Forlines Grocery

36.005526, -78.926393

Cross Street
Year built
Year demolished
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Building Type
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Looking southeast from Erwin Road at Forlines Grocery, 1980

Per the Durham Architectural Inventory, a store occupied the southwest corner of Erwin Road and Blacknall St. (later Alexander Ave.) It appears that the masonry structure above had been constructed by 1910. The store was run by AL Bowen during the 1910s, and by 1924, Forline's Grocery - run by William Ward, James A Forline and his wife (unnamed in the inventory.)


Martha Lane Forlines (later Forney) in front of Forlines Grocery. Erwin Auditorium is visible in the background.
(Courtesy Tommy Forney)


(Courtesy Tommy Forney)

By the early 1940, the Forlines and Ward sold the grocery to a "Mr. Mills" who ran a grocery here until 1965, when the building was purchased by Duke University. Duke did not demolish the building during their initial sweeping demolition of mill housing south of Erwin Road in the late 1960s; they adaptively reused the structure as an office building, still extant in 1980.


The former Forlines, likely 1970s
(Courtesy Tommy Forney)

Such enlightened treatment could not hold, however, and by 1989, the building had been demolished for a surface parking lot.

Looking southwest at the site of Forlines, 06.06.09

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In the 1970's, this was the "Nearly New Shoppe," a thrift store run by the Duke Medical School faculty wives association. They ultimately built a new building on Douglas St., and after moving there, this building was torn down. My recollection is that the building was torn down long before 1989, probably closer to 1979.


Thanks for the additional info; "before 1989" is code for "by the time I got to Durham."


Now that I think about it, I think that Duke did use it as an office space after the Nearly New Shoppe moved out. So it may have been torn down later than I was thinking. (I know that the Nearly New Shoppe was gone from there by about 1980 or so which would correspond with the date on your picture.) My recollection, which could be faulty, is that this building went down in the general carnage wrought by the building of the expressway: in other words, about the time that Erwin Auditorium was torn down and the Blacknall house moved.

It was a pleasant example of early twentieth century commercial architecture. It's too bad it's gone.

I hope you know Gary what a treasure this content is for Durham. I can imagine the time it takes to create this content. Please know the 99% of viewers who are lurkers appreciate it just as much.


The store belonged to my grandfather who we called Daddy John.  He died in 1955 when I was ten and my memories of him was that he was a gentle, sweet man who listened to baseball games on the radio while I sat in his lap.  He was probably too soft and humane to be a very successful business man but I remember the store so well -- the smells, the sounds, and the view inside and around the back.  Thanks to all who provide photos, especially my remarkable cousin, Tommy.

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