434 West Main Street

35.997665, -78.905144

Cross Street
Year demolished
Construction type
Building Type
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434 West main, only partly visible as Duke Sport Shop Billiards, on the far left.


The northwest corner of Five Points contained a series of commerical structures, similar to Main St., that fronted on Five Points and turned the corner at Morris Street.


A view from the 1920s, looking northwest.

(Courtesy Durham County Library)

A 1920s view from a bit further west (starts on right with building near the left edge in the above picture),
looking west up Main St.

(Courtesy Durham County Library)

Another view of these buildings looking northwest, from the 1950s. The house remaining in the middle of the block of commercial structures has been replaced with the Colonial Stores building.

(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

An early color picture of this block, taken during the Durham centennial parade in 1953.
(Courtesy Barry Norman)

A view of the block from 1971, looking north from the middle of Five Points - a corner structure was added, likely in the 1930s.(Notice the Salvation Army building to the right on Morris St.)

Courtesy Durham County Library

Here is a view facing north, looking east down Main St., from Great Jones Street (a bit west of the current loop), 1971 (you can relate this the above 1971 picture by looking for the blue, vertical "Colonial" sign in both pictures.)

Courtesy Durham County Library

In the early 1970s, this entire block (between West Main, Morris, Great Jones, and Morgan) was demolished by the city using urban renewal funds.

These buildings being demolished, around 1972:

Looking east.
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

By 1974, First Federal Bank had decided to move from its building across the street (see "Five Points 1") into a large new structure on this site.

Under construction, looking southwest from Morris, 1970s.
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

Here is how the corner looked in 1974.

Courtesy Durham County Library

And here is the building in 2006, now known as the Southbank building

Looking east from Great Jones, 2006.

It is hard to overstate how this building dominates the landscape at Five Points. While its height is certainly out of scale with any older structures at Five Points, the setback, lack of street orientation, unclear entrance, sea of parking, dominating lower floors... everything about this building sneers at the pedestrian.

Southbank building/property at Five Points 2006, outlined in yellow
Approx same area, 1930, in blue (I didn't draw the curve where the Loop was put through)

I don't have a better early aerial right now, unfortunately, but you can get a sense of the diversity of buildings/architecture in this area and how they related to the street in the 1920s. While I'm not a fan of this building architecturally, regardless of location, I actively loathe this building at this particular location. It would help to fill in some of that parking lot with some buildings that had normal street frontage on Main Street. It might soften this hulking fortress a bit.

I'm sure that when this building was constructed, city leaders were thrilled that a bank was going to keep its main building in downtown Durham, and would have allowed anything to be demolished or built in order to get that to happen. Unfortunately, on this front, things haven't changed all that much. What wouldn't Durham allow to be demolished if Bank of America or a similar company wanted to put their world headquarters in downtown Durham? Would anything be sacred?


That bank building and the way it's sited -- the whole block designed like a fort with fenced-in parking for a moat -- is very pedestrian-unfriendly. It's also ugly as homemade sin. Cars and parking are king and queen, unfortunately. I want there to be some parking, and businesses to have some control over who uses their parking; I don't know enough about how to do that. You can't, say, force every business to build parking underneath their structure.

You're absolute right that parking reigns. I don't question that parking is necessary; I think the question is - how much and where? Placement of parking lots in front of buildings kills a streetscape. Many cities still tend to have parking requirements for development downtown that are based on data from suburbia - i.e. a 100% driving enviroment. There is also little mechanism for shared spaces - parking is privatized by individual buildings. So Southbank (which does have underground parking) doesn't open up its lot for other businesses, despite the fact that the surface lot is never full.

So while I'd love to force busineses to have underground parking, my more sanguine approach is to not require them to have excessive parking, and to make better use of existing parking.

Now looks like yellow teeth sneering at all!
underground parking sounds cool like a metro - wouldn't that be great!
We also need better public transportation to eliminate the "need" for cars.

I remember the First Federal Building opening. Glen Campbell did a show on a stage setup just outside in the parking lot. He did a meet and greet... I guess to get people to feel good about the building (and more likely, the business).

In that top photo, right: a billboard for Chaplin's Gold Rush! That would be worth a very pretty penny today.

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