Cooper Shop - Liggett And Myers

35.999444, -78.905869

Year built
Construction type
Building Type
Can you help?
You don't need to know everything, but do you know the architect?
Log in or register and you can edit this.

A "cooper" is an archaic term for someone who makes barrels, the preferred storage/transport method for tobacco in the late 19th/early 20th century. That L&M would have a dedicated building just for the manufacture of barrels gives you a sense of the volume of tobacco being produced.



I know this sight is primarily one that seeks to record old photos and their relevant history, however, I'm posting below a "poem" I wrote a couple years back about some of my remembrances of Durham -- in particular the unique (very pleasant to me) smell of tobacco that seemed to pervade every nook and cranny of the factory areas downtown. Gary, please feel free to delete, post this elsewhere or dispose of my modest effort as you see fit.

Recalling Durham Town

Amidst the vast storehouses
of worn and crenellated brick
beside the tangled creaking tracks
and nearby factory shops
bespoke of age and toil proud
with bold assurance there once hung
throughout the heavy-scented air
the sweet and pungent smell
of the aging golden leaf
that defined in its embrace
the purpose of this place
the industry of its people
and the crusty dignity
by which they lived and died
in the old Bull City

Under massive timbered roofs
behind heavy tin-clad doors and shuttered windows
stacked high upon old wood floors
polished smooth by the work of time
could be found in endless number
the huge great wheels of pressed tobacco
that slumbered there to cure
until the time and heat
brought them to perfection
and made them ready
for vast machines next door
while not too far off
the rapid sing-song chant
the melodic calling of the auctioneer
could be heard above the din
of the dusty market floor

The graders marked the cardboard tags
and the buyers bought with skill
the poundage of the growers’ season
that would keep the hogsheads coming
and filling up the great brick caverns
that always yearned for more
while the farmers there stank of sweat
and a little whisky too
as calloused hands counted precious bills
throughout the town I once called home

Gone now the leathery faces
of the factory workers there
and the boys that pushed the mill carts
between the aisles of great machines
silent are the rumbling trucks
that plied the factory streets
and lined the warehouse sidings
all fixtures of a churning bustle
long since gone away
how I long for that perfumed scent
that once lingered thereabouts
infused in every pore
dwelling in every crack and crevice
iconic smell of a bygone era
it was a splendid thing to me
majestic -- like the breath of gods
too soon now the time
when none shall know this thing
the rich patina of the air
gone forever


How well remembered indeed. I remember it too. I worked at Golden Belt in 1964-65. I well remember the delicious smell all over town. I toured the L&M factory several times in the 50s-60s too. I had many friends and family that worked at American and Liggett. I saw the auctions and the loads of leaf every year. I knew a lot of tobacco farmers and their children.
What is Durham about anymore? Tobacco gone, cotton gone. I guess it is about the things that these former reasons for there being a Durham built. Hospitals, and Universities. Too much of the rest has been demolished, or is about to be, by people that have forgotten where it all came from in the first place.

Add new comment

Log in or register to post comments.