Durham's First Playground

35.999856, -78.9083

Cross Street
Year built
Year demolished
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.

Looking northwest at the later intersection of Duke and Main, 1890.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection

The area around the Duke & Sons tobacco factory still had quite an agrarian feel to it into the 1890s; only the factory itself and Fairview, Washington Duke's mansion at the left edge of the picture, betray something more afoot.

In the above Picture, Duke St. barely extends north of Main St. (it's on the far side of Fairview). The "Duke" name appears to have arisen from the fact that the street north of Main led (ended) at Brodie Duke's house and large estate one block north.

It was Brodie Duke - the least discussed and rather eccentric (and not uncommonly inebriated) Duke brother - who amassed the most significant real estate holdings in Durham or any of the Duke family. The undeveloped area northwest of the intersection of Duke and Main was one of his holdings, and one he donated for the first playground in Durham.

Looking west-southwest from Duke Street toward Main. The Main St. Christian Church is in the background. - circa 1910.
(Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection / Digital Durham)

Looking northeast towards the Toms and Hicks warehouses
(Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection)

By the 1920s, though, the playground had been developed into a series of buildings, including the Durham Ice Cream Company, Pashcall's Bakery, and a Studebaker dealership.

The dealership was built in 1928, and was intially called "Henry's Motor Sales." It didn't last for long, though - it appears to have closed around 1930. It became Brown's Auto Supply on July 1, 1943, described as "wholesale automotive replacement parts jobbers and automotive machine shop services," as seen in this 1948 photo.

Looking northwest, 1948.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

It remained an auto-related venue into the 1980s; the adjacent car lot filled in with a Dodge service building.

During the 1980s, some portion of the building was used as Brunson's TV/appliance repair center/electronics store. Brunson's was located on the northwest corner of Duke and West Main.

Looking northwest from N. Duke, 1981.
(Courtesy Robby Delius)

It appears that it also became Lane's Auto Supply at some point, as seen from the below shot of the rear of the building. I don't know if this followed or preceded Brunson's use of the building.

The two buildings from the rear, looking southeast, 1985
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

In the late 1980s, the Studebaker building became part of a restaurant 'complex' along with the building next door, the former Pachall's Bakery Building. You can read more at that post about the series of failed restaurants to occupy these spaces, but the sequence began with the Weeping Radish, followed by Old Heidelberg Village.

Looking at the rear of the Studebaker Building, 08.11.92
(Courtesy The Herald Sun)

Things have gone upscale as of late. The Studebaker building has been renovated into office space for Ogilvy, an advertising agency. The utilitarian Dodge Service building next door has become a private garage for an RTP CEO's personal Porsche collection - and I used to get my car fixed in that building.

Studebaker (Ogilvy) and the Palais de Porsche, 12.17.07

Find this spot on a Google Map.

35.999918 -78.908038

Add new comment

Log in or register to post comments.