William T. Blackwell House

35.99717, -78.909189

Cross Street
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Year(s) modified
Year demolished
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In 1869, W.T. Blackwell partnered with John Green and John Day in the partnership that sparked the creation of Blackwell's Durham Tobacco Company. When joined by Julian Carr in 1871 (whose houses, Waverly Honor and Somerset Villa, I've previously profiled) they expanded rapidly, becoming a major tobacco empire. In 1874, they built their Italianate factory building, which still stands at the north end of the American Tobacco Complex.

In 1875, W.T. Blackwell built himself a house at the high point of the ridge to the northwest, along the western portion of Green St., which was later renamed Chapel Hill Street, at the northwest intersection with Lee St., later Duke St.

(Courtesy Durham County Library)

(WT Blackwell's house bears somewhat of a resemblance to J.S. Carr's Waverly Honor. I'm not sure if this was deliberate imitation or simply the popularity of the Italianate style).

In the early 1880s, he fought to open the first Durham Graded School, personally paying the salaries of the teachers when funding failed. In 1886, he retired from his namesake tobacco company and started the Bank of Durham, which failed utterly in 1888, eliminating his assets. He continued to live in the house on West Chapel Hill St. and served in city government through the 1890s

The West End, 1891. WT Blackwell's house is on the northwest corner of Lee St. (now Duke) and Chapel Hill St. (As an aside, the only structures in the picture still standing today are the Duke Factory and some small houses on Gordon and Yancey Sts.)
(Courtesy Duke Archives)

The congregation at Main St. Methodist church was growing rapidly at the turn of the century and needed larger space. In 1906, they acquired Blackwell's house and property and moved the house. (My guess, from looking at the Sanborn maps, is that they moved the house across Duke St. and north of the corner, turning it so that it faced west.)

In 1907 they began work on their new church, which they called Memorial Methodist, a large steel-framed structure designed by an architect in New York. It was completed and occupied for its first service in 1912.

(Courtesy Durham County Library)

Sanborn map showing the church with the surrounding residential area. The Southern Conservatory of Music and the former church home at Main St. Methodist are shown on the lower right.
(Copyright Sanborn Company)

The church changed its name in 1925 to Duke Memorial Methodist, in honor of its primary benefactor, Washington Duke.
The church facility expanded westward in 1930 with the Gothic Revival Elementary Department, demolishing the two houses that stood to the west of the church, and again in 1964 with the Education Facility:


- creating the current church campus that extends from Duke St. to Gregson St.

The church in December 2006:

Looking northwest, 01.30.08 (G. Kueber)


You said this house was still standing.Where is it located now ?

as for the house?

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