Central High School / Durham High School / Durham School Of The Arts

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Durham High School


Brodie Duke's house, 1883.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

Brodie Duke, the eldest of Washington Duke's children, was the first of the Duke clan to recognize the potential of Durham in expanding tobacco production and transport.

Brodie was born in 1846, the second child of Washington Duke and Mary Caroline Clinton. His mother died when he was 1. Washington Duke remarried, to Artelia Roney and had 3 children, Mary, Ben and James. In 1858, both the eldest child, Sidney, and Artelia died.

Brodie thus became the oldest surviving child, and the only surviving child of his mother. He served - possibly impressed into service - as a scrawny youth in the Confederacy, stationed at the Confederate prison in Salisbury, NC. At the end of the war, he tried farming shares with his uncle William Duke, as Washington Duke and his remaining children began to create their own small manufacturing venture.

Always a bit of an outsider to the machinations of the rest of the Duke family, Brodie struck out on his own from his father's business. Brodie was the first of the Dukes to move to Durham; he purchased a frame building on Main Street to set up his own business in 1869. He lived upstairs and manufactured tobacco downstairs, calling his brands "Semper Idem" and developing the soon to be famous "Duke of Durham." It was evidently during this time that he first succumbed to what would become a lifelong battle with alcoholism.

In 1874, the remainder of the Dukes saw the opportunity presented by Durham - Washington Duke sold his farm and moved to Durham, building a frame tobacco manufacturing building on West Main St. - this building had separate partitions - one for Brodie Duke's business, and the other for Washington Duke's - although they initially had a 'mutual assistance' arrangement where each would sell the other's products. Brodie built his own tobacco warehouse - located at present-day Liggett and Corporation Streets around 1878. Around this same time, he joined with his father and the other sons to form W. Duke and Sons Tobacco Co. Sometime during 1870s, Brodie married his first wife, Martha McMannen, daughter of John McMannen (who developed the houses on McMannen Street.) Brodie Duke, although he owned shares in W. Duke and Sons, was not engaged in the day to day operations of the business - I get the feeling that the remainder of the family preferred it that way.

Brodie, perhaps by virtue of being first on the Durham scene, but perhaps because he didn't remain as completely engaged in building a tobacco empire as his father and two half-brothers, Ben and Buck, accumulated a great deal of land on the west side of Durham, including most of what would become Trinity Park. He built his own estate on a 15 acre plot of land sometime prior to 1883, just one block west of his tobacco factory. The street we now know as "Duke St." is so named because it initially led to (and ended at) his house and land.

He also built mercantile establishments and office buildings downtown - which did not fare so well. The first, near Main and Church Sts., was destroyed in a large Durham fire in 1881. Another, the five story brick office builing called the "Brodie Duke Building" in the 100 block of West Main St., was where a disastrous 1914 fire started that destroyed the entire block.

Brodie's life seemed to be a series of such advancements and reversals - he bought the Bennett Place in 1890 and built a shell around the outside to try to preserve it - so that he could try to sell it to the World Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. He had no takers. He invested heavily in cotton textiles- including the Commonwealth Cotton Company and in establishing the Pearl Cotton Mill just northeast of his estate in 1892.

In 1891-2 he traveled to Illinois to receive the "Keeley Cure" - for alcoholism - and returned ostensibly sober. By 1893, he had declared bankruptcy, the mills were taken over by his brother Ben, and Brodie fell back into a pattern of "indulging in whiskey and women."

However, this did not stem his contributions to the development of much of what we think of as 'historic Durham' today. Having amassed large quantities of land extending from Trinity College through present-day Old North Durham and Duke Park (one source notes his acquisition of "150 acres at $10 an acre",) Duke awaited the establishment of a successful streetcar system to develop his land. The planned trolley extension into future Trinity Park, known as the Dummy Street Railway, failed before it could get off the ground. However, after Richard Wright successfully started the Durham Light and Traction Company in 1901, Duke began subdividing land and selling off parcels in Trinity Park and North Durham. Duke initially named the streets in Trinity such that Gregson St. was named "Hated St." Thus, his antipathy for George Watts - who as a strict Presbyterian no doubt disapproved greatly of Brodie Duke's lifestyle - was expressed each time a person read a map or traveled east-west. The streets would read (depending on the direction of travel) "Duke - Hated - Watts".

1901 plat map of Trinity Park, showing Duke's house and "Hated Street."
(Many thanks to HW for sending this along)

Brodie was divorced from his second wife by 1904 (a quite unusual occurrence at the time,) and while on a multi-day bender in New York City during his younger brother Buck Duke's wedding, ended up married to his third wife (to whom he had also given several promissory notes and various prenuptial promises- for how much cash isn't stated.) The Duke family lawyers obtained a warrant for Brodie's commitment to a sanitarium, pleading a temporary insanity due to intoxication. He managed to successfully sue for divorce on the grounds that he had no recollection of the series of events. The brothers were not at all close after Brodie's 'night(s) in New York' and subsequent events.

Brodie had to put his wealth in the care of trustees during this event, and appears to have laid just a bit lower over the next several years. Despite his wayward ways, he seemed to evince some of the same streak of civic and educational generosity that possessed the remainder of his family. In 1886, he had donated the land for the Main Street Methodist Church. In 1910, Duke donated two lots of land for the King's Daughters Home on Buchanan Blvd. with a $500 "nest egg", and evidently named the intersecting street Gloria, "because of the glory of being able to aid such a cause" - that cause being the the provision of shelter and care to elderly women. He also donated the land that became (Brodie) Duke Park.

Also in 1910, Brodie married his fourth wife, Wylanta Rochelle. As Robert Durden puts it, Duke would pass by the Rochelle family home on his walk downtown and stop by the front porch to argue with the Rochelle patriarch, who was a Democrat (Brodie, like all the Dukes, was a staunch Republican - although these were quite different categories than present-day.) The fact that Wylanta Rochelle was 40 years his junior was probably of less concern to the rest of the Duke family than simply ensuring that the groom (and bride) had actually made a sober commitment.

Wylanta Rochelle and Brodie Duke in the back of his Cadillac, 1912.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

He died on February 2, 1919; per Robert Durden in "The Dukes of Durham", Brodie died unreconciled with his half-brothers, and neither attended his funeral, a ceremony held in his home - although Ben Duke was quite ill at the time.

The city high school (for whites) on Morris St. had become quite crowded, and the availability of Duke's land presented the opportunity to develop a new high school with ample facilities.


In 1922, construction was completed on the new high school building, built just to the north of Brodie Duke's former house. The school was designed by Milburn & Heister, a firm responsible for many of Durham's most impressive civic buildings; the company was engaged at the same time in transforming the former high school into a new City Hall.

(Photos from the DHS Messenger)

The Durham High School Messenger wrote in 1923:

"THE year 1923 will forever be assocjated with the 'new building.' Few of us can remember when a new high school building was not discussed but it has been - the good fortune of the present class to see that discussion gloriously materialized. The student body was transferred to the new high school building November 20, 1922 and of the impressions associated with that memorable day perhaps Senior gratitude and pride were -most conspicuous.

We were so delighted at the provision which has been made for our work and our play in this, a new domain. To have one's own locker! and an honest- to-goodness library; and just to drift into a modern cafeteria provided for us . alone; a -chameleon-like auditorium, first an auditorium, then a gymnasium, and . ,. then neither but a theater where school plays could at last be satisfactorily pro- duced; last but not least, a sure-enough swimming pool.

The class of '23 especially thanks the school board for enabling it to graduate from the most modern high school in North Carolina." ..

Pictures of the brand new school below, all from the 1923 Durham Messsenger, via the DigitalNC project.

The area around the school continued to grow from semi-rural to urban - with industry to the south and east and residential to the north and west.

The completed Central High School (soon known as Durham High) and Brodie Duke's house, 1926.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

Postcard of Durham High School
(Courtesy John Schelp)

1924 (from the Durham High School Messenger, via Milo Pyne)

By 1928, a newly centralized Junior High School, named for Julian Carr, was completed at the southern extent of Duke's former estate, facing Morgan Street. The school was designed by George W. Carr.

Julian Carr Junior High, 1930.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

Looking west-northwest from downtown at the completed Junior High, High School, and Brodie Duke's house.
(Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection / Digital Durham)

Duke's house remained on the school site for at least 6-7 years after construction of the high school. There was evidently a large fish pond in back of the house that the students would mine for biology class specimens. Likely sometime around 1930, the former house was torn down and a home economics building was constructed near its former location.

Looking northwest across the Liggett-Myers complex to the Carr Junior High and Central High School, ~1930. The Brodie Duke house may still be standing in this picture - I can't decide.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

A view of the high school from near Trinity Avenue, date unknown, but likely mid-1930s to 1940. A bit of the home ec building is visible at the left edge of the frame. Duke's house is certainly gone by this time.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

Below, a ~4 minute excerpt from H. Lee Waters' films of Durham, showing the high school and junior high, lots of student shots, and some interesting views of the surrounding streetscape - late 1930s or 1940.

(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

A gymnasium was added to the north end of the campus sometime in the 1940s.

Looking south from ~ W. Trinity Avenue at the full extent of the high school and junior high campus - the gymnasium is at the northeast corner of the campus - early 1950s.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper

Below, Carr Junior High in the 1950s.

Carr Junior High, 1950s, looking northwest.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper

In 1953, the home ec building was evidently moved to make way for a new auditorium building. I don't think the home ec building exists anymore (unless it's hidden behind some building and I missed it.) So I presume that although it was moved, it was later torn down.

Preparing to move the home ec building, 06.30.53.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper

The Durham city schools began a slow, slow march to integration by admitting the first African-American students as transfers to Durham High and Carr Junior High in 1959. The process was a transfer policy - in which students could apply for transfer to other schools, but race could supposedly not be used as a deciding factor - rather than a true integration policy. Can you imagine how brave this first handful of students must have been to enter previously all-white schools?

The resistance of the school board to desegregation slowly ebbed over the 1960s, as the trickle of transfers became a stream. Per Jean Anderson, white flight and a sudden proliferation of private/parochial schools pushed the shift even further, such that when court-ordered integration finally occurred in 1970-71, the district's population was majority African-American.

Carr Junior High closed in 1975, and that building became part of Durham High. In 1993, Durham High School ceased to exist as a traditional high school, and in 1995 re-opened as a magnet school, Durham School of the Arts, graduating its first senior class in 2000.

The former Carr Junior High, looking north, 12.09.07. (Photo by Gary Kueber)

The former Durham High School, looking west, 12.09.07. (Photo by Gary Kueber)

Area of Brodie Duke's House, 05.25.08 (Photo by Gary Kueber)

The old gymnasium at the northeast corner of the campus, looking southwest, 12.09.07. (Photo by Gary Kueber)


as always, love the blog! I sent you a PDF of the 1901 plat for Trinity Park, which shows the Duke-Hated-Watts Streets you described. I'm not sure when the name was changed to Gregson, but it was certainly done by the 1920s.


Stunning work, Gary!

This Wells & Brinkley Co. Map of Durham (ca 1920) shows Gregson Street as "Brodie" (ending at Green St)...


Gary, please post that 1901 plat map when you ge the chance! I'd love to see it and be able to use it on Preservation Durham walking tours.

I'd heard (probably from Jim Wise, who else) that Brodie included Washington Street in that list: Washington-Duke-Hated-Watts, but your three-word front-and-back makes more sense. Can you also confirm that Gregson was the Duke's pastor (rendering the hateful comment into a pious homage)?

By the way, I hope DSA includes this entry in their promotional material. Great work!

Lastly, I borrowed an old Durham High School year book (The 1927 Messenger) from the PD office recently. It includes some wonderful shots of the HS club members in front of the main entrance, if you're looking for any more human touches to this entry.

You would have given CH Livengood ("Best Informed") a run for his money...


Thank you so much! I've added it to the post.


For those of you interested in Durham history: I just happened to walk through the little art gallery at American Tobacco today and there is an incredible collection of water color paintings by a fellow named Bob Blake. Bob's a member of my church, but I had no idea this collection existed until I saw it this morning. Apparently Bob has been creating paintings of Durham street scenes since the early 1950's.

Thanks Gerald - I noted this in its own post. Could you put me in touch with Bob? Shoot me an email.


The current appearance of this campus is an embarassment, particularly when compared with the groomed image of the historic photographs. The windows are falling apart, several doorways are covered with peeling plywood, and the grounds look more like a farmyard than a schoolyard. The only thing missing is a few chickens scratching around in the dirt on the Morgan Street frontage to complete the image.

I certainly understand the funding limitations of the school system, and would hate to see this excellent school move away from downtown, but if DPS can't afford to maintain this facility in a reasonable way, perhaps they should sell it to a private entity for adaptive reuse and build a more efficient campus elsewhere.

I really love reading about the old Durham High. I am a freshman and Durham School of the Arts, and I am on the newspaper staff. I was wondering if you know anything about two things: 1) I was reading online about a chemistry experiment gone wrong in the Science Academy Building. It was featured on Rescue 911. 2) There is a dedication plaque in one of the courtyards. The name on the plaque is Paul C Williamson Jr. The plaque is dated 1967-1968. I was wondering if you could send me anything you know about these items. My email address is cabrera_carey@hotmail.com.
Carey Cabrera
The Gallery at DSA

I was one of four blacks who first integrated Carr Junior High school. What a frightening and traumatic experience for a ten year old. We were mistreated, spit on, hit on and called terrible names. For a long time, I could not watch the movie Ruby Bridges with my daughter, but since the election and President elect Obama will be our next president, I feel that it was all worthwhile. I only wish my grandmother were here to celebrate this great occasion. To the first ones who walk across the threshold into those schools, thank you. Although the one boy died in Viet Nam. He was not good enough to go to the white school but it didn't matter his color when he left to defend this country. Thank you President elect Obama!

I noted in the write-up that the home ec cottage featured in the writeup was torn down to make way for the auditorium (1950's?). There was apparently a second brick one built that was torn down in late 1978 - early 1979 to make way for the current media center. I witnessed its demolition as a student there.

The Durham High School home economics cottage may not have been torn down to make way for the auditorium. I think it was moved south to the location of the current library built in the late 1970's. The cottage was then torn down for construction of the new library. Notice that on one of the images, the cottage appears to be ready for the move.

I agree with RWE (Ralph Waldo Emerson? :-) ), that the campus of DSA today is a disheveled embarrassment. When I moved to the neighborhood in 2005, I was sure that the school was closed down and couldn't believe it was actually in operation. Paradoxically, the school has just built a new, multi-million dollar facility in the rear of the main buildings, while the older buildings continue to crumble and peel.

How fortunate that this lovely group of buildings survived intact (save for one or two). Though if the condition of the original buildings is as bad as a few of the comments have mentioned, more work may be required--but at least they were not lost like so many others in this city.

To respond to Kym's question - I can go back to the 1970's when I attended DHS. I heard the third floor was designed as an office/co-op business career classroom. If my memory serves me correctly, there is a glassed in area -for typewriting? Anyway, during that time, Mrs. Delia Robinson was the sociology-social problems teacher in this classroom as well as a popular student government advisor. (DHS hosted the North Carolina Association of Student Councils convention during that time) I remember an access room to the roof that was connected to this room, and the year '1942' was carved into the woodwork there, along with initials of generations of students.

A question for anyone who might know: what was the 3rd floor used for? It was shut off to us when I was there, I was able to get up there once, and it seemed to be mostly hollow rafters in the center. Very few rooms. And I always wanted to know how they got that piano into the upper floors of the Carr Building, lol.

I wouldn't call the school a disheveled embarrassment in side there was awesome reconstruction giving the ability to do art in places that once wasn't equipped to handle it and I really dislike the new building it doesn't fit with the rest but maybe that's just this DSA 2001 graduate not wanting to see changes in the halls of that school had an energy like you would t believe from all the history never call it an embarrassment it's perfect just the way it is

I graduated from DHS in 1991, and was devastated when they decided it was 'too urban', and decided to close it as we knew it. A lot of good it did, since the main building is in the shape it's in now. I can guarantee you they are biding their time to tear it down, and continue the 'new' look in its place. I was a student there, Casey, when Mr. Surayanna Chitilla had the accident in the Science Building. There used to be a clip of the Rescue 911 footage on YouTube. I'm sure you are way past finding this info, as you should be either a senior or graduating this week. I thought I would share it anyway!

I am a student at durham school of the arts and a member of the schools newspaper i would like to know why they closed the swimming pool?

I loved going to school there. DHS Class of '73.

I believe the third floor was used for the DO (Diversified Occupations) classes, taught by Mr. Deeds. I always heard that the swimming pool was closed because Hillside did not have one.

Attended Carr grades 7-9 and graduated from Durham High in 1962. My last trip home was in 2012. Very nostalgic to drive down North Duke Street.

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