402 South Driver

35.982057, -78.878072

Cross Street
Year built
Year(s) modified
National Register
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402 South Driver, March 2007.

A little tour to East Durham today after, sadly, a serious fire caused major damage to an important piece of architecture for the future of East Durham

The early history of 402 South Driver, the building on the southwest corner of Angier Avenue and South Driver St., is a bit unclear. It appears that the portion of the building facing on South Driver Street was probably built in the 1910s, and the storefront appearance on the corner and Angier Avenue side (2026 Angier Avenue) likely added in the 1920s.

By the late 1920s, 402 S. Driver housed Boone's Drug, perhaps a branch of DL Boone's drugstore of the same name located downtown at N. Mangum and Orange Sts. The physician office of James Shuler was located upstairs, along with CM Headache Powders.

By the 1940s, the drugstore had become Carswell Drug; Dr. Shuler's office was still located upstairs, along with Tracy Beasley's watch repair shop. Abernathy and Batten Barber Shop was located on the Angier Avenue side of the building.

By the late 1950s, the drugstore had become Sullivan's Pharmacy

Of late, the building had held the Atlantic Food Mart. On March 20, 2009, a serious fire started in the upstairs of the building. The building appears to have sustained some serious damage.

402 South Driver, 03.21.09.

Although repairable, the lack of significant funds invested in the rehabilitation of this building to date do not bode well for an even more expensive rehab at this point. I can't stress enough (or an adequate number of times) how essential I believe the preservation of these buildings at Angier and Driver St. are to the future of East Durham. This building, and the old Fidelity Bank building across Angier Avenue, are the architectural jewels of the intersection.

The broader point is that it seems to be a fallacy among public officials (and to a lesser extent, the private sector) that the stock of historic buildings is stable, with the exception of the building they've decided to tear down. This, and the numerous buildings destroyed over the history of Durham by various calamities should make clear the 'natural' attrition of buildings. Even if we were to stop tearing historic buildings down, we would continue to lose structures due to ice, hurricanes, fire, subsidence, and the like.

(Below in italics is from the 2004 East Durham National Register listing; not verified for accuracy by this author.)

Former Seagroves Grocery.

Prominent, architecturally significant 2-story brick commercial building located at the comer of Angier Ave., with a diagonal entrance facing the intersection. The east elevation facing Driver St. has conmon bond brick, segmentally-arched windows and a corbeled cornice. In contrast, the north elevation facing Angier Ave. has a stylish dark red brick veneer with a flat parapet with a geometric design of raised and contrasting brick. Windows have original 1-over-1 sashes. Apparently both facades are original and reflect the greater importance of Angier Ave. as a transportation corridor. At 2026 Angier Ave., on the north side, is an original store that has been a barber shop for many years. An original 1-story rear wingcontains 2 stores (2024 and 2022 Angier Ave.) The parapets feature the same brickwork as the main block, although storefronts are replacements. The 1913 Sanborn Map shows a house on this site.
1930 CD: Boone Drug Co. at No. 402; Lindsay P. Seagroves Grocery at No. 404. 1940 CD: Carswell Drugs and Andrews' Meat Market. Dr. Shuler had offices on the 2nd floor. 

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oh, no! That is/was such a cool building!

This part of East Durham was known to the local residents as "The Corner" and was the center of commerce and gossip. Most families had only one car, if they had one at all, and the husband took that car to work. "The Corner" was within easy walking distance for the 2 drug stores, the grocery store, the dime store, the dry cleaner, the post office, bank and restaurants.

The building caught fire because someone ran an electric line from the power pole to the second story window.

City of Ghosts
A poem by Joseph Calvin Parrish

tobacco factory of ancient brick
and elongated structures that enclose a street
aroma, sweet, rich, unchanged
industry and thousands of trees
like those pictured in history books
grand homes that sink amongst shrubbery
new and old side-by-side
one-room grocery, broken windows
hiding in forest
industrial smokestacks that are red with rust
Durham High draped upon hard soil
a yellow and brown school
and the ghosts of my family
on broken concrete
in mold and mildew
and oaks, pines
screen back porch in the city
tree roots that cling to clay
and familiar names: Duke, Gregson, Gary, Miami
this city
the monument of my family
keeper of vaults
and I see them all
in its sky and air
and yellow grass

this city
the monument of my family

Thank you for that poem.

I remember this as a shoe store once when I was small

I can almost hear NIS and UDI/Mayor Billy giggling with glee...

Ability to easily and safely walk to the grocery store, the dime store, the dry cleaner, the post office, bank and restaurants...what a concept.
(Yeah, I'm a lot sarcastic about car-dependent "modern" growth.)

I'd love to find a nice town where that is still not only possible, but the norm.

ma bee if we can keep the crack heads in rehab and get the vandals jobs that can be of some living standards they will not burn these buildings down trying to keep warm. and we may also be able to uplift east Durham and finally be recognized as a city and not the ghetto.....

A walkable community! What a concept!

I find it a bit suspicious that this building had decent windows in the upstairs until they were boarded up about 2 weeks prior to the fire. I actually spend quite a bit of time in this neighborhood and there was no reason to board up the upstairs windows, as they weren't broken or missing.

I noticed work being done at the school between N. Driver and N. Maple.
What are they doing?

Renovation of Driver/Angier Avenue area brings back memories. In the early/mid 50s here were two drug stores: Crabtree's and Sullivan's. They rotated Sunday openings: After Sunday School one Sunday you went to Crabtree's for lemon coke, the next it was Sullivan's for vanilla coke. Grandpa's handed out dimes for the latest comic book edition, men smoked their cigarettes outside before heading across the street to Angier Avenue Baptist Church's 11:00 service. Girls and boys chastely eyed each other and made plans for Sunday afternoon under the watchful eyes of mothers. Everyone was properly attired in hats, hose and humility - and hope. Another business (not yet illuminated by Gary) was Lynette's cafe, named for the owner's daughter. There was a dime store, dry cleaners, bank, and the mentioned Batten's barber shop. Mr. Batten had a disabled son who was well-known in the area, his diabilities understood by all but still somewhat terrifying to young girls. At one point there was a furniture/appliance store to the left of Crabtree's. It was there in the window that I saw my first TV. A marvel still not understood.

We roamed East Durham at all hours with no thoughts of peril - just the 10:00 cufew. Now I don't like to drive down the streets - there are no times like the old times.

I hope these new business will enable memories such as the teens of the 50s savor.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

The TV store next to Crabtree Pharmacy was owned by Mr. Linthicum (sp?).  We bought our first TV there ....  a Philco that needed constant repair.   I use to sneak into Crabtree Pharmacy to look at "Playboy" ... until Al told my dad.  That was the end of my anatomy lessons. 

My family moved to the East Durham area shortly after the Civil War. They always went to Crabtrees.  My mom even visited Doc King for minor aliments when she was a child. My grandfather spoke of taking baths at the barber shop.

It's a shame what has happened to the neighborhood.  Even though it was predominately a "mill town", it was attractive, clean, and safe. While there were many small rental houses, there were also some really fine Victorians. 

Carr UMC had some of the prettiest windows in town.  I thought them nicer than Duke Memorial and Trinity... approaching even those at Duke Chapel. While Julius Carr was responsible for starting the church, it was stews and church suppers that paid for the Sanctuary.   It was a wonderful congregation.

Really enjoyed the Dr. George Ross house.  My grandmother thought so much of Dr. Ross that she named her youngest daughter after him. The name was also given to my grandmother's great-grandson.  It's become a family name now that will pass on to further generations.  Dr. Ross was especially remembered for his treatment of patients during the 1917 Flue Epidemic.  He has been dead for 70+ years and people are still talking about him.  His namesake is now a pharmacist.  Only in America ... and East Durham ... could that happen.

Work is being done to renovate the building, which will have apartments upstairs and retail businesses, including a barbershop, on the ground floor. The building owner is a native Durhamite and former police officer. He used to shop there when it was a second hand shoe shop. http://www.durhamvoice.org/durham-man-hopes-to-breathe-new-life-into-city-corridor/


Work should be done by mid-2017. 

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