Old Morehead School

35.994674, -78.905874

Cross Street
Year built
Year demolished
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Morehead School, 1924 (from the Durham High School Messenger, via Milo Pyne)


The Morehead School, 1924. (Digital Durham)

Public schools were established in Durham in 1882 using leased space in the Wright Factory building on Main St.

The Durham Graded School, on Jackson St. between Carr and Warren Sts., was Durham's first dedicated public school building, constructed in 1892. The large, red brick, Norman Revival building became an elementary school after the construction of Durham High School on Morgan St. and was renamed the Morehead School.


(Duke RBMC)

The building stood at this location until either 1915 or 1916, when it burned. It was replaced with an Art Deco structure, which was also called the Morehead School, completed in 1920.


(Courtesy Duke Archives)

This school served the West End and Morehead Hill neighborhoods. I've talked with a man in his 70s who grew up on Jackson St. a few blocks away and vividly remembers walking to school along Jackson St., past the large wrought-iron fence at the back of the property of the Duke Mansion.

(Courtesy John Temple)


Rear of the school (looking north) 1950s

(Courtesy John Temple)

Additional copyrighted photographs from Graduation Day, 1951 with the Morehead School in the background can be found here, here, here, and here.

When the current Morehead School was constructed in 1957, the school building on Jackson St. was abandoned. It was assessed as part of the urban renewal project, and that information notes that the building was used as a storage facility in the early 1960s.

Looking southeast from Warren St. and Jackson St., 1966. (Note old street marker, now rare in Durham, and the Lucky Strike water tower in the background.)


(Courtesy Milo Pyne)

Interestingly, that paperwork also notes a plan to renovate the building for offices. However, that choice was evidently shelved, as the building was demolished with the surrounding area in 1967.

Looking southeast from NC Mutual, 1967. Almost all of the surrounding houses are gone, and the demolition of the school has begun.
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

Demolition of the school, looking southeast from near Warren and Jackson, 09.08.67.
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

It is now part of University Ford.

moreheadaerial copy.jpeg

Here is a view of the site today, taken from the American Tobacco parking deck, looking southwest.



This part of town is so underutilized and poorly planned, glad this post sheds a light on how that happened. I've recently thought about buying a house in Lyon Park but it just feels so cut off from downtown by big lots, one way streets and the freeway. Its ridiculous that a house one mile from downtown feels so unwalkable/unbikeable.

That original school was a beauty.

I attended this School in the first and second grade (1956-1958). It was a very imposing building... I remember walking to school on Jackson Street, years before there was a freeway! Yancey Street went down a steep slope (as did Duke), and it was a dramatic sledding hill?

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