Duke Park

As the oldest of Durham's neighborhoods that evolved in the 1920s, Duke Park emerged in the beginning of the decade as residential development in North Durham extended beyond the Norfolk and Western Railroad line. Since then, the neighborhood of Duke Park has expanded tremendously, to comprise a large area south of 1-85 between N. Duke St. and Avondale Dr. It is filled with houses and apartment buildings, most of them built after the 1940s. Pockets of older houses are scattered throughout the neigh- borhood and are most heavily concentrated in the central and southeastern portions. These older areas are characterized by mature landscaping and many tall hardwoods that frequently create a canopy over the roadway.

Most of the neighborhood, with the exception of a few isolated farmsteads and the eastern end along Camden Ave., was part of the enormous tract of land wrapping around the western and northern edges of Durham proper that Brodie L. Duke amassed by the end of the 19th century. He platted streets and building lots on much of his property, including the central portion - between Glendale and N. Roxboro - of what later became the Duke Park neighborhood. In 1901 he began selling building lots in the areas soon known as Trinity Park and North Durham. For many years, the land north of the railroad line that now constitutes the neighborhood of Duke Park remained rural.

The rolling terrain now occupied by Duke Park, the recreation spot that lent its name to the neighborhood and one of its main attractions, was farmed for Duke for many years by Lee Perry. Nearby residents of North Durham were permitted to graze their livestock here and to strip mine the coal that lay just below a thin layer of topsoil. One of the largest portions of land not acquired by Duke was the farm west of Glendale Ave. operated by the Glosson family. Their small 19th-century story-and-a-jump house - known as the Glosson-Russell House - one of the oldest in Durham, remains stand- . ing at 321 Clark St. At 312 Clark St., the James Leonidas Clark family, for whom Clark St. was later named, built a one-story house with a triple- A roofline near the Glosson-Russell House in 1900.3 Much of the land in the eastern end of the Duke Park neighborhood was owned by B. J. Brogden who built his house, popularly known as the Love House for a later owner, on Camden Ave. in 1905.

Real estate development, involving purchase of lots by individuals followed by their contract- ing with architects and/or builders, finally occurred in Duke Park in the early 1920s when' North Durham began to overflow its northern boundary. The Dillard House had already been built in 1917 on N. Mangum St., a half block north of the railroad tracks. One of the rela- tively few residential designs executed by the architectural firm of Milburn and Heister, the Colonial Revival style house features a convex neoclassical portico combined with non-classical elements such as deeply overhanging eaves. Although physically part of Duke Park, the his- tory and style of the Dillard House are more in keeping with 1910s development of North Durham.

The proper genesis of Duke Park as a true neighborhood is found in the full-fledged period revival style houses of the 1920s. Initially, this development was concentrated along the long steep hill that is the 1700 block of N. Roxboro Rd. and its immediate vicinity. This principal entrance to Durham from the north was not cut all the way through until 1937, and in the 1920s, it led to central Durham via E. Markham Ave. and N. Mangum St. in the manner identical to the present thoroughfare plan. Similar to early development patterns throughout the rest of Durham, affluent citizens erected handsome, conservatively stylish and solidly built houses along this major thoroughfare. Although this northward growth is related to the development of the trolley system, the affluence of this early portion of Duke Park was reflected in the use of private automobiles as the most popular mode of transportation. Early residents included real estate developers, insurance executives, and successful downtown merchants, whose financial successes also were reflected in their com- missioning architects to design their homes, often with brick exteriors.

Most of the houses built along N. Roxboro St. and N. Mangum S.t. were in the period revival styles tht typified much of the 1920s and 1930s residential architecture across the United States; several also exhibited features of the equally popular bungalow. The majority of the houses built on N. Roxboro Rd. were brick. Three houses in a row on the crest of the hill at the south end of the block - the J. L. Atkins House, N. B. Holland House, and Laura Duke House - were designed by the popular Durham firm of Rose and Rose, Architects. Typical of that finn's designs, these houses combine deco- rative brick work with bungalow and Colonial Revival style features. Jeweler J. R. Fletcher built a frame bungalow at 1405 N. Mangum St., a couple of doors south of two very large brick- veneered bungalows. The most elaborate early Duke Park examples of the Colonial Revival style include the brick Laura Duke House at 1709 N. Roxboro Rd. and the frame Richard H. Wright, II house designed by George Watts Carr, Sr. at 1429 N. Mangum St. Occupying a very large lot at the edge of Duke Park, the Wright House is the largest and one of the most carefully detailed houses in' the neighborhood and is generally considered to be one of the out- standing houses in the city. Two exceptions to the predominant modes are the two flat-roofed stuccoed Spanish Revival style houses situated, back to back, on N. Mangum St. and N. Roxboro Rd. 

Elsewhere in Duke Park in the 1920s, devel- opment occurred around the homes of the indi- viduals who had built houses on their tracts adjacent to Brodie L. Duke's large holdings. Near the Glosson-Russell House, members of the Russell and Clark families subdivided their property so that their children could build houses, such as the frame gable-front Russell House with bungalow elements at 317 Clark SU B. J. Brogden's land along Camden Ave. was subdivided and this area, considered to be "out in the country" as late as the 1920s, began to be developed.8 In addition to the construction of houses by individuals as their own homes, Macon St. and the 800 block of W. Markham Ave. were developed by real estate investors at the turn of the 1930s. These simple frame houses are modest in size and detail. The houses on W. Markham Ave. are single-family bungalows built for speculation according to plans featured in popular builders' guides. The very plain gable- front duplexes built on Macon St. close to the railroad tracks were rental units. The George W. Kane Co. built the Macon St. houses in order to provide work for their construction crews dur- ing the Depression.

In the heart of Duke Park, construction in the 1930s followed the trend established in the 1920s. The early core of development expanded to the west along Acadia St. and to the east on the curvilinear Knox and Vista streets and E. Markham Ave., all of which were opened in the late 1920s. The attractiveness of the neighbor- hood was greatly enhanced by the establishment of the park named for Brodie L. Duke which was initiated in the early 1930s on the land Duke had given to the City of Durham. Richard H. Wright, II, had acquired a sizable tract along Vista St. and E. Markham Ave., where he began to sell build- ing lots to individuals in the late 1920s.10 All of these houses built beginning at the turn of the 1930s were period revival designs with frame or brick exteriors. It was at this time that the Tudor Revival style, exemplified by the Swartz House at 1709 Vista St., appeared, injecting greater variety in style. Several English Cottage style houses also were constructed.

The Colonial Revival style, however, re- mained a perennial favorite in Duke Park. The southeast end of the neighborhood was most strongly influenced by Thomas W. Wilkinson, who began his contracting career in the late 1930s and ultimately produced a unified distinctive "look" to this sizable area. Many purchasers of lots along Anita, Shawnee, Hollywood, and the 300 and 400 blocks of E. Markham Ave. in the late 1930s, 1940s and 1950s hired Wilkinson to build their houses according to his stock designs.ll Most of these were two-story frame houses in simple forms, often brick veneered, decorated with imaginative combinations of neo- classical elements that conveyed a quaint, pictur- esque quality.

The most avant-garde house in Duke Park and one of the most adventurous in all of Dur- ham is the International Style Gamble House built at 1307 N. Mangum St. in 1935. Featuring an irregular outline created by flat-roofed blocks of varying heights, the Gamble House exhibits many hallmarks of the style, including stuccoed walls, the absence of applied decoration, and corner casement windows. 

Duke Park has expanded greatly since 1940. As Durham grew, large vacant tracts in the western portion of the neighborhood were devel- oped with handsome single-family houses on high ground close to the park. Although many of the less desirable, lower-lying tracts have been covered with apartment complexes and small rental duplexes, many areas in the heart of the flood plain along Elerbee Creek naturally remain empty. The major problem facing Duke Park has been the heavy flow of traffic along N. Roxboro Rd., Markham Ave., and N. Mangum St. Many long-term residents continue to maintain prop- erty here, and several newcomers are revitalizing houses that had fallen into disrepair. Much of Duke Park's original core, east and west of N. Roxboro Rd., remains relatively intact, retaining its ambiance of unpretentious stylishness.