Mystery Photo - 06.18.09

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"Corner store at 11pm, Durham NC" - May, 1940.
From the Library of Congress - Farm Service Administration photo by Jack Delano.

As a side note, there are some great Durham photographs in the Library of Congress, particularly revolving around the tobacco auctions in downtown Durham, but also some wonderful shots of downtown 1936-1940. The digital quality of these available online is miserable, as you can see above. Unfortunately, the Library of Congress seems to charge $22 per scan if you'd like to order something better. If anyone has experience with a cheaper solution worked out with the LOC / knows how to fund such an endeavor (there are probably about 300 photos in total) let me know.

And a good opportunity to repeat my digitization mantra - if you have the rare opportunity to access your Great Aunt Lizzie's picture of the family homestead in 1893, crank up the dpi!! I can never understand why people (including libraries) are scanning photos at 300 dpi or worse in these days of $150 1.5 terabyte hard drives. The hard part is getting access to the photo - scan high, scan often.


It's possible that it's the W. H. Perry & Co. store at the corner of Ottawa & Gurley, but that building has been so heavily "renovated", including changing the sizes of the door and windows, that there's no way to know.

I ran a Google search on the photographer-interesting history:

I have no clue where the store may have been.

Seth Roberts

People scan at low DPI because that's usually the default setting - most pictures that are scanned are typically emailed, and even though we live in the day of $150 TB hard drives, uploading large files to email hasn't quite caught up yet.

Same goes for mp3 compression.


This is true; I probably came off as a bit too frustrated by this, as it crushes me to see some fantastic picture that someone had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to scan, and it is a 2" x 3" original scanned at 72 dpi.


Could it be the store, now a dwelling, at the corner of Trinity and Roxboro St?

As a technical note, once the dpi of your scan is as high as the dpi of the original photo, you are only getting size, not additional detail. (As you go higher, the scanner's resolution is just dividing the original's resolution in half.)

There is little need for scanning b/w over 300 dpi. For color you can get by very well at 200 dpi.

Tar Heelz - agreed on the first point; you can't extract more information than what is the original photo.

I don't agree with you about the need for scanning over 300 dpi. I simplified my mini-rant, as the complexity in telling people a number is that it depends on the size of the original, and the detail in the original. 300 dpi for an 8 x 10 portrait is more than plenty. It's completely inadequate for a 35 mm negative. Since what most people are scanning tend to be pictures between 2x3 and 5 x7, most libraries recommend scanning those at 600 dpi. I find diminishing returns on these above 1200 dpi. I scan large-format negatives at 2400 dpi, medium format negatives at 3600 dpi, and 35 mm negatives at 4800 dpi Again, I err on the side of too much resolution in these days of cheap, cheap storage, and you need a good enough scanner (CCD) to make those numbers mean something.
But I can always reduce it later based on what my eye tells me.

But really, if folks would just think of 600 dpi as a floor for archival scans (i.e. not something you're just trying to quickly scan to send to someone via email to show them) that would be wonderful.


I even tried reading what may be the name of the place, reflected onto the street via the interior light, but just can't quite make it out.

I hear ya on the d.p.i. thing... years ago, I had a work supervisor who wouldn't let me scan anything over 76 dpi, as that is apparently "the limit of what the human eye can see" (his quote, not mine). Very frustrating. I even get pi**ed when my dang scanner's default setting goes back to 150 dpi and I don't realize it until it's too late...

I too was wondering if it might be the old store at the corner of E. Trinity and Roxboro. The granite curb, the tiny strip of ground between it and the sidewalk, and it's corner location are consistent.

In this photo it looks narrower, and also there are the steps up to the door. The old store, current home at the corner has a door at ground level, but this could be because they paved pretty much the entire corner in front of it. It's also received a thorough vinyl re-facing - siding and windows. I've always wondered what is underneath all that.

I'll have to pay more attention to it when I go for a walk later today.

Steve, the words seen in the shadow on the ground are "IN BOTTLES" and then "SOLD HERE" -- with some sort of logo above it all. (Flip the photo horizontally and then rotate it 180 degrees to read it.)

I've scoured the photo visually trying to find clues, and I'm SURE if I was in Hollywood, we could magically zoom in and take visual fingerprints off of the wooden-framed screen door and link it up to a name in some gigantic, instantly-accessible database...right? Or at least identify that large shadow under the right-side window which is cast by some strong light source behind and to the right of the photographer -- streetlight, perhaps? So what IS that bulky shadow?

This is my verbose way of admitting, I have no clue.

The 1923 Hill city directory lists J Malbert Smith as the owner and manager of the store at 202 E Trinity Avenue. Maybe that'll be of some use to you photo-sleuthers. Don't know when I'll get down to the library to check the later directories...

I just drove by the place and am now pretty certain that it is 202 E. Trinity. In the picture it looks narrower due to the long windows, whereas it currently has small vinyl ones. The utility pole show in the picture on the right side also matches the pole that is there now.

This, with the info that Andrew posted about the city directory, cross referenced by tracing back the deeds should be able to confirm this.

202 East Trinity is a good guess, but I don't think it is this building. I have a 1961 picture of that structure, which had a high squared facade extending above the gable, and the front of the windows are flush with that facade (so I don't think it was added between 40 and 61. ) It is possible that it was heavily remodeled twice, but unlikely. The windows look similar, but the door is also different.


I'm sure this thing blew over in a thunderstorm circa 1943! Cute little thing but hardly worth restoring or keeping--with all due apologies to Gary!

Gary is right. It is not the former store at North Roxboro Street and East Trinity Avenue. There was a square facade that was changed only very recently (sometime in the past 11 years that we have lived in OND). If the title of the picture did not refer to the structure being a "corner" store, it really reminded me of the old white with red trim building on North Roxboro Street that was squeezed in between one of the TROSA bungalows and another residence. On the west side of the street immediately south of East Geer Street. It has been boarded up since we've been here and was just demolished this spring.

My vote is for a location in West Durham, of course. :)

I mention that place on my annual walking tour...

Miss Sally Pulley's grocery store. Sold penny candy, bread, milk, vienna sausage, liver pudding and snuff.

If you see me at Golden Belt tonight, I'll share what I think is the location... Otherwise will post here on Saturday...

I, too, have no clue about this store, but neighborhood stores in Durham are very interesting. I grew up in the 1400 block of Broad Street, and on the corner of Broad and Guess Road, there was a corner grocery owned by Tessie and Tyree Harris in the 1940s & 1950s. I can remember the 25 cent carton of Pepsis cutting into my hand as I trudged home with it. Gary, how about featuring this grocery. A convenience store now sits on that location. Also, my grandfather (Rufus Jeffreys) supposedly owned a neighborhood grocery on Milton Avenue, south of Chapel Hill Street, ?1930s, but I've never been able to find any info on it. Have you any clues on that one, Gary?
I just love your posts, especially those in West Durham.
--David Jeffreys

Y'all must still be sleeping off one of the many parties across the heart of Durham last night. Our town was hopping. ;)

Miss Sally Pulley's grocery store is still standing.

On Green Street, between Broad and Clarendon (between 7th and 6th). Check it out... Central door, two front windows, steps. Close to sidewalk, on a corner on Green. Telephone pole on the left. Wood frame (front now covered with faux stone)... This mightcould be the same store in Gary's image.

Customers in the community would have included everyone from cotton mill workers and Italian stonecutters... to pastors, magistrates, Duke faculty, and nearby resident, RM Nixon.

So, it's possible (just possible) that a future president of the United States bought his vienna sausage and liver pudding at Sally Pulley's store. :)


Sorry, I think you're wrong. I walked by Miss Sally's grocery store this morning, and I counted five steps from the ground to door. This one only has three. Also, Miss Sally's has bit of yard between the bottom step and the sidewalk. This one doesn't. And, finally, Miss Sally's isn't on a corner.

Nice try, but there were dozens of stores like this throughout Durham at that time. It's probably going to take someone who actually lived in whatever neighborhood this was in to identify this for sure.


This is fun. I'm still thinking about Nixon buying his vienna sausage and liver pudding at Sally Pulley's grocery store. :)

Indeed, there were many stores in Durham like this. Note that Sally's store was on a "corner" of Green and the alley. And, while the photo shows three wood steps, Sally's store (today) has shorter brick steps.

I stopped by on the way to the Farmer's Market earlier. The good news is Sally's store has a granite curb out front (as in the mystery photo). The bad news is the sidewalk lines don't match up with those in the photo...

Oh well. A suivre...

A friend of mine lived on Sixth Street (Clarendon) in the 1940s and when she was about 7 years old, her mother sent her to Miss Sally's, about a block away, to buy a quart of milk. Walking home, she shook the milk and swung it around as she skipped along. Turns out her mother wanted the cream on top, but the milk was now homogenized!

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