West Durham Community Center

36.016224, -78.937051

Cross Street
Year built
Year demolished
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Building Type
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"Children Playing at the West Durham Community Center" - 03.26.56. You can see the reservoir fence out the window.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

The West Durham Community Center was established in the 1950s - I'm not sure exactly when, but it was certainly in place by 1956, as the above picture shows. Before the advent of the single-leaf clover that currently connects Hillandale with Hillsborough Road (or the connection between Hillandale and Fulton,) the community center property was contiguous with the grounds around the reservoir just to its north.

1959 aerial with a red dot on the Center building.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

A local West Durham resident conveyed the following via John Schelp:

"In the early days, teenagers often went [to the center] to hear DJs spin records. (Sometimes the boys would stay outside and fight.) The center had a little kitchen and a playground out back. I took karate lessons at the youth center in 1963."

"In the late-1960s and 70s, the building became a community center (with a focus on senior citizens). Folks could lease the center for different events -- like homecomings and, in 1979, a Halloween party." The center was also, per another resident, used for birthday parties.

Around 1984, the center was torn down - it appears from aerials as if the land the building stood on is simply vacant, in the middle of the 'leaf'.

Site of the West Durham Community Center, 04.08.09

Find this spot on a Google Map.



There were several such Centers in Durham in the 1950s and early 60s (e.g., the Barfield Center at Northgate Park). The West Durham Center was used as a polling place after the original Hillandale clubhouse was demolished. Durham's Recreation Department hired high school and college students during the summers to teach karate, archery, tennis, soccer (!), etc. The Department also operated 'day camps' for younger kids; those focused on arts and crafts, softball, kickball, etc. The West Durham Center was also a meeting site for half-day trips to swimming pools at Duke Park and Forest Hills. You'd board a chartered city bus at 9 AM and be back by noon.

The is an extra 'h' at the beginning of the address for the google map. The address is otherwise correct though.

The Center was not affected by the construction of the Hillandale cloverleaf and the building did sit empty a long while. It was demolished buy the city because of "mold and asbestos." Round up the usual suspects Gary.


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