Murdock Building

36.00981, -78.919915

Cross Street
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Murdock Building, 1929, during a national tree-sitting contest, during which Arnold Taylor sat in the tree for 6-7 weeks. Note the trolley tracks in Broad Street.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

The Murdock Building was built by the Murdock family in 1925 as rental property. The property was built with three units - a storefront facing Broad Street (735 Broad), a gas station facing the corner (737 Broad,) and a storefront facing College Road / West Markham (1803 College / West Markham.

In 1928, 735 Broad held University Pharmacy, and 737 was the Broad St. Filling Station. 1803 Markham held Nelson's Cash Grocery.

In 1934, 735 Broad held Dennis' druggist and sundries, and 737 was the Dennis filling station. 1803 Markham held Oliver Wright's Grocery.

In 1941, 735 Broad held Henry Woods General Contractors/Painters Supply, and 737 was the Dennis filling station. 1803 Markham held Riddick's Grocery.

In 1948, 735 Broad held Henry Woods General Contractors/West Durham Plumbing Co., and 737 was the Dennis filling station. 1803 Markham held Riddick's Grocery.

In 1952, 735-737 Broad was the Dennis filling station. 1803 Markham held Riddick's Grocery.

In 1960, 735-737 Broad was the Dennis filling station. 1803 Markham held Ralph's Produce


Ralph's Produce, 1971

Ralph's Produce.
(Courtesy Pamela Strand)

By 1980, 735 held the Underwood Barber Shop, and 1803 Markham was still Ralph's Produce.

735 Broad, 1980.

As of September 2009, the entire building houses Sirens- a bar/lounge.

Looking southwest, 09.12.09


does anyone know if this is still called Sirens? there seems to have been a change in ownership recently.

It was also The Music Loft for awhile, after the Loft moved out of its original loft on Perry (?) and before moving into the warehouse-like building that was its final home. I think it was at this location in 1990-1, possibly as early as the mid-to-late 1980s and possibly as late as 2002 or so (I have clear memories of shopping there and driving by it, but can't pin them down as to whether they were before X or after Y).

Definitely a change in ownership and clientele. I hope they do well.

When Sirens wanted to open, some Trinity Heights (I think I have the correct neighborhood -- new houses and such by Duke East) people tried to get their neighbors to petition the city to deny. One of my friends, an MD who lived there, said "deny? Heck no -- I -want- more good bars within walking distance of my house."

I understand that Murdoch is not spelled Murdock, but since you mentioned it, here's the A-Team's latter with a speech about the Gipper :-)

not as late as 2002-The Renaissance store was there for several years

Another great post... but why doesn't Durham have tree sitting contests any more???

For the record -- I'm pretty sure The Music Loft started at 1920 Perry, upstairs. In approximately 1981, I bought a cheap acoustic guitar there (my first-ever guitar that was actually playable), which I still have.

But aha, another memory comes into focus: I bought my second guitar (electric) at the ex-"Sirens" location, and that couldn't have been any later than 1985 or earlier than spring 1983.

I hope the new owners make the facade and outdoor space a bit more appealing. I love the way the original brick looks in the older photos - much better than the cream color paint that is on the building now.

The bars on the windows and lack of outdoor seating is also very odd. I live about 5 minutes from Sirens and walk by it all the time. It's so uninviting that I never once have stepped foot inside to even check it out. And I could never figure out what the pavement in front was for - dropping people off? Deliveries? Very awkward.

There's no reason a bar shouldn't succeed in that location. It's directly across from East Campus and between two walkable neighborhoods (Walltown/Trinity Heights, Old West Durham). But it's got to be inviting - take off the bars, let pedestrians see in the windows, use the outdoor space, return it to natural brick...those would be good starts.

The majority of East Campus residents are not old enough to drink...legally.

It has changed clientele, and ownership recently. Ironically, the space the Music Loft moved to has now become... a bar.

There's an upstairs addition which I believe was added onto in the late 80's maybe? It's the west-most part of the building.

@ Anonymous on 9/23: tree-sitting contests require trees.

There's still room for one on that corner, I'll warrant--though in this day & age, I suppose it would be one of those d-mned Bradford pears.

Also: mmm, trolleys! I suppose there's no chance of those making a comeback?

I seem to remember the portion facing W. Markham as housing Big Jim's Antiques around 1979-1980? I purchased a butler's chest there and remember using it in a house that I rented in 1980.

This building name is incorrect.  It should be MURDOCK.  It was owned by my great grandfather A.A. Murdock. 

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks Anon - I've confirmed that there were no Murdochs, only Murdocks, in the city directories. Do you have evidence that Albert A. Murdock built the building? I don't disbelieve you, it just contradicts the historic inventory, and I like to have primary sources when there's a conflict.



I have been told by several people that have been there that a part of that building is a strip club.

It was 18 July, 1930 to 4 August 1930 that John Arnold Taylor Jr. (aka "Arsenic" Taylor), age 14, sat on a limb in the tree beside that gas station. He had originally planned to win the tree-sitting endurance contest by sitting in a tree in his own West Pettigrew St. yard, but his mother (my grandmother) ordered him down to split kindling wood.  The Durham Sun, 18 July 1930 (pages 1 and 19).

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