The Eloise

35.997149, -78.910456

Cross Street
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As the Sanborn maps I've shown in previous posts demostrate, large single family homes lined both sides of West Chapel Hill St. during the early 20th century. Per the Historic Inventory, in 1928, Dr. Baird Brooks commissioned well-known Durham architect George Watts Carr to build an apartment building that also held Dr. Brooks' medical office on the northwest corner of Gregson St. and West Chapel Hill St., which he called "The Eloise."

Looking east on West Chapel Hill St. from Vickers. The Eloise is on the left side, with Duke Memorial Methodist further east. The NC photo archive says this is the funeral procession of James B. Duke, but James B Duke died in 1925. So either the inventory is wrong (which I doubt) or this is the funeral of Benjamin Duke, who died in 1929.

By the late 1930s, the Eloise housed a number of physician offices. By 1940, 604 West Chapel Hill Street had been built next door, housing more physician offices. In the 1941 city directory, the Eloise is no longer referred to as such, but as "The Chalen."

During the mid-20th century, the building was home to "The Prescription Shop" - owned by Pharmacist J.K. McCoy. The Pharmacy was located in the basement and accessed from the S. Gregson side of the building. The pharmacy specialized in delivery of prescriptions.

Looking west-northwest from Gregson St. (the back of the building is on the left) circa 1957.
Left to right: pharmacist Al Bryant, driver James Woods (source unsure about last name) and pharmacist J.K. McCoy.
(Courtesy Emily McCoy)


Same vantage point, 2006.

The Eloise is now, of course, owned by Durham's own Bill Fields, as is the abandoned apartment building just to the west of The Eloise and the abandoned office buildilng just to the north of the Eloise (the Medical Arts Building, previously profiled.) His sign informs us that he is saving the Eloise because he loves us. And he leaves the other two buildings derelict because...?


Any idea what the smallish building to the Eloise's left is? Perhaps Dr Brooks had a new office added later? I guess it was built between 1929 and 2006. :)

I believe the Eloise is the BF building where a friend of mine had to go through some sort of legal procedure to get her deposit back (after vacating her apartment cleanly and in a timely fashion).


I don't know what the story is behind the other building. As you can tell from the old photo, it was built somewhat later.


I really love the architecture of these two buildings. It is part of our historic downtown Durham. Bill Fields does love Durham and "The Eloise." As anyone in real estate knows, it takes time to renovate property. I hope he continues doing what he does best, making Durham beautiful, with the resources at his disposal.

William (?Bill)

I'll try to treat this comment seriously, and not just as shameless PR.

The tax value on Bill Fields' property holdings (a gross underestimate of the market value, particularly since we are at the end of a 7-year assessment cycle) is on the order of 2.2 million dollars. So pleading poverty doesn't really hold water.

While I've heard plenty of negative hearsay from those who have had to deal with him as a landlord, I haven't had that pleasure, so can't speak to the validity of comments like Joe's, above.

But as one who catches the bus in front of the derelict Medical Arts building, I would say that particular claim of loving Durham rings, uh, a little hollow to those with a firm grip on the reality of Durham. The decades-long abandoned, miserably-treated condition of that property and the apartment building just to the west of The Eloise creates negative effects for all of us - I ain't feelin' the love - just the hit to my wallet and my city.



I am glad you and others have taken this initiative. Now, I don’t think there is any reason to bring sarcasm into this sort of conversation such as ‘the love,’ but I will tell you about your misconception on my property.

Unlike you Gary, I was raised in Durham and have seen South Square mall torn down and Northgate mall on the brink of bankruptcy. These last 10 years the motel across from my property has been vacated and vandalized, becoming a haven for drug deals. If you look back years before your records on this website you will see that there have been substantial improvements on Ninth Street from the time my grandfather was a merchant on the street. I have the blueprints to prove it.

I am not sure about you Gary, but I have witnessed the negative externalities first hand. I have ridden along with the police force and seen how our city has been changing for the worse, especially in South Durham. I have witnessed these escalating crime levels along Chapel Hill Blvd first hand, and close to my home near Walltown. I live next to the mall as you might already know, and the rampant “scary” and “ugly” buildings have become more of an eyesight for me as I drive on Buchanan and up into Walltown to get to Guess Rd.

What you probably don’t know is that my father works around the clock watching over the property because of theft and panhandlers. My father does ‘love’ Durham and he is doing all he can. If anything my father has protected a lot of buildings from theft and renovated buildings to beautify Durham. There was an article in the Herald Sun where my father prevented a break in on Ninth Street years ago. The building would have been broken in to if my father wasn’t tending to the Laundromat

You speak about my property as if it has affected you personally, but a lot of the comments about my father have created the same negative impact you speak of on me and I think of my self as someone who wants to give back to the community. Instead of supporting slander on this blog I think we should bring the entire community into this effort of bettering Durham. I am not sure if you (own) any properties besides your home, but I’m assuming since you haven’t spoken about the time and money and manpower that it takes to upkeep real estate, that you don’t. Your assumption about my father’s intent about selling property to the ‘right’ developer is wrong and frankly I am not sure why you would think he would sell any of our properties since he never has. I understand how costly it is to have these buildings sit vacated, but you don’t realize when we first purchased the Eloise a lot of construction needed to be done on the inside before the outside, which took an enormous amount of time, money, and labor. I assure you the other buildings will be in top shape, since they are considered mine as well.

I have helped my father on Ninth Street since I was riding a tricycle. I worked in the pizza business, the Laundromat and built many of the apartments in the Eloise that you speak of. I want to help with this initiative and want to bring the community together, but targeting my father with verbal abuse is not going bring about a solution for the negative affects of Durham. My father is working on these buildings, which is more than a lot has been done on sitting property around downtown.

I do want to help, but the argument should be less about how Bill Fields can complete or get rid of his projects in X years and should be focused towards getting new projects started for those left untouched. I want you to look at my profile. You can see that I have taken the steps to work with our government officials on issues concerning not only our city, but our state as well. Please let me know how we can work together in the future because I think all of us have a common goal.


I understand it is a personal issue for you, and thus a non-objective one. Rest assured that it is not actually a personal issue - whatever comments post-ers have about their personal experience notwithstanding. If you read through the rest of this site, you'll find plenty of 'calling out' of all owners of persistently blighted property on an equal-opportunity basis.

I don't care one way or another about the personal situation of your father or any of the other folks who leave blighted, abandoned property fallow - what I do care about how these properties hurt everyone else in the community. 604 West Chapel Hill and the Medical Arts buildings are, aside from Ronnie Sturdivant's place two of the most neglected buildings on the west side of town. With property rights come property responsibilities, and that responsibility is to not create a nuisance. These buildings are a nuisance.

Since your father purchased the Medical Arts Building in 1995, all I've seen done is 1) Boarded windows and 2) Mowed lawn. Absolutely nothing else has occurred on this property - so it, and 604 West Chapel Hill are part of the problem. If you want to work together, repair and renovate the property. If you can't alleviate this nuisance for lack of liquid capital, sell it to someone who can - I don't really care who owns it, as long as it doesn't continue to make anyone who passes by it think Durham and the West End are a collective cesspool.

I truly understand the desire to defend your Dad - really, I would lash out too. But understand that many, many people think poorly of how he has left these properties for so many years. That sentiment is out there - I didn't create it. I suggest that if you truly want to help Durham, you talk to your Dad about how much these buildings are hurting our efforts at revitalization, and get a plan together to renovate them. Hurting our community for another 12 years just isn't acceptable.



Rather than pay a mortgage, taxes and insurance on a boarded up and run-down building, wouldn't you rather sell it and the large parcel of land underneathe it? I can only imagine how much a Struever Bros., Greenfire, Scientific Properties or other developer would pay to get that property. Is it a matter of pride or something? If you can't afford to keep up your property, perhaps you shouldn't own it. If you haven't done anything with it in 12 years, do you really expect to do something soon? I'm sure your father is a nice guy, nobody is challenging that. As a landlord though, he is not far behind the Fireball Whites and Sturdivants of the world.

If you haven't noticed, the rest of downtown is exploding with new development. Do us all a favor and cash in already.

As of May 2010, the Eloise and the building immediately to the west appear to be undergoing some rennovation. The doors have been repaired and painted, and the windows of the building to the west have been removed. In the past week we've seen a mason working on the second story, apparently repairing the sills.

Any update? Lots of brush clearing and clean-up last week. Just curious what is going on ...

Sell to Greenfire and others to continue the urban gentrification that is happening. How long have the properties that were The Edge and MKs in downtown Durham remained empty and unused after being sold to Greenfire?

Hi Gary,
I have the exact photo from my grandmother's collection, and it IS the funeral procession of Ben Duke, who died in May 1929. My grandfather, Dr. W.P. Few and Ben Duke were good friends, and even spoke at his funeral. I have it all, and plan to give it to the Durham County Library Archives. Thanks for up dating the Few Garden's info with the items I sent you. Thanks again for all the hard work you have done for Durham. It means more to many of us than you will ever know.
Dana Few Pope

Got to admit, even though I'm a landlord and property owner, that Gary and others are right in that the Bill Fields business model of demolition by neglect and trying to wring every penny out of an income producing property without reinvesting, is bad for our city. If property owners are unable or unwilling to renovate, restore, and reopen properties perhaps they should step aside and let those who want to make the investment do so.  Further, those that hold key pieces of real estate, parcels that could spark new energy, and retain them for when "things get better," are just as bad. 

Hi Gary,
I have the exact photo from my grandmother's collection, and it IS the funeral procession of Ben Duke, who died in May 1929. My grandfather, Dr. W.P. Few and Ben Duke were good friends, and he even spoke at Mr. Duke's funeral. Thanks for up dating the Few Garden's info with the items I sent you. Thanks again for all the hard work you have done for Durham. It means more to many of us than you will ever know.
Dana Few Pope

Was it my imagination of didn't I see the boards off of the windows at the Medical Arts building the other day? Maybe they were airing the place out.

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