East Durham Baseball Park

35.989145, -78.878843

Cross Street
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Year demolished
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Bulls at the East Durham Ballpark, 1913.
From "Baseball's Hometown Teams: The Story of the Minor Leagues" by Bruce Chadwick

By 1901 several local businessmen affiliated with the Durham Athletic Association attempted to pull together a team to play in the Virginia-Carolina league (or perhaps the Class C North Carolina League.) It seems that by 1902, a "Durham Bulls" team was established. The Durham Bulls' website inconsistently refers to this early team as the "Tobacconists" or the Bulls. The team evidently played on the Trinity College field - at the north end of what is now Duke's East Campus. The team had disappeared again by July of that same year.

In 1909 the Durham Traction Company built a baseball field on North Driver Street. Special streetcars would take people out the East Durham route - down E. Main to Angier, east on Angier to S. Driver, north on Driver to the ballpark. (The streetcar then continued north to Holloway, and west on Holloway to Mangum.) By 1910, a Durham city baseball league was established, with teams from the Durham Hosiery Mill No.1, the YMCA, East Durham, and West Durham.

In 1913, a more successful attempt to establish professional baseball in Durham was undertaken. That year, the North Carolina League was re-formed, and the local team was again named the "Durham Bulls" - a Class D farm team for the Cincinnati Reds. The Bulls played in the East Durham ballpark as well.

Sanborn Map of East Durham, showing the East Durham ballpark at N. Driver and West (now Taylor) Sts., 1913.

The games were interrupted for World War I, and then the league disbanded.

The Piedmont League was established in 1919, and the Bulls were one of the members. The Bulls were successful, and in 1926, private funds were raised to build a new ballpark for the club closer to downtown, on open land near Corporation and Morris Streets, known as El Toro Ballpark. The baseball field on North Driver was abandoned by the Bulls, but is still noted as an "athletic field" on the 1937 Sanborn maps (the bleachers appear to have disappeared.)

1920s photo, looking south on North Driver Street from near Southgate Street, with the overgrown edge of the ballpark site on the right.

In 1939, the Durham Public Schools built a new Junior High School on the baseball field site: East Durham Junior High. In 1950, a new gymnasium was added to the north end of the originally-L-shaped structure

Looking southwest from North Driver Street, 1950s. The newer gymnasium is in the foreground, set back from the original facade.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

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

East Durham Junior High, 01.19.55
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

East Durham Junior High became the Holton Middle School at some point in the early 1960s, although it appears to have gone interchangeably by East Durham Junior High, Holton Junior High, and Holton Middle School for a number of years. It remained a middle school until 1992, when it closed after the city-county school merger. The Communities in Schools Academy operated out the the building until 2002.

The future of the school building was uncertain at that point, but kudos to local government and Duke for having the vision to adaptively reuse the existing structure to create a community center that now anchors this end of Driver Street - as the baseball field once did.

It was renovated beginning in July 2008 with completion in August 2009 through a partnership between the city, the county, Durham Public Schools, and Duke University Health System.


The $16.7 million renovation rebranded the school as the "Holton Career and Resource Center," which includes a neighborhood clinic and 'wellness center'. The city's Parks and Recreation Department is housed on the second floor, and the Durham Public Schools houses vocational training programs in the building. Durham Parks and Rec also hosts after-school, summer camp, and other community programs in the building. The center opened in August 2009.

Former East Durham Junior High / Holton Career and Resource Center, 10.02.10

All-in-all, this is a stupendous example of adaptive reuse - a model that the county could have followed for the Lowes Grove School as well.

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