting for inflation). While that represents just a drop in the enormous bucket of appraisals and acquisitions the Redevelopment Commission carried out over the next decade, this little sliver between the factory and its warehouses on Morehead Avenue proved crucial for one of urban renewals flagship projects in Durham.
The location of the above-mentioned parcel and the warehouses to its south was at the geographical center of these plans - see where Morehead Avenue intersects the rail line and the grey path of the future highway, right at the border between Project 1 and 4 (both slated for "Major Clearance"). Vital to the planned course of the freeway, this site would also win the dubious honor of hosting its groundbreaking, with work on the new road kicking off right here in the spring of 1967.
In a city then still full of older structures and non-descript warehouses, perhaps nobody mourned the loss of these thirty year-old buildings - which would have been on the right side of the above image - but there were also residences and business along this strip of Morehead Avenue. And these were just the first scoops of earth in a project that would tear Durham in two at its center, a divide that in many ways lives on more than a half century later.
Submitted by Keith Bowden on Fri, 7/12/2019 - 3:09pm
Great post, Nick, and good detective work. I've seen pictures of those two warehouses on this site and I've oftened wondered about them since I use the American Tobacco Trail pretty frequently. Seeing the houses peeking over the tops of them from over on Matthews Street helps put the changes to the area in perspective.
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