353 West Main Street

35.996737, -78.904282

Year built
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The site of 353 West Main St. was (along with the entire south 'side' of Five Points) part of Seeman's Carriage Works through the 1890s-1910s. Per the 1895 Handbook of Durham:

"This business is conducted by Mr. Jno. F. Seeman, and is not incorporated. The output of this enterprise consists of hand-made vehicles of every description, of which an attractive supply is constantly on display in their showroom at 'Five Points' on Main Street."

By 1915, the business appears to have gone under. Between 1928 and 1934, the present 353 West Main Building was constructed, initially housing the Umstead Hardware Store. By 1939, however, Purity Stores (a grocer) had moved offices and a retail outlet to the building.

(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

Purity Stores remained the occupant of the building through at least the 1960s. Of late, it has been occupied by a series of different businesses, including New Synergy Architects, the Empowerment Center, and, most recently, the Republic - a bar/club.


It's somewhat of an odd building, architecturally, with fine details around the windows, but a very flat, un-corniced facade otherwise - except on the first floor, where there is a frieze and quoins on the corners. With replacement of the windows with flat, detail-less dark glass/mullions, the 'blankness' element of the facade is emphasized, while the first floor elements are accentuated by the addition of the two columns. It doesn't really work for me, but I'm happy the building is still here, contributing to the uninterrupted facade that stretches east.

Find this spot on a Google Map.



"Jno." is not a spelling error: it's an old-fashioned abbreviation for "John." "Jas." is "James," "Geo." is "George," and there are others as well.

Thanks Jno. :)

I'm familiar with the others, but not that one. I've seen "Jn." before in the city directories, but not Jno. Funny the desire to abbreviate such short names - I guess when type is expensive/labor intensive, such is the outcome. We've now established the link between 19th century city directories and texting....


The way the building tapers to be narrower at the southern end lends it an interesting apparent flatness in the modern photo Gary posted. At first glance, I thought the 2nd and 3rd floors had been removed from behind the facade, which would have explained why the windows on those levels are so dark.

Kind of reminds me of the John Hancock Tower in Boston, which, due to its trapezoidal shape, appears to be a flat plane of green-blue glass from certain angles: http://bit.ly/90QYmc

Ground floor condo unit with a mezzanine sold in May 2014 $340,000 (2,135 sq ft)


The Republic

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