Star Brick Warehouse

35.998322, -78.899689

Cross Street
Year built
Year demolished
Construction type
Building Type
Can you help?
You don't need to know everything, but do you know the architect?
Log in or register and you can edit this.

Although our new ubiquitous 'wayfinding' (to use the earnest planning lingo) signs proclaim the area of the Liggett redevelopment as the "Warehouse District", the real warehouse district in Durham stretched along both sides of Rigsbee Ave., north of Morgan St.

The view in 1924, looking northwest. The two very large brick warehouses straddle Rigsbee - the Big 4 Warehouse on the left and the Star Brick Warehouse on the right.
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

These were the warehouses where the real commerce of the tobacco industry took place - hundreds of farmers coming to market and buyers purchasing the tobacco at auction.

The warehouse district expanded to include most of the area we now deem 'Central Park'

Looking northeast from the Washington Duke Hotel, 1940 - East Chapel Hill St. is in the foreground. Tobacco warehouses cover the landscape north of Morgan St.
(Courtesy Library of Congress)

Below, the entrance of the Star Brick Warehouse - looking northeast from Morgan and Rigsbee, 1940.

(Courtesy Library of Congress)


A better, closer view of the entrance

(Courtesy Library of Congress - FSA collection)
In 1944, the Big 4 warehouse burned in a protest over the acquittal of the murderer of Private Booker T. Spicely. The Star Brick warehouse survived the fire.

Below, another view northeast, 1960.

(Courtesy Duke Archives)

The warehouses - with the exception of the Liberty - were torn down during the 1960s-1980s - not by urban renewal, but just by changes in the marketplace. From the Surgeon's General Warning in 1964 onward, the health consequences of tobacco became clear, and its fortune (and that of those who dealt in it) faded.

Never fear, though - we southerners don't give up a slow death that easily.

Looking northeast, 2007.


I just want to say thank you for writing your blog. It makes me sad to see all the new parking lots created. Thanks for creating awareness.

Cool pix. Thanks for posting.

The area around McDonalds really does feel like it must have been something else in the past.

Looking at those monster warehouses in your pictures, I struggle to discern whether I ever saw them in real life (I got here in '83 but didn't start driving until '84, and didn't start exploring until maybe a bit later) or if I only recall seeing the pictures.

Someone once wrote that when we think we're remembering some past event, we're really only recalling our most recent memory of it.

Interesting aerial photo. It looks like Morgan Street actually does "bend" in front of the Star Brick Warehouse. I had always assumed that was created when the loop was built, but I guess it was like that long before our beautiful asphalt moat took shape. It is my understanding that the undoing of the loop is next on the City's list for downtown streetscape improvements, which I'm sure will be quite a lively discussion. I think a lot of the research you have done can come in handy for that discussion, which will hopefully take on the form of a public charrette.


Much thanks for the nice comment about the site - I always feel a bit guilty for making people sad, but as you note, the intent is to provide people with context for our future plans/policies, so we can do things that we will (hopefully) be proud of.


Thanks - there were more warehouses than the Liberty into the late 1980s, for sure, but not this close to Morgan. You would have had to drive up Rigsbee, and it's the kind of thing that's probably hard to appreciate without an aerial shot. Interesting re: memory. I think about this as I walk around downtown - I have a 3D picture in my head of the city sometime in the early 20th century, which I visualize as I walk down the street, seeing a 'memory' of buildings that I never actually saw - and yet I've visualized it so much, it takes on the character of something I've experienced...


You're right - Morgan curved to restablish a right angle with Mangum, although it 'T'ed into Mangum - the portion between Mangum and Roxboro is the new part. (Although all of it was widened considerably.) I really hope that fixing the loop is a priority. I wish they'd started with that rather than the current project, although I'll concede that returning Main and Chapel Hill to two-way are important for doing anything with the loop. I'd be thrilled if the city/DDI looked at historical photos for inspiration. I think they tend to write them off as nostalgia rather than seeing a design template to work off of.


As I recall, the city did really want to do the loop as part of the "nearly there now!" streetscape project. Because most of it doubles as US-70, though, that brought in NCDOT, who nixed the idea because traffic counts on the loop were too high to meet their criteria for reverting to two-way.

I'm thinking that some point in the next six months, after Main and Chapel Hill have re-opened, would be a good time to push for a reassessment of those counts. That would be enough time for people to learn how to use the new two-way streets, but before the natural increase in traffic pushes the counts back up.

However it happens, the eastern end of the loop desperately needs radical change, which won't be cheap.

My grandfather owned an Antique Ford Parts company (Pat Day Company) there on Rigbee & Seminary (where the McDonalds now stands) from the mid-60's until 1980. Trying to locate photos of that corner in that time period. Any chance you or someone reading this has anything? Thanks! --Patrick Day.

Add new comment

Log in or register to post comments.