Roll family home and greenhouses from Chapel Hill Road, 1913 (Courtesy G. Kueber)
Fred Roll established his residence and florist shop on the corner of Lakewood and Chapel Hill Road after serving as the resident florist at the home of Brodie Duke, on the present site of the Durham School of the Arts. Soon after emigrating from Germany, he was drawn to Durham from Raleigh to work for the Duke family, and soon thereafter set up his business directly across from the Casino at Lakewood Amusement Park.
1913 Sanborn map showing the greenhouses, small frame structure, and house above.
Fred Roll and family inside one of the greenhouses, 1913 (Courtesy G. Kueber)
By 1937, Roll had replaced his home and built a new Tudor Revival florist shop on the corner of Lakewood Ave. and Chapel Hill Road.
Roll's Florist Shop, 1970s. (Durham Architectural Inventory)
Opening day of the Florist Shop, 1937. (Courtesy G. Kueber)
The remainder of the 7 acre tract continued to support greenhouses and contained formal gardens and exotic trees.
Kids and parents walking past Roll's Florist - on their way to Lakewood School, looking northeast, 09.05.56
(Courtesy the Herald-Sun)
The florist shop closed in the 1970s, although it reopened for a time in the late 1970s under the guidance of Fred Roll's granddaughter, who still owns the buildings, which include what appears to be one remaining greenhouse behind the corner structure, sitting on about 4.2 acres.
Submitted by Char (not verified) on Wed, 5/14/2008 - 4:09pm
Thanks for posting about this property! We live in the area, and I've adored that little corner shop (and the greenhouse behind it) ever since we've moved here. As seems to be the trend in disheveled historic structures in Durham, we're interested in buying, but haven't had much luck communicating/working something out with the owner.
I'm all for protecting the rights of property owners, but surely there is *something* that can be done. It's really disappointing to read story after story (both here and elsewhere- including newspapers!) of people who desperately want to purchase and restore property (or otherwise work with an absentee owner to improve the situation) only to be met with unresponsive, unconcerned owners/investors.
Is there anything the city can do to convince these owners to either restore the property or sell to someone who will?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 5/15/2008 - 12:04am
Very glad to see the property still there; very sad to see the deteriorated state allowed by the current owners. Agree with Char: who are these owners and why do they hang on to decaying properties that could be improved? What are they thinking? Great retail site or starter home it would appear.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 5/15/2008 - 1:35am
My friend and I would always debate on what the building was. I knew it a flower shop. I wish that someone would do something with it!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 5/15/2008 - 1:52pm
I always assumed it was originally a Pure Oil service/gas station... being the same [exact, actually] style and all.
Any possibility of this?
(I also think the entire property is being or has been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.)
Submitted by Gary (not verified) on Thu, 5/15/2008 - 2:02pm
No, it was built as a florist's shop.
Submitted by Char (not verified) on Thu, 5/15/2008 - 5:28pm
Based on the yellow zoning signs that were in the area recently, the shop featured in this post will be part of the new historic overlay district. But I haven't looked at a map to confirm it.
This florist shop, the greenhouse, the house next door, and several other adjacent buildings are all a single, multi-acre parcel of property that backs up onto Bivins St (I think that's right...). You can pull it up on the Durham GIS to see it.
The owner of this property also filed a plat/survey for the area at Cornwallis/University (15-501) that is in the process of being developed into some kind of commercial use.
I don't like to make assumptions and point fingers, especially when I clearly don't know the whole story. Even so, I have to admit that it rubs me the wrong way when property owners in Durham let existing historic structures rot away (even while people are interested in purchasing!) while developing property a mile up the road (in this case, literally).
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 11/16/2008 - 1:53am
It is a dirty shame to see the Roll Florist building in such a deplorable condition. Helen Roll was my Sunday School teacher at Grace Lutheran Church in the early 1970's, and she was a sweet, lovely person. If I remember correctly, the Rolls provided greenery and flowers for the church sanctuary. Mrs. Roll (and I guess Rudy Roll) are long gone but it is too bad that their legacy has gone downhill.
Submitted by Durhamite (not verified) on Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:33am
As a member of the Student Government Association at Durham High School in 1977-1978, advisor Delia Robinson got some of us to paint this florist as a community service activity. Is still remember the sunshine yellow paint. I wonder if the paint job is still there?!!?
Submitted by Allan B. Markh… (not verified) on Sat, 4/10/2010 - 4:29pm
See the article in the April 10, 2010 edition of The Herald Sun for some good news about the use of the Roll's Florist property located at W. Lakewood Ave and Chapel Hill Rd. The article can be read at
It is so nice that another old Durham property is being put to a great use. My family did business with Roll's Florist as far back as the 1940's.
Submitted by Maggie Smith (not verified) on Thu, 9/19/2013 - 6:48pm
Hi! It's so wonderful to read about the old flower shop. I signed a lease on it this past summer, and love learning more about it. My friend and I are going to re-open it as a flower shop, and establish a small flower farm behind the property where one or two of the original greenhouses were.
You'll be happy to know that the building is not in much disrepair, just underused. I hope you all can come see it when we're open! The inside of the building is beautiful.
Submitted by AddySmith (not verified) on Tue, 7/8/2014 - 4:39am
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