Old Post Office / Federal Building

35.995964, -78.901848

Cross Street
Year built
Year demolished
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Durham had a main post office, located in various buildings along main street, from the time of Angier's store as the only mercantile establishment on the northwest corner of West Main and North Mangum. The first dedicated post office building was built in 1906.

Prior to this, during the 1880s and 1890s, the area west of Corcoran Street was primarily used for warehouses and industrial production; rapid growth around the turn of the century converted this area to office buildings and department stores. The northwest corner of Main and Corcoran was used for warehouse space early on, according to Gray's 1881 map of Durham, including the Banner Warehouse, with its "Drive-In"

Looking northeast from W.Main towards Corcoran St., 1890s
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

By 1906, the city had grown substantially, and these buildings were supplanted by the Trust Building (tallest building in the state at its construction) and a grand new US Post Office.

Post office under construction, 1906
(Courtesy Duke Archives - Wyatt Dixon Collection)

Also known as the Federal Building, the structure housed a Federal Courthouse (noted as "First District" on the Sanborn Map of 1913) and Internal Revenue Service offices

From Main St., Looking northeast
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

From the northeast corner of Main and Corcoran, looking west-northwest. The Trust Building (still standing) is directly to the west of the post office. The first Municipal Building and Academy of Music is to the north. This view dates from between 1906 and 1909.
(Courtesy Durham County Library)

 Below, a 1910s view of the Post Office:

(Courtesy Duke Archives - Wyatt Dixon Collection)

This view is taken from the First National Bank building on the southeast corner of Main and Corcoran. Moving generally from right-to-left, you can see the Geer Building, the Washington Duke building, the old post office, The Trust Building, and the Temple building (to the west of the Trust building). Only the Trust building and the Temple building are still standing. This photo dates from the late 1920s or very early 1930s. (Courtesy Durham County Library)

In the early 1930s (completed in 1934) the U.S. government built a new post office on the corner of Chapel Hill St. and Rigsbee Ave. The old post office was shut down and demolished.

(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

Construction of the Hill Building was begun on the site of the former post office in 1936. George W. Kane was the contractor, and Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon (who previously designed the Empire State Building and Winston-Salem's RJ Reynolds Building) were the architects.

Sept. 1936
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

Nov. 1936
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

(Courtesy Herald-Sun)
December 1936

The Hill Building from a distance, from Blackwell St., under construction ~ Dec. 1936. (Courtesy Robby Delius from Mac Connery)

February 1937
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

1937 - no month given.
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

Construction was completed in 1937. The Durham Loan and Trust Company became the primary tenant. The bank later changed its name to the Durham Bank and Trust Company and later still, Central Carolina Bank. The primary first floor retail tenant was the Ellis-Stone Department store; Ellis-Stone was considered a 'high-end' department store in downtown Durham - which had been around since 1887 (originally at 124 West Main St.)

Ellis-Stone, 03.20.61

In 1962, Thalheimer's-Ellis-Stone moved across the street to a newly constructed building on the southwest corner of Corcoran and West Main Sts.

CCB Building, looking south on Corcoran Street, March 1965. (Courtesy The Herald-Sun)

CCB remained the primary tenant until 2005, when the switchover from the merger of Suntrust and CCB was complete, and the logo on top of the building was changed.

Hill Building, 2006. The Trust Building is on the left edge of the picture.

In 2007, Greenfire purchased this building and announced plans to convert the structure to a boutique hotel.

Hill Building, 07.24.08

Plans languished, but seemed to perk up again in 2010 when Greenfire received approval to use NC Industrial bonds to develop the hotel, and had a city incentives package improved (based on the synthetic TIF model) to develop the project in September 2010.


our US government is great at wasting lots of money!

I just discovered your blog, courtesy of the Herald-Sun article (yeah, I'm behind on my RSS feeds (-; ) and thought I'd say hi. I live in Durham (in this house) and run a wiki which has a page for Durham and another for Durham history; I have linked to your blog from both of those pages. Further contributions are invited; the wiki is currently heavily underutilized, much like the large holes downtown [rimshot].

I've been enjoying being distracted from the things I'm supposed to be doing by reading your blog, and I look forward to further distraction. Onward!

Thanks for your comment Woozle, and thanks for the links; nice job on the wiki pages. I wrote the historical blurb for Durham on Wikipedia; if you wanted to use that as a starting point for more history stuff, it could be fleshed out a lot more later.

Hope you continue to enjoy the blog.

The signature building in Durham's skyline, at least in my opinion--too bad the Washington Duke does not still stand proudly across from it.

The Hill Building was done by the same architects as the Empire State Building and the Reynolds Building in Winston-Salem, wasn't it?

Wow .. great photos of the old post office. And in fact there are also photos of the construction of the post office. Amazing and I love it.

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