313 East Main Street

35.993329, -78.897323

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1903 (Colonial Southern Homes by Barrett, Charles W.) Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/colonialsouthern00barr)

The earliest grand houses on the east side of Durham were built along Roxboro and the first two blocks of East Main St. east of the intersection of those two streets. Some of the early, more forgotten names in Durham history - Day, Lyon, Fuller - industry magnates who faded from the scene as business consolidated around the Blackwell/Carr and, later, Duke empires.

Few records of these early houses remain, except for intriguing footprints on the early Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, and most of them did not survive the early 20th century.

Some early houses on the north side of the 300 block of East Main St. included the Fuller house:

313 E. Main St., looking north.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

The above picture was taken ~1905. You can see a bit of it and the remaining houses in this block in the background of the below H. Lee Waters clip.

This house and the house immediately to its east didn't make it into the 1950s, torn down for a parking lot for the Johnson Used Car dealership across the street.

Looking north across East Main St. The old public library is on the left.
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

When consolidated with the demolition of ~7-8 other houses, this lot became a vast surface parking lot for Durham County, which it remains.

Looking northwest, 2007.

This lot is part of the major problem in the fragmentation between central and east downtown. While the immense Roxboro 5-car-one-way pipeline is pretty egregious, this empty abandoned space destroys any sense of place once you get to the east side - you might as well be out in Target-land.

2.17 acres of county-owned surface parking, outlined in blue.

The county plans to build a parking deck on this lot - and that's it. When I spoke with the county engineer a few months ago, I tried to encourage him to engage local developers in a public-private partnership to develop buildings around a parking deck. He said "[they] didn't like those" but they might set it back so a developer could build something in front.

Either this is a throwaway line, or it just doesn't seem to demonstrate much knowledge about the development process. No developer I know is going to be interested in building on a constrained space on East Main St. unless they were part of the plan from the beginning.

Personally, I think this would be an ideal spot for a new library, if the the library wants to build a new building. It would activate the E. Main streetscape, provide some historical continuity with the old public library, which would be next door, and keep the library accessible to the residents of the east side of downtown.

Above, my suggestion, if a parking deck is necessary.

Unfortunately, the county is still determined to make three significant mistakes on the east side of downtown - 1) This parking deck, without a joint project to create a streetscape. 2) A one-block large compound (several have called it a fortress) of a human services building, 3) demolition of all of the structures on the south side of the 500 block of East Main.

The same services that the county wants to provide could be provided without further damaging the connection between east and west. It has been hard to convince the county that investment alone does not improve the neighborhood. Look at the Southbank building, and the Durham Centre.

The Human Services Complex has to come before the Historic Preservation Commission next month (because it is in our Downtown Historic District.) You can take a look at the latest rendering. (Be sure to mentally subtract the street trees - they add a lot of softening to the building, but there's never any guarantee they'll be installed once the traffic engineers are involved in the process.) If you think the design could be, well, a bit more human-scale, contact your county commissioners.


Love that Fuller house, it's a feast for the eyes.

I park in the county lot whenever I'm dropping off food at the soup kitchen across the street. Even though you're technically not allowed to carry a gun onto government property, I wouldn't be caught dead without one in my pocket. The most seemingly inane things get stolen from my car whenever I park there (I never lock the convertible, to prevent the top from being cut): a pack of matches, my Louis Armstrong cassette tape, a half-empty Dr. Pepper bottle, etc. I can't imagine that a parking deck will make folks feel safer; given the foot traffic, I prefer it in its wide open state.

What's the green chunk in the graphic that's your suggestion?

I think you've previously mentioned something like that developers want to put parking on the outside of a development, so people will know it's there. Was that so they can see actual spaces, or just so that they can tell that there is a deck to use? If it's the latter, then a possible solution might be to make the deck taller than the surrounding buildings, so people can see where it is (so long as that can be done in an attractive fashion). Imagine your suggestion with a deck rising up enough so that the top floor or so of it can be seen from the street....

Do you have any more info on the actual size of the building footprint of the new plan? Are there more drawings, like a site plan?

I'm asking because I'm sorely tempted to do another one of my "inside-out" jobs on this tract, and see if I can get rid of their courtyard in the middle and find enough parking around the outside.

I like the idea of the parking deck peeking above the structure. How about having it peek out one of the three sides (extend to retail level)?


It's probably better in its wide-open state if the county insists on parking only, but more buildings and people (particularly with weekend activity) would increase the safety. I walk that neighborhood pretty frequently (my girlfriend lives a block away)and have avoided being hassled.


I should have labeled it as green space - I set back part of the building front to continue the line of the Presbyterian Church and old library. I think both your suggestion and Dave's suggestion of a somewhat taller parking structure or visibility on one side are viable if a developer insists. I think the parking supply model is too aggressive, and people will be resourceful enough to find a deck as long as entrances are visible (which is why I left gaps on both Queen and Liberty.)


For the deck, there is no public information available. The timing is to occur sometime after the HSC/500 block parking. In fact, this is part of my frustration, as it isn't clear that the big surface lot planned for the 500 block (for which they insist every space is necessary to accommodate the HSC) will be as 'necessary' when the deck is built.

I assume there must be a site plan for the HSC. I tried to get that info last fall and didn't get very far, but I believe Steve Cruse in planning would have it now, as it is going before the Preservation Commission. There are a lot of things that should happen to that building. I really find the courtyard to be annoying - it's creating green space using public money that is, in practice, inaccessible to the public. Why not put that green space on the outside where it will enhance the neighborhood?


321 E. Main looks to be the house of Thomas M. Gorman, private secretary to Julian S. Carr and owner of Burch-Gorman Company, a shoe store located downtown. Linthicum & Linthicum list it as one of theirs in the 1909 Manufacturers Record.

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