730-732 Ninth Street

36.008818, -78.921921

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National Register
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Looking northeast, early 1920s.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

730-732 Ninth St. was built in ~1922, and had the rare - perhaps unique - distinction in Durham of housing one business for over 80 years. McDonald's drugstore was founded by Angus McDonald, who managed the Edgemont Drugstore at 803 East Main St. and lived at 211 E. Parrish St. prior to moving to Broad St. in West Durham. He founded the McDonald's drugstore in a frame building on Ninth St. in 1916, and moved into 732 Ninth St. after in was completed in 1922.

The other half of the building, 730 Ninth, housed Mamie Osborne's dry goods store by 1926, renamed the West Durham cash store by 1935. By 1940, this would be replaced by the Ninth Street Billiard Parlor.

In 1949, John McDonald - Angus' son- would join his father in the drugstore in 732. John had been born in 1920, and worked in Erwin Mills prior to his decision to attend pharmacy school at UNC. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he returned to UNC to complete pharmacy school and join the family business.

By 1950, the space next door to McDonald's housed "Tex(tile) Remnants."

726-732 Ninth St., 08.29.63
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

The two remained side-by-side until Textile Remnants was replaced by Southeastern Office Equipment and Supply in ~1970. By 1975, the Fields real estate empire began to expand with the movement of Fields Shoe Service from 742 Ninth to 730 Ninth. Fields Shoe Service vacated by 1990.

I distinctly remember my first visit to McDonald's in 1992 - my exploration of the old timey appearing place with the seemingly ever-present potty chair in the front window was inspired purely by curiosity, but I'll never forget the milkshake I discovered inside. Wow.

McDonald's remained in business until ~2005, and John McDonald died in 2006. The space remained vacant for two years, but in 2008, Bryan Nickell and Erin Walker-McMullen opened Ox and Rabbit - a new take on a sundry store, with a full-fledged soda fountain in operation. Carrying on the milkshake tradition in the McDonald's space is a wonderful thing to do. Architecturally, I was thrilled that they re-exposed the glass transom above the storefront that beautifully refracts light into the space.

730 Ninth has housed Dogstar Tattoo since ~1999.

Interestingly, the building's ownership is split down the middle, with the 730 bay owned by Bill Fields, and the 732 bay owned by Frances McDonald.

726-732 Ninth, 04.05.09

730-732 Ninth, 04.05.09

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One might expect the son of an 'Angus McDonald' to have been a wee bit thrifty. In fact, John McDonald was a kind and generous man, and his business a West Durham institution! I remember him fondly.

I recall going to McDonalds up until 1999 when I left town for college. The McDonalds were wonderful people (knew my grandparents who were longtime Durham residents) and their milkshakes were the best I've ever had! I was so sad to drive by the space a few years ago to see them closed but I'm glad the soda fountain has been reborn in the new store.

Uh oh... not THE Bill Fields? Yikes...

730 also housed a pizza place, Wild Bull's Pizza (at one point it was Wild Bill's Pizza, and Bill Fields owned it).

I will never forget the big storm that took down that horrible flat awning over McDonald's (seen in the 1963 photo). Mr. McDonald replaced it with a fabric awning that was much nicer and higher. I remember seeing Duke basketball players walk down Ninth Street and have to duck under the signs hanging from that flat awning.

Not everyone is cut out for the drug and milkshake biz, I knew the grandsons and they were fine folks as well but as for Bill Fields, what a legend,
when he makes a ripe age, there's no telling what people are gonna say...
I haven't had him as a super or landlord, but as a neighbor he's got one hell of a rep

John McDonald was a kind soul who is missed by many. If someone mailed me an obituary, asking about their grandfather's burial at "Erwin Mills Cemetery," Mr. McDonald was the go-to person for West Durham history.

After the drugstore closed, I contact John's family about the old soda fountain. Following a number of conversations with various folks, including support from 9th Street merchants and a volunteer carpenter, we were able to save the old soda fountain from a trip to the landfill. It's now in a "secure location" -- quietly awaiting the Durham History Museum.

For many years, the sidewalk in front of the 9th Street shops was covered with a metal awning. In February 1987, a vicious ice storm toppled most of the awnings. The last segment of the old metal awning was removed when Charlie's Bar & Grill arrived on Ninth Street in 2001. See pics of metal awnings here... http://www.owdna.org/History/history1a.htm

Story worth repeating, since this is the building... Mary Cole and her husband ran the famous billiard parlor on Ninth. Neighborhood kids were instructed not to go inside. Too much fighting and misbehaving going on. When he was younger, pharmacist John McDonald told me he had to break up a fight or two next door.

A couple of years ago, Mary and I were walking down Ninth and she was excited and talking up a storm. I then brought Mary into her old billiard parlor and made introductions. We looked at the old tin ceiling and wood floors. I walked out thinking to myself, what a magical moment!

But Mary was very quiet. By the time we got to the Playhouse Toy Store, I asked if anything was wrong. Mary paused, looked at me and said, "Well, I've never been in a tattoo parlor before."

In my continuing role as 1990's 9th St. historian, I believe that Dogstar was very briefly preceded by a coffee shop by the name of "Espresso Self." This probably goes without saying, but this was for a few years in the mid-to-late 1990s when the Seattle-born coffee craze was in the full flower of its fadness, and every city was scrambling to open as many horribly named coffee shops as possible.

This is an interesting article. I relocated from Durham to the United Kingdom and have noticed that over here, refurbishment is very important. I remember being distressed by the tearing down of old buildings in Durham as well as being pleased when something that had been left to rot would then get refurbished for new use.
I live in a Victorian house in the centre of a big city here. There is always some scaffolding on the streets in our neighbourhood where a house is being repaired. Also you can walk down the high street and see there will usually be at least one old ("old" being an entirely different concept over here---Tudor era, Victorian, Elizabethan, etc) building being refurbished. Tearing something down seems to be an extreme measure over here. Even old unused barns are made into houses. Interestingly, building regulations are now in place that require new homes to be “zero carbon” by 2016 and commercial buildings by 2019. Ignoring these measures could be(and I think, is) a symptom in the USA of plenty of land and cheap resources, as well as planning departments that lack the stones to enforce it. Change is not something many people embrace.

I used to walk to McDonald's Pharmacy to buy "Solution A" for asthma. This was in the early 60's and we used bulb atomizers to take the medicine. I don't think you even had to have a prescription for this medicine. 


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