212 North Corcoran St.

35.996671, -78.901277

Year built
Year demolished
Construction type
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Durham Morning Herald clipping from September 10, 1916 (online via NCLive).

J. T. Christian had this building constructed in 1916 as a new home for his printing company, which had previously operated out of the Herald building on Market Street.  The above image was part of a two-page spread Christian took out in the Morning Heral to promote the facility along with several participants in its construction - including Cary Lumber Company, Cheek & Belvin brickyard, Durham Traction Company (wiring), W. J. Highsmith (plumbing), Pollard Brothers (hardware and fixtures), and the Budd-Piper Roofing Company.

The upstairs tenants were the Durham Barber College.  Both their advertisement on the same page and a sign by the staircase from the street trumpeted they were "giving free shaves and haircuts to everybody." It's unclear how long this deal - or the College's tenure at this location - lasted.  By 1923, a Durham Barber College was listed a few blocks over on East Main, and their signage is no longer visible in the 1920s images below.


Looking east/southeast from Corcoran Street.
To the south is the Hackney Block

(Courtesy Duke Archives)

Southeast corner of Chapel Hill Street and Corcoran, ~1920. 212 N Corcoran is partly visible on the right, past the opening for cars to pull in.

In 1951, 212 North Corcoran housed Reeve's Town House. Per "Durham and Her People"

REEVE'S [sic] TOWN HOUSE, 212 Corcoran St., is owned by Norman O. Reeves, and serves regular meals as well as premium steaks, etc., also fountain drinks. The cafe is air conditioned and modernly equipped, open 24 hours daily. A veteran of World War I, Mr. Reeves has been in the cafe business here since 1920.


212 N Corcoran, with a pizza place and Joseph A Robb, realtors as tenants.

The building would survive a few more years, but by 1966, that window-walled morsel of goodness known as the Washington Duke Motel just had to be expanded.

Demolition, 02.17.66
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun)

Demolition, 02.17.66
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun)


During construction
(Courtesy Durham County Library)


Completed Washington Duke Motel, late 1960s
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

This building is primarily Ronnie Sturdivant's homage to Oprah now. The best thing that I can say about it from a design perspective is that it has first floor retail (Blue Coffee, TJ Phat Wear), which is how we are trying to build parking garages now. The rest of the building is just an eyesore - not just because it's modern, but because of the top-heavy form, the cut-out on the main facade, the blank wall on Chapel Hill Street, etc.


Building from the corner of Corcoran and Chapel Hill Street. Love the juxtaposition of the new traditional streetlamps with the window-walls.


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