El Rancho Motel

36.008625, -78.936454

Cross Street
Year built
Year demolished
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(Courtesy John Schelp)

The El Rancho Motel was one of an initial wave of businesses catering to the new development of the VA and surrounding medical complex in the late 1950s/early 1960s, located on former wooded land on the east side of Fulton Street (at Elf and Erwin.)

On the obverse (capitalization theirs):

"Hotel Rooms with private tile baths. Steam heated. Located 3 blocks from DUKE University and Hospital. West Campus entrance on Erwin Street and one block from new Veterans Hospital. Take US 70A to West Main Street and 9th, then Erwin Street. Follow DUKE HOSPITAL SIGNS. Telephone 8-1223. Mr & Mrs Geo. C. Davis, Owners."

(Courtesy Chris Graham)

The El Rancho appears to have been gone by the 1980s, as was the connection of Elf Street with Erwin Road, taken over by a parking garage that accompanied the completion of Duke Hospital North in 1980.

Site of El Rancho Motel, 04.25.09

Find this spot on a Google Map.



When senior Duke administrators objected to a regional rail station at Duke Medical Center, Durham's largest employer offered many excuses: it would be too noisy, the hill in Chapel Hill was too steep, and regional rail would create a "wall"...

Regional rail is certainly not noisier than the state's busiest heliport across the street... since when does Duke care about the hill in Chapel Hill... and ED readers can look at the 2009 photo above and decide for themselves if Duke's parking deck creates an ugly wall between campus and town.

It's too bad Durham's ridership numbers took a hit with Duke's actions. A regional rail station -- connecting Duke with the Triangle -- could have helped take down walls... Walls that Duke continues to put up (see new fences near Wallce Wade, see Duke closing streets near research buildings, see current efforts to gate Maxwell).

More... http://www.owdna.org/issues.htm#rail

My grandparents Henry and Madge Harris managed (may have owned)the El Rancho Motel back in the 1950's when my father was a teen.

My name is Clayton Davis. My father was Geo. C. Davis, who owned the El Rancho Motel (see back of card) in the mid 1950s, when I was in elementary school at Watts Street Elementary. We lived at 929 Urban Avenue. My brother Martin Dorner Davis attended Durham High. I had a great childhood there. I used to play in the woods where Duke Hospital is now. If you knew any of those places, pls contact me cwdavis46@embarqmail.com

When my family decided to move from Chicago to Durham in 1965, my mother and four kids drove down in the family Rambler station wagon to go house hunting. Relying on the Mobil Travel Guide for motel and restaurant ratings, we went for the "economy" motels. So we stayed at the El Rancho for a week and ate at the Blue Light every night. We dubbed it the "El Rauncho," but it certainly was affordable.

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