Cary Lumber Company

36.000542, -78.913518

Cross Street
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The Cary Lumber Company was established in 1894 and moved to Durham ~1900, originally locating at 101-107 West Chapel Hill St. at Five Points. In 1913, the company moved to the 'edge of town' near Milton Avenue and the railroad tracks to "get out of the congested area."

The company built a sizable complex of buildings, including a mill and large dry kiln.

Cary Lumber complex, 1937

Throughout the 20th century, the company continued to purchase timber lands in North Carolina to log and brought felled trees to Durham. The company was run by several generations of the Satterfield family.

The woodworking warehouse, looking southeast from Milton Ave. (S. Buchanan Blvd.), ~1930.
(Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection, Chamber of Commerce Collection)

Cary Lumber Office, from Milton Ave/Buchanan Blvd., probably facing northeast, likely 1950s
(Courtesy Robby Delius)

Aerial view, 1959. The office building is closer to the railroad tracks, the woodworking warehouse is the longer north-south oriented building.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

Bird's Eye aerial view, looking east, 1950s.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun)

The main office for the company stood on the west side of the street, on the northwest corner of Milton and Spring St. (now Rome Avenue.)

Looking northwest, 1950s. I'm quite amused by the big virgin cypress log with a sign pointing out all of the historic events it lived through in its 1100 years before being felled and placed in the front yard of a lumber company office with a toy house on top of it.
(Courtesy the Forest History Society)

Cary Lumber shut down in 1956 and the buildings became a Lowes in 1957. Lowes was here until the late 1960s. By the late 1970s, the buildings, including a tobacco warehouse to the southeast, had been acquired by Duke University.

The northernmost frame structures, late 1970s - looking southeast.

The northernmost buildings were demolished at some point after the warehouses were purchased by Duke University. By the 1990s, part of the facility had become the Duke Surplus store. This venture later moved to the former Center theater at Lakewood Shopping Center, and the Lumber Company buildings became part of the Duke Transit complex.

Former Cary Lumber Company warehouse, 03.18.08

Site of the Cary Lumber Company Office, 07.19.08

There's a cool building behind the bricked in windows of the warehouse, as well as what appears to be a currently-enclosed monitor roof. In keeping with my sentiment about the Smith warehouse next-door, I'd like to see a higher-and-better use of this land and the buildings between the railroad tracks and the freeway through this area, particularly to reconnect West Pettigrew near the Center for Documentary Studies with West Pettigrew just west of South Gregson St. In an area where the connectivity between neighborhoods is severely limited by the freeway, creating a usable and pleasant corridor between West Durham and West End, near the CDS, and West End and Brightleaf/West Downtown - from Buchanan to S. Duke would diminish the present barriers.



As of 2014-15, Triangle Transit had rather shamelessly shunted the proposed Durham-Chapel Hill light rail through the middle of this warehouse (and no, I don't mean in a cool depot kind of way.) Who knows if that will happen, but TT seems rather intent on demolishing historic buildings along their path. (I'm still not over the dumbness of the Graybar building demolition.)

07.26.15 (G. Kueber)


Can we please have a moment of silence to remember the Duke Surplus Store. It was where I bought my first computer: a medical transcription device that held 64K of text for note taking. A fraternity brother of mine fashioned an RS-232 cable so that I could download the notes to a Sun workstation for formatting.

Over the years I have bought med ctr. vehicles, steelcase file cabinets, desks, IV bag stands, a patent leather DUPD pistol holster, chairs, even a gynecological examination table complete with stirrups. I was very sad to see they closed down.

The one in the West End closed? That sucks. I always bought my keyboards and my montors there.

Living in the Burch Ave. neighborhood, I love going through this long stretch of brick before getting to Main.


The thing I wished I'd bought at Duke Surplus:

when they were remodeling the library, or maybe it was the law library, in the early 90's, I went 3 times to look at this lovely long, carved wooden table, but I could never justify it. A few years later I spotted it outside the George's Garage restaurant in the old Wellspring store on 9th St. Which wasn't so bad except they'd done nothing to preserve the veneers from the weather, I'm sure it's gone now. Shame.

Does anyone know when Buchanan Street was raised... yes raised. It maybe have been prior t0 1940 but not sure. I have one of the few housed that is on it's original foundation. The rest are on jacks. 916-922 N. Buchanan... any hints clues or referrals would be great.


The picture above labeled as an office became the first Lowes store in Durham. Around 59 or 60.

This one looks like it's in the crosshairs due to rerouting of the proposed light rail line.

Long way out, of course, but something to start pondering.

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