303-305 East Chapel Hill Street / "the Palms"

35.997079, -78.901443

Year built
Construction type
Local historic district
National Register
Building Type
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Ever wonder why Corcoran St. stopped at East Chapel Hill St. until the 2006-2007 link with Foster St., with 303-305 East Chapel Hill Street directly in front of you? Because Willie Mangum's farm was in the way when the streets were laid out.

Looking north-northwest from Corcoran St. ~1890s.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

By the early 20th century, Willie's farm had succumbed to development pressure, though.

(Courtesy Durham County Library)

The first three buildings in the 300 block of East Chapel Hill Street remain, outwardly, little changed from when they were first built in the 1910s. Although the shot above is really too blurry to make out much detail of the buildings on the northeast corner of Foster and E. Chapel Hill, this is their appearance in 1924, soon after the Washington Duke broke ground, looking northeast towards the Corcoran/East Chapel Hill/ Foster intersection.

Another partial view from later that year, looking northwest.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

vacant in 1928.

This clearer view of the buildings looking north up Corcoran shows a portion of 303-305 East Chapel Hill - with the Liberty Cafe at 305 and the Union Bus Station at 303.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

A bus loading across the street.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

By 1932, the Palms Cafe had opened for business in 305, where it would remain for the next 50 years. 303 was Glenn-Myers (sometimes Myers-Glenn - maybe they rotated to be fair,) auto supply. The Palms was evidently the place to do business and be seen downtown. Steve Massengill says in his book that it was called "the bellybutton of Durham." A contemporaneous ad states:


Opposite Washington Duke Hotel.


Banquet Hall | Private Dining Room

We Never Close; NO Reeves, Mgr, Telephone L-8021.



Interior of the Palms,1950s
(Courtesy Dan Ellison)


Home of the sizzling steaks - at any hour.

(Courtesy Dan Ellison)

Below - diners at the Palms - enjoying some ice cream with their 'sizzling steaks' ~1938.

By 1941, 303 was Town and Campus Tailors. By 1951, Weldon's Jewelers.



Palms, ~1956.

(Courtesy Dan Ellison)

Between 1955 and 1957, the front facade of the Palms was renovated to a more 'modern' look. 303 became Seagroves and Ballard Jewelers. The upstairs is referred to as "The Palm Building."

Above, the entryway to The Palms, 1957.
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

It seems that the Palms lasted up until 1983, when it closed for good.

Palms Restaurant, 04.10.83

Palms Restaurant, 04.10.83


Palms Restaurant, 04.10.83

The buildings in 2007, fairly well preserved, looking north from the former Corcoran St., now a plaza.

While the Palms closed in 1983, its logo remains in the entranceway.

305 E. Chapel Hill, 2007


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