Immaculate Conception (second)

35.997173, -78.913742

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Above, Immaculate Conception, 1957


Immaculate Conception Catholic Church was established in its current location on Chapel Hill Street in 1905, on land donated by William T. O'Brien, the mechanic who made the Bonsack cigarette machine work for J.B. Duke, thereby creating the competitive advantage that allowed the astronomical growth of the compnay.

A church school was also estabished in 1909. The congregation continued to used these structures throughout the early part of the 20th century.

Looking north from West Chapel Hill St., probably 1940s.
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

In 1957, this church was torn down

and replaced with this one:

Looking northeast, under construction.


Which is still in use today, although essentially replaced by larger structure beside it.


Looking north.

There was a house or parsonage on the site of this parking lot until at least the late 1970s.

Another view of this block of West Chapel Hill Street from the 1920s, looking east. (same funeral procession as yesterday's post)

(Courtesy Durham County Library)

This shot is taken from the corner of Buchanan Blvd. and West Chapel Hill Street. Immaculate Conception is barely visible beyond a large tree on the left side.


Same view today.

The church expanded into the large building, just to the left in this shot. Rather unfortunately, this buildlng has a blank brick wall facing West Chapel Hill Street. Last year, the church, in partnership with Duke, opened the Emily K Center, which is one of several providers of services to neighborhood kids in the West End and Lyon Park.


I must admit to being disappointed in the site design for the center, simply because I think they came within a parking lot of hitting a home run. It's a great building, inside and out, and the corner was just a broken up parking lot and a hot dog stand before. But putting this big parking lot in front of the building was a mistake - the building should have been built up to the corner, where you could have actually seen it from the street. It could have created a great deal of life at this corner, which really needs it. The parking lot could have been shunted towards the north east (towards the Freeway and Burch), with much less effect.


Perhaps people put parking lots street-side hoping for noise abatement? Except I guess most urban noise is caused by cars; more parking -> more cars -> more noise. :) Everything else being even (and ignoring accessibility, I guess), they'd be better off using the buildings to enclose the parking lot, then doing noise abatement as part of the building's construction. I guess then we'd get big, ugly, windowless walls along the streetscape.


There are quite a few factors at work here, but I don't think the noise is a major consideration; I think the dominant motivation is a convenience factor. No one should have to figure out where the parking lot is, because it is the most prominent feature on the property. Noise is an interesting factor - if you put buildings closer to the street (create more enclosure), cars slow down, which generates less noise. Understudied (there's no equation out there) but intriguing.

I'm not a parking nihilist, but parking as the dominant feature of a property, (and an overabundance of parking at that) seems to be seen as a benefit without costs. (not talking monetary here - just how does it help hurt the project/the neighborhood).

While it is typically much more the purvey of retailers to push for dominant, overabundant parking, churches are a close second. In fact, I might say that while retailers are beginning to understand purely the aesthetic costs of big surface lots, churches seem to be about 40 years behind the curve. Often, this has a much more deleterious effect on their neighbors, because the lot sits largely empty except for one morning a week.

Well, I could babble about parking for awhile. I don't remember if I've mentioned it before, but Donald Shoup's "The High Cost of Free Parking" is excellent.


I seem to remember that it took a while to strike a deal with the hot dog stand owner and that probably affected the site plan. Don't we wish we could start with all the possibilities being possible? :-)

what building? all i see are cars


Thanks for the info about the hot dog delay; my guess is that this is the site plan they wanted, though.


It's back there somewhere... keep looking.

As a parishioner of Immaculate Conception, my understanding is that the original concept for the site was to have the Emily K Center at the corner of Chapel Hill and Buchanan. Unfortunately, when Don's Dogs was demolished, they discovered old gas tanks underground from a gas station that existed there previously. The cost of removing the tanks and cleaning up the site was deemed cost prohibitive, so the decision was make to leave that area as it was - a parking lot.

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