North Durham Graded School

36.00424, -78.898244

Cross Street
Year built
1901, 1929
Year(s) modified
Construction type
Building Type
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(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

The North Durham Graded School was among the 'second wave' of schools established in Durham around the turn of the century, following the establishment of the first graded school for white children in 1892 and the Whitted School for African-American children, located at Ramsey and Proctor Streets, in 1893.

This second wave increased the geographic spread of the city schools to North Durham, Edgemont, the Fuller school downtown, the city high school downtown for white children, and the West End school and East End School for African-American children in those respective areas.

The North Durham Graded School was built in 1901, described as a "two-story and basement brick building 75 feet by 80 feet in size with 10 classrooms.". In 1927, its enrollment was 297, which was described as "filled to capacity." The area to the south west and north was described as "vacant, so the site can be made as large as necessary. The area to the south [was] so attractive and wild that a playground of considerable size should be laid out adjacent to the school.... A 32 room modern school building should be planned, one unit to be built at first; the other to be added as growth requires."

1924 (from the Durham High School Messenger, via Milo Pyne)

Indeed, in 1929, a 'modern' set of classrooms were added to the North Durham School, just to the north of the original structure. (The area to the south was developed as apartment buildings.) This neoclassical structure resembled the contemporaneous Durham High School and Carr Junior High.

Looking northwest, 1950s at the original school and the 1929 structure to its right.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun)

Looking southeast at the rear of the school, 10.21.60
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

Looking south at the rear of the school 10.21.60. The older portion of the school is the three-story structure, and the breezeway to the left connects it to the 1929 addition.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

In 1961, the 1901 portion of the school was demolished.

Looking northwest at the former front of the 1901 school, 07.28.61
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

Looking west at the former interior of the 1901 school, 07.28.61
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

The 1929 portion of the school soldiered on for several years after this, but by the late 1970s, the school had been decommissioned, and the structure converted to offices for the Durham City Schools.

The structure was the starting point for TROSA, which Durham County agreed to lease to the new organization for $1 a year, beginning in 1994. It appears that TROSA later purchased the structure/land from the county. I'm not sure which operations they run out of this facility presently.

Former North Durham Graded School Site, looking northwest from W. Geer and North Sts., 06.23.08

Former North Durham Grammar School (1929 addition) looking west-northwest from W. Geer and North Sts, 06.23.08. (Photo by G. Kueber)


In reply to by Mary (not verified)

I went to Old North Durham School, grades kindergarten & 1st grade with Mrs Amen's or Mrs Ames. No matter how old I got if I ever seen her in public she always remembered a face. I remember her saying that and she won't lying. Lol. The good ol days

In reply to by Mary (not verified)

I went to Old North Durham School, grades kindergarten & 1st grade with Mrs Amen's or Mrs Ames. No matter how old I got if I ever seen her in public she always remembered a face. I remember her saying that and she won't lying. Lol. The good ol days

Not to play backseat blogger, but I don't think you actually say where the school is anywhere in the post.

Sorry JP. I added the street perspective in the last photos.


I believe its a men's residential facility for TROSA right now.


I attended North Durham Elementary 1st grade through part of 5th grade (1970-1974). As a young child I always thought that it was strange that my first grade teacher also taught my dad and his brothers. Ms. Amens (not sure of the spelling) was a wonderful lady. So many memories from that school....playing on the big lower field, PE on the blacktop, and so many good teachers. Too many memories to list. Still friends with a few of my elementary classmates. Walked to school everyday. :)

I too attend North Durham Elementary 1st-5th grades. I lived on Mangum St. and would walk to school everyday. I would really like to find a couple of my classmates...any idea where I should start?

I too am an 'alum' of North Durham (1st thru 6th grades). Mr. Willis Whichard (sp) was the principal, a tall, imposing, striking looking man with snow white hair. My teachers (the ones I remember): 1st/Mrs. Moore, 2nd/Mrs. Schroeder, 3rd/Mrs. Swain, 5th/Mrs. Whitehead. What, in hindsight, seems unique, is the massive sized playground behind the school and the long flight of stone steps leading to the field. Side note re Mrs. Swain. She taught penmanship/handwriting. I found out much later on that Mrs. Swain scribed the names on the diplomas for the graduating classes at Durham High.

In reply to by Glenda (not verified)

Oh, I remember the teachers you noted as I also went to North Durham when the old and newer buildings were in use.  I had Ms Swain, Ms. Strange and Ms. Ellis.  Yes, Mr Whichard was the principal.  I was there from 4th to 6th grade coming from Bragtown Elementary.  Ms Swain liked my penmanship and would give me many extra tips.  I later did calligaphy.  Also, remember that great playground especially the side wall with the shade from trees and shrubs.  






I attended 3rd and 4th Grades here in 1962-63 and 1963-64. Mrs. Lucas 3rd Grade and Mrs. Sharron for 4th Grade. Mrs. Lucas was a brand new teacher out of college. She was beautiful and the first teacher I was ever smitten with. I remember the lower play ground and long field which backed up to the Naval Reserve Station. Mrs. Lucas' husband was a Duke medical student. For our class he loaned her a REAL skeleton to show us which hung on a tall steel pole. The wind blew through the window that spring day fell over. Breaking one of the front teeth out. I remember her giving us, "free time" to color whatever we wanted because she had her head on her desk crying. I felt so sad for her and went and put my small hand on her shoulder and said, "Mrs. Lucas, it's okay, he won't be mad because it was an accident. You can even tell him I did it and I'll take the blame". She looked up and the tears stopped and she smiled and said "yes, it was an accident wasn't it Joe. Thank you sweethearty now go sit down and color some more". She stopped crying and went to grading papers. I even walked my her duplex on Washington Street joping to see her husband so I could tell him it was an accident. I relished that "sweetheart" she said of me for a long time.

On November 22, 1963, the 4th Grade teacher across the hall came into Mrs. Sharron's doorway and in tears and quietly said, "The President is dead!". I remember it so vividly still. Mrs. Sharron said, "everyone stop what you're doing". While we did not comprehend the import of what was happeneing, we knew it was far more important than the construction paper, crayons and school paste we were working on for our Thaksgiving posters. The two of them talked outside, then went to meet with the Principal. In a while he came on the PA system and told us school would be released early. The rest of that weekend and next week our family on North Street was glued to the old TV set watching the events unfold. The continual references to President Lincoln prompted me to get the encyclopedia out and read about him. That in turn gave me a lifelong love of history, especially American history. Thanks for reading.

Spelling errors in my previous post. That'll teach me to "preview" first. :)

Her name was Eammons and her husband Floyd taught 5th grade at Club Boulevard

I went to North Durham in 1960 and 1961 for 4th and fith Grade.

I have fond memories of the town and the school.

I remember Ms. Markham the music teacher.

I don't recall my 4th grade teacher's name but Mrs. Whithead was my 5th grade teacher.

Yes, fond memories.


In reply to by Paul

Thank you for the comment, Paul. Please share anything else you have on here!

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