309 West Main St. / Armory Building / Old Hill Building

35.996035, -78.902919

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One of the earliest masonry structures built in what is now the core of downtown, west of Corcoran St. was the Armory Building, built ~1895.

Looking east on West Main St., 1900. Two two-story buildings are on the right side of the street - the more elaborate of the two, with the flanking square turrets projecting from the second floor, is the armory building.


A partial view looking west on West Main, 1905. A small portion of the Armory Building is visible.


Through 1902, the structure is labeled as "Corporation Stable and Armory Hall (2nd)". In 1907, the Durham Steam Laundry and Model Laundry appear to have taken over the first floor, although the Armory Hall is still located on the 2nd floor.



1905 picture of the Model Laundry in the Armory Building.


By 1913, the Armory had moved to the newly constructed 3-story 301 West Main St. building constructed to the east, and it appears that the Armory Building was either decapitated or replaced by two story structures.



A small glimpse of the two-story commercial structure just to the west (here the right) of 301 W. Main, at 309 West Main St. This may have either replaced part of the Armory Building, or represented a reworked facade.


In 1925, John Sprunt Hill commissioned architects Atwood and Nash to construct a Georgian Revival office building in place of the replacement/modified two-story structures where the Armory Building had been located.

The elegant structure is ornamented with cartouches that contain Hill's monogram.



Tilley's department store was a long-time tenant, throughout the mid-20th century. The CD Kenny building/Sears is barely visible just to the east in the above picture, taken late 1920s.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)




1950s view of the structure, looking east on West Main St. (Courtesy Duke University)


A second long-time tenant, The Young Men's Shop, was located here through the 1960s and 1970s.



Old Hill building, 1978.

In the late 1970s, the Young Men's Shop closed, and the facade was remodeled to house a Revco drugstore.


Courtesy Durham County Library



Courtesy Durham County Library


In recent years, the facade was restored.




Find this spot on a Google Map.



Thanks -- I'd always wondered about that building. It's one of my favorite of the mid-level downtown buildings, and I was never quite sure where it came from. Somehow I'm not surprised that George Watts Hill was involved.

From bullcityrising.com:

"Self-Help has teamed up with Chapel Hill-based non-profit MDC to purchase the historic John Sprunt Hill building, a beautiful Georgian Revival structure on W. Main St. between Self-Help's headquarters and the Five Points district.

The Hill building -- this one a four-story midrise with a stone façade, not the SunTrust/CCB tower that aspires to someday become a hotel -- was long a department store and clothier; rehabbed in the mid-90s, it's sat vacant for most of this decade.

But MDC, a non-profit that grew out of Terry Sanford's famous North Carolina Fund, is relocating its headquarters back to Durham, partnering with Self-Help in a deal that, we're told, sees Self-Help buying ($1.4m) and rehabbing ($800k) the 16,000 sq. ft. structure, then leasing it back to MDC in a deal that, we're told, will allow MDC to build equity in the project.

The top floor of 307 W. Main will become a conference and training center, consolidating some MDC training efforts that currently take place around the Triangle and in other states -- and, one wonders, possibly bringing more business travel to Durham.

The building's first floor -- which today is part of a largely dead spot between Five Points and the Main St. Pharmacy, broken up only by Heather Garrett's home store and, soon, Dolly's vintage store -- will be leased out, it sounds, as a retail outlet of some sort. Other parts of the first floor are expected to be incubator space for non-profit activities.

As part of Self-Help's rehab, additional windows (both external and transom) will be added to improve lighting, with a new HVAC system and several green features."


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