217 Hood St

35.989708, -78.895088

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Looking east, 1981.
(Courtesy Robby Delius)

I've always had a particular affection for the 1920s-era, Colonial Revival apartment building on Hood St. Although as late as the 1980s, above, there was an adjacent apartment building as well, for the time that I've known the building, it has stood alone amidst the warehouses. I used to wonder what in the world it was doing there - it seems so incongruous.

The answer is that, even in the 1950s, Hood St. was a residential neighborhood of small and large houses, as well as apartment buildings. The combination of urban renewal to the north, the large-bore re-routing of Elizabeth St. to connect to Fayetteville - which severed this from points east, and light industrial expansion chewed up all of this neighborhood except 217 Hood.

I was sad to see the other day when I drove by that the house is suffering from a pervasive blight on the eastern side of town. Plastic Window Disease. The owners were ripping out all of the old windows and putting in new - yep 6 over 6 with the fake muntins - plastic windows.

The owner of this structure, at least from 2006-2013, was William K. Graham. Mr. Graham owns a number of houses strewn across eastern Durham. Owners like Mr. Graham sit on their holdings, convinced of the windfall they are going to net someday, and stymieing the improvement and preservation of Durham as their houses sit vacant and rotting. Occasionally, 'improvements' are made, which usually consists of ripping out original windows to put cheap plastic ones in.

Looking northeast, 2007.
(Photo by Gary Kueber)

Somehow the window manufacturers have persuaded people that 1) Old windows are doomed to leak energy and that 2) the only solution is to rip out entire windows and replace them all with fresh-from-the-factory full window assemblies. Ugh. Yes - at least they aren't tearing the building down. But at the rate windows are being ripped out in East Durham, we are going to have a lot of ugly looking houses that people will be even less likely to preserve.

As of 2013, it is clear that this building has no positive future under its current ownership. The best thing I can say about owners that refuse to improve their properties is that they are 1) so cheap and 2) their expectations for sales price are so far out of the realm of reality, that sometimes they refuse to spend the money to remuddle a property, and sometimes they prevent things from getting torn down by developers due to their sheer obstinancy.

06.25.13 (Photo by Gary Kueber)

Shockingly, this building was saved/renovated.

12.14.2019 (G. Kueber)


I have always admired that building ever since I first noticed it a few years ago. I think it needs some TLC and then it could once again be beautiful....

I share you extreme distaste for replacement windows. The crazy window salesman have somehow brainwashed everyone into thinking that vinyl is somehow more efficient than original wood, when a simple storm window is both less expensive and more efficient than full replacement. Another I like to remind people considering window replacement is that "Maintenance Free" means "it can't be repaired." So while you may not need to maintain it, you will (in the not so distant future) need to replace the entire unit again.

sorry for the tirade, replacement windows are one of my big pet peeves.

I've never fully understood preservationists' disdain for vinyl windows. I agree that the cheap plastic grilles are a bit tacky, but the windows on their own are not so bad. Also, could someone point me to evidence that original 50+ year old wood windows are as energy efficient as replacement windows? Hard to believe...

I think the preservationist tendency to shun all things new is counter-productive to saving historic structures.

Anon 2

I think the disdain is for two reasons:

1) They are not proportioned properly for sticking in a historic window opening, thus they diminish the beauty of an old/building house. You can order custom-sized windows, but they obviously cost a lot more than whatever is in the big stack at Home Depot to go in new construction.

2) It's a waste. Part of the ethic of preservation is sustainability. This includes both dumping a bunch of repairable old windows made of wood in a landfill as well as energy conservation. I don't think anyone would make the argument that a shanked old window is as-is more energy efficient than a replacement. But there is absolutely evidence that repaired old windows + storm windows added to the outside are more energy efficient.

I'm not sure how advocating for better solutions is counter-productive. I haven't heard many luddite Preservationists that insist on pails, pumps and outhouses rather than dishwashers, washing machines, etc. So "shunning all things new" is more than a bit of a broad brush stroke.

We have too much of a tendency in this city to hang onto our stridently C+ solutions for dear life and fight to the death defending them, rather than seeking a better solution. There are better solutions than ripping the windows out of old houses.


Very cool! I've always wondered about that building, and due to its condition thought it was older than the 1920s.

Vinyl windows are bad for the environment (PVC off-gassing and all). they look like crap, and they don't last long, relatively-speaking.

Old windows can be made to be energy efficient, or, you can spend a few extra dollars and not be a cheapskate slumlord and upgrade to wood or similar replacement windows that are energy efficient and look like the originals if you absolutely feel compelled to replace them.

Vinyl windows also decrease the value of the structure (historically AND financially). I know of old houses that people were scrambling to purchase that were renovated by cheapskates who then attemted to flip the house; after that, no one was interested and they either ended up renting it out or selling it for what they bought it for originally.

Some times people save the old windows (in the basement or attic) at least, so the structure can be un-f-ed in the future.

Check out what the National Registry says about them (and vnyl siding); it's pretty informative.

Storm windows are butt ugly. See the 1981 photo above of 215 Hood St. for a perfect example -- yuck. Not exactly an "original" look, either.

More importantly, storm windows are a pain to use. High quality, correctly proportioned replacement windows look better than storm windows, are more energy efficient, and mean that you'll actually open your windows a whole lot more. They do cost a lot, though.


They don't have to be. I agree that surface-mount storms are ugly, but flush mount storms look pretty good - not as good as just having the original window, but if you are concerned about more energy efficiency, they aren't bad. I just went and looked at a house being redone by Nick Hawthorne-Johnson on South Buchanan with flush storms. Check them out to see how they can look decent.


Not everyone has the budget to put in high quality windows that mimic to originals. I imagine when doing a restoration, a large chunk of the budget goes towards plumbing, electrical, foundation, and etc repairs and little remains for purchasing windows other than ones with plastic galore. It’s unfortunate, but seemingly true I imagine.

Most recent Anon

Well, the least expensive option is to not purchase new windows. I've repaired enough old windows in my time to know that while it takes some time, it is cheap. To me, if you are trying to save money on a renovation , why throw away parts of your house that are functional?

I don't think a lot of the replacement window that are going in in East Durham are impoverished residents who can't afford it. They are low-end house flippers who gut houses, plasticize them, and re-sell or, more commonly, turn it into slumlord rental. Those guys aren't hurting for cash.


Fake muntins are ridiculous. You can usually tell from a distance that they're fake too, especially when they get out of line. They're just ugly.

If you are interested in a cost effective way to preserve the look of the original windows I suggest dead-lites. They provide the same insulation value as storms. They are what is on the front of the house on buchanan mentioned above. They cost about $100/window......which is comperable to any cheap storm window....and they look MUCH better

While not suggesting that fake muntins be used in general, I do use them in one room in my home. I collect 18th century antiques, and would like to display them in a period looking room and proper setting. My rented apartment however was built in the 1920's, and the windows are two-light. Fake muntins - attached to the inside - with curtains over them - help create the look that I want, so I use them in this instance as "props". As I live on the 3rd floor, these aren't all that visible from street level. They thus can serve a purpose for those of us who appreciate the past, but who can't afford to live in real period homes.

Enough about the windows already.... geesh!

Does anyone have any stories about this place? I just discovered it today on a casual drive with friends and we're convinced that it had to be the lair of a family of homicidal cannibals. The place is too creepy to have only lead a mundane existence as a simple apartment building.

Does anyone have the scoop?

Is this place actually still used, as a residence or otherwise? I'm surprised the windows were replaced within the past few years, as run-down as the rest of the structure looks. I had thought it was abandoned, or at least disused.

It is an attractive building though--pity it's in a location where it doesn't look to have a very bright future.

It is a pity when wooden windows get removed rather than restored, they add such beauty to a building.

William K. Graham died Monday, 8/19. Of all his properties, the fate of this one concerns me most.

The property is now being renovated into luxury condos, with modest respect given to it's original facade/details. 

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