Markham Apartments

36.000688, -78.897698

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National Register
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Markham Apartments, 1924.

A series of impressive apartment buildings were constructed in Durham neighborhoods during the 1910s-1930s. Many of these still survive, primarily in Trinity Park, although a few in Old North Durham and the West End still persist.

(Below in italics is from the 1984 National Register listing; not verified for accuracy by this author.)

This two story apartment building is a rare surviving example of Durham's earliest apartment buildings. The eight unit Spanish Colonial Revival style building is a good example of the small number of structures built in Durham using thisstyle, which was popularized by the construction of Watts Hospital (National Register) in 1909. The Markham Apartments, faced with brick and stucco and displaying its original exterior, is typical of the early apartment buildings that provided an alternative to the boarding houses and hotels as multi-family dwellings. The building is divided into four segments, each reflected on the main facade by the one story porch with balcony above sheltering two entrances, one door to each unit on the first and second stories. An eclectic design was achieved through the use of various materials, including turned balusters cast in cement. Notable exterior features of the building include its handsome brick work. metal shingles which imitate terra cotta tile on the hood, paired sawn brackets in the deep eaves, and 12/12 and 8/8 double hung windows. Notable interior features include the graceful plaster arch with consoles dividing living and dining rooms and the heavy cornice and dentil molding in the living rooms. C.W. Rigsbee acquired the property at public auction in 1938 for $18,085. The property has since been resold and has undergone extensive rehabilitation.

These apartment buildings were a new alternative to the more common rooming house, subdivided house, or hotels that people who did not own their own homes lived in at the turn of the century. Often they supplanted earlier single family homes on the site as neighborhoods grew.

The 8-unit Markham Apartments at 123 Broadway St. were built around 1910, adorned with decorative brick facing, balconies with turned balusters, and a metal faux-terracotta tile roof. It remained an apartment building through the 20th century, and was quite worn out by the 1990s. It was purchased by TROSA and renovated as housing for TROSA residents in 2001-2002. I'm not always a fan of TROSA's renovations, but they did a decent job on this structure. I'm never a fan of fake muntins and standard-issue Home Depot metal doors, but at least the other structural elements have been preserved.

Looking southwest, 06.23.08



Wow, I'm really surprised this building survived the 80's. My first impression of the "improved" building was that it was a bit disappointing; it looks a bit unbalanced with only one balcony, the color of the brick in the fence doesn't match the color of the brick of the building, and WHY are there four doors on the first floor lined up like brick sailors?

Not knowing what TROSA is, a quick Google search explained a lot. Based on who they are and what they do, I have to agree -- it's not a bad (overall) renovation. I would have preferred to have seen a restoration, but easy for me to say, since it's not my time, money, nor property. :)

Oh how I've wished for a long time that TROSA would make it a priority to get someone on staff who can better understand how to make Home Depotish purchases, that at least better reflect what a building like this one should have. I'm convinced that you can make something work that is reasonable and compatible without breaking the bank at places like Home Depot. There are many materials in my house on James St that were purchased at Home Depot. I'm convinced that they blend in well with my Craftsman house. It takes a little more effort to look beyond the first thing that fits and is the absolute cheapest price to end up with something that serves both purposes. It really doesn't require a bunch of training....just talk to any good architect who understands older structures.

Myers Sugg

I found online where TROSA won a Pyne Award in 2002 for their work on this building, and the photo on the Preservation Durham website plainly shows both balconies. I guess I'm seeing (or NOT seeing) an illusion because of shadowing or something; both balconies are there. (?) Still not understanding the 4-doors-in-a-row on the ground floor, though.

Oddly, when I tried to view this from "street scene" in Google maps, I can't seem to locate it anywhere on Broadway.

While not terribly popular for us today, the lined up doors likely correspond to the historical location of the doors to this eight-unit apartment house.

As to TROSA, a vital consideration is that TROSA is not too often competing with others looking to do more historically sensitive renovations to the dilapidated properties TROSA purchases and revives. The more typical work they do is save properties from the alternatives of either (1) demolition by neglect or (2) crackhouse.

I had 2 aunts and 1 uncle that lived in the Markham Apartments. Even in the 1960`s they had become rundown. My grandmother lived at 108 Broadway St. The Nolan Company was next to her house. Is it still there? Brought back lots of memories when I saw these pictures

My parents lived there from 1960-1974 and the apartments started running down more in the 70's after the owner Mrs Rigsbee passed away..They showed their beauty in the structuse with the two balconies and the doors where a litte over sized but not as big as they are showing in new pic. I don't think TROSA did abad job just doesn't look as familiar as it should..I know TROSA has worked for my husband and they are well structured and hard workers.

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