Trinity Park

As one of the most intact early Durham neighborhoods, Trinity Park presents a pattern of residential development and a full gamut of building types and styles which reflect the rapid growth and accomplishments of early 20th- century Durham. Trinity Park has always had close ties to Duke University, but its origins and early development are better understood in terms of the economic, political and social forces that shaped Durham at the turn of the century. The financial security of the late 19th-century tobacco and textile booms enabled Durham's leaders to devote greater attention to public amenities and cultural enrichment. The same powers that brought an institution of higher learning to Durham also installed an efficient transportation system that prompted the development of new, "suburban" neighborhoods.

In contrast to Durham's late 19th-century neighborhoods, a smaller proportion of Trinity Park's residents were directly associated with tobacco and textiles. Although many of Trinity Park's settlers were connected with the college, the majority were merchants, businessmen and professionals. They were part of the broader local economy produced by their families' suc- cesses in Durham's leading industries. These younger generations wanted to live in modern, fashionable houses in keeping with their own, recent accomplishments, not in the older neigh- borhoods where they grew up close to Durham's industries. 

The 1891 "Bird's-Eye View of the City of Durham, North Carolina" is the earliest depic- tion of the area that was to become Trinity Park; it was an open space between the tobacco build- ings at the west edge of the city and the Main Building of Trinity College. Until early in the 20th century, Trinity Park consisted primarily of woods and fields, some of them under cultiva- tion, and an occasional house.! One of these houses was constructed by Brodie L. Duke around 1880. The large tract, occupied today by Julian S. Carr Junior High School and Durham High School, was Duke's estate. His two-story L-shaped Italianate house with a four-story entrance tower and the characteristic Victorian three-color paint scheme was situated off of what is now N. Duke St., opposite the east end of Lamond St.

Upon moving into Durham in 1869, Duke located his tobacco factory in a two-story frame building on W. Main St. His purchase in the next few years of the property for his home close to his factory marked the beginning of his exten- sive real estate investments that were to high- light his business career. Although he encoun- tered serious difficulties in his dealings in the commodities market, Duke's real estate ven- tures were his greatest accomplishments, not only because of the resultant personal financial gains, but also because of the significant role he played in building Durham.

By the turn of the century, Duke had amassed a huge parcel of land wrapping around the northwest boundaries of Durham; it was to become the major portion of the North Durham, Duke Park and Trinity park neighborhoods. Undoubtedly Duke realized that Durham's rapid growth promised a high return on future development of his real estate. The construction of the Trinity College campus at the west edge of his property and the establishment of a public transportation system linking the downtown and West Durham, both occurring around 1890, increased the value of Duke's land. Duke was, however, cautious with his development. plans. He waited to be sure of the success of the trolley system before proceeding with subdivision and sale of his land. Richard H. Wright and Julian S. Carr formed the Durham Consolidated Land and Improvement Company and launched a campaign to sell the building lots they had plat- ted north of Trinity College, as soon as plans were announced for the Dummy Street Railway, Durham's first trolley system.4 Whatever his reasons for not following suit, Duke may be credited with prudence, for the trolley system failed by 1894.

Duke's subdivision of his property in 1901 coincided with the formation of the Durham Traction Company and its announcement of plans to introduce an electric trolley system.6 Duke's April 1901 plat shows a grid of streets and alley-bisected blocks containing narrow build- ing lots.7 This Trinity Park portion of his property extended north from Morgan St. to Urban Ave., except for a block at the southwest corner occupied by Watts Hospital. Duke's animosity toward George W. Watts, who had donated the land and the funds for the hospital in 1895, was expressed by his naming of the streets running north-south: Gregson St. originally was named Hated St., so that a map of the streets read "Duke-Hated- Watts."

The surrounding area was still largely undeveloped. To the north, the vernacular late Queen Anne Cole-Couch and D. C. May houses on W. Club Blvd. were being built about the same time that Duke started to sell his building lots. C. L. "Monk" Markham's house was located just be- yond the northwest corner of Duke's property. Markham's farm, which is said to have existed prior to the Civil War, occupied much of the land north of Urban Ave. that later was incorporated in Trinity Park. His house was destroyed when W. Markham Ave. was cut between Watts St. arid N. Buchanan Blvd. around 1920.8 Duke began selling building lots shortly after they were platted. Sales were so rapid that in 1908 he formed the Duke Land and Improve- ment Company, which offered contracting ser- vices in addition to handling the sale of prop- erty.9 Initially, most of the Trinity Park lots sold were in the south end of the neighborhood, con- venient to the trolley line on W. Main St. that attracted so many of the buyers. The Sanborn Insurance Maps show that by 1913 there were many houses on Lamond St. and Gloria Ave. and several on Watts St. south of Monmouth Ave. At the south end of Watts St., Beverly Apart- ments (no longer standing) was the only new building in the block formerly occupied by Watts Hospital. After the new Watts Hospital was opened in 1909 on Broad St., the 1895 main building of the original complex was moved to 302 Watts St. where it was converted to a house.1o The only houses on N. Buchanan Blvd., then just a mud clay track named Guess Rd., were the three houses in the 400 block facing Epworth Inn on the Trinity College campus. Just to the north of Duke's 1901 sub-division, a few houses had been built on Demerius and Green streets (formerly part of the Markham farm), including the Holland-Wilkerson House and Watts Street Grocery at the intersection of Demerius and Watts streets and the stone Cole- Blomquist House at 922 Demerius. Whether or not Duke acquired this property after 1901 and developed it has not been determined. 

The majority of those building houses in Trinity Park in the first two decades of its devel- opment were professionals, businessmen and merchants. Among the most notable were insur- ance executive T. E. Allen and William M. Speed of Austin-Heaton Milling Company on Lamond St. Several were in the medical profes- sion, including physicians R. L. Felts, N. N. John- son (who moved the first building of Watts Hos- pital and converted it to his residence), Dr. Booker and Dr. Fassett, and dentists Henry C. Carr, L. M. Edwards and Dr. Carl Norris.ll Many of the early residents of Trinity Park were asso- ciated with the neighboring college. When Trin- ity College opened its doors in Durham in 1892, it accommodated most of its faculty and admin- istrators on campus in houses and rooms in Epworth Inn. By the turn of the century, how- ever, many faculty members sought housing of their own, convenient to the campus. The three houses in the 400 block of N. Buchanan Blvd. facing the east entrance of the campus were built by college professors John Spencer Bassett and Charles William Edwards and benefactor Benjamin N. Duke. The 1907 Durham City Direc- tory lists several other Trinity Park addresses for faculty members.12 Several of these early builders purchased property from speculators who had bought groups of lots from Brodie L. Duke.13

The characteristic Trinity Park house built in the 1900s and 1910s was the frame two-story early Colonial Revival box, often an asymmetri- cal massing of two units. Wraparound or full- facade porches were supported by columns in the classical orders, as exhibited by the W. W. Card House on MinervaAve., or by tapered box posts on brick plinths. Decoration was some- what reserved, usually consisting of handsome molded box cornices and an occasional pedi- mented attic gable complementing the porch columns. In addition to some decoratively pat- terned shingles, the most frequent Victorian elements to appear in these houses were stained glass windows. In spite of the loss of many of these windows, today a few houses retain their full, original compliment of stained glass. The North and Thaxton houses on Lamond Ave. and Watts St., respectively, both built in the first decade of the century, are among the most colorful examples. The four Victorian cottages, each exhibiting an irregular configuration and sheathing of shingles and decorative woodwork- ing, are faculty houses built on the Trinity Col- le'ge campus in 1892 and moved into the neigh- borhood in the 1910s,14 The Bassett-Brown House, with its monumental Ionic portico, unique to the neighborhood, and the Flowers House, designed by Charlotte architect C. C. Hook, rank among the most distinctive houses con- structed in Trinity Park during its initial devel- opment. 

The Flowers House is one of only two dweIiings built in Trinity Park prior to around 1920 known to have been designed by an architect. The other house was the original King's Daughters Home designed by Hill C. Linthicum and erected in 1911 on the large lot at the corner of Gloria Ave. and N. Buchanan Blvd. donated by Brodie L. Duke.Is Most of the designs appear to have been derived from builders' guides and stock plans. The Bassett-Brown House and W, W. Card House were designed by their owners in consultant with their builders. Rose and Rose, Architects, known for their designs in brick, are credited with several Trinity Park houses, in- cluding the Clements-Watkins House and Henry C. Carr House built in the 1920s.

Quite a bit is known about the builders and contractors active in Trinity Park, particularly during the 1920s and 1930s. Independent contractors who constructed houses here included John T. Salmon, who built the Flowers House, and Harvey Stone, who is credited with the Thaxton House. Both of these men lived in Trinity Park. During the 1920s and 1930s, several other con- tractors made their homes here; it is probable that Rufus Powell, Jr., R. D. Horner, C. H. Shipp and O. S. Williams, contractors who built their own houses here, also constructed other dwellings in this rapidly developing neighborhood. The prom- inent Durham contracting firm of T. H. Law- rence was responsible for the construction, with salvaged materials from Julian S. Carr's Somer- set Villa, of three similar brick houses in a row on Green St. It is likely that Duke Land and Improvement Company also built many houses in the neighborhood.

The 1919-1920 Durham City Directory describes Trinity Park as "a suburb in the northwest part of the city near Trinity College." An aerial photograph taken in 1921 reveals that most of N. Buchanan Blvd. and Watts St. and all of the streets running east-west from the south side of W. Trinity Ave. to Lamond St. were lined with houses by the turn of the third decade of the century.I8 During the 1920s and 1930s, development occurred on the remaining lots on these streets and along the streets north of W. Trinity Ave., described by long-time residents as merely grassy wagon trails in the 1910s. A variety of revival styles, often r:epresented by exuberant designs, were built throughout the neighbor- hood. The Colonial Revival Rankin House on Gloria Ave., Renaissance Revival Kronheimer and Nachamson houses on Minerva Ave., and English Tudor Freedman House on W. Trinity Ave. are among the more academic designs, per- haps the work of architects yet to be identified. The majority of the houses, such as the Bostick House, continued to be derived from builders' guides and mail-order plans featured in such popular magazines as Good Housekeeping. On W. Markham Ave. and Green St., rows of similar quaint Colonial Revival style houses were built by speculators; C. T. Council, among others, purchased several of them which he leased prior to selling them individually.

Construction in Trinity Park was not limited to period revival style architecture. As through- out Durham and the rest of the country, bun- galows were very popular. One of the earliest and "purest" bungalows was the Newsom House, with the characteristic inglenook, built in the 1910's. One of the most elaborate bungalows, more properly described as an example of the English Cottage style, is the stuccoed Bramham House on N. Buchanan Blvd. Several modest one-story frame bungalows on Dacian, Monmouth and W. Trinity Ave. near N. Gregson St. are said to have been built by Liggett and Myers Tobacco Company for factory supervisors. A few, two-story duplexes were built in Trinity Park, including the 1937 Eli N. Evans House, one of only three International Style houses built in Durham. Some of Durham's most prestigious apartment complexes also were built in Trinity Park. The Beverly Apartments (no longer stand- ing) built by George W. Watts in 1913 on the property formerly occupied by the first Watts Hospital were the first apartments built in Dur- ham as a complex. The revenues they generated helped support the second Watts Hospital on Broad St.I9 They were followed in the 1920s by the Powe Apartments on Watts St. and Gover- nors Row on the corner of Dacian Ave. and N. ..Gregson St. The austere, stone-veneered Neo-classical Revival Erwin Apartments, designed by R. R. Markley, were built in 1930.

Trinity Park's buildings are not all residen- tial. In addition to the Watts Street Grocery, one of the earliest complexes of non-residential buildings in Trinity Park was the Hibberd Green- house ensemble (destroyed) built prior to 1907 at the southeast corner of Albemarle and La- mond streets. By the 1930s, there were a few commercial buildings on N. Gregson St., includ- ing a row of brick stores near Morgan St. Watts Street School, built in 1919, was the first school in Trinity Park, followed shortly thereafter by Durham High School and Julian S. Carr Junior High School built on Brodie L. Duke's estate according to designs by Milburn and Heister Company and George W. Carr, Sr., respectively. Milburn and Heister Company also designed the original Colonial Revival style brick building of the McPherson Hospital complex in 1926. The third Milburn and Heister-designed building in Trinity Park is the King's Daughters Home, sim- ilar in style to the McPherson Hospital building. Trinity Park's first three congregations b.uilt churches in the 1920s: Trinity Avenue Presby- terian Church, designed by Rose and Rose, Architects; the Romanesque Revival style Dur- ham Alliance Church; and the Gothic Revival style Watts Street Baptist Church.

Today, Trinity Park looks much the same as it did around 1940. Between Urban Ave. and W. Club Blvd., there has been quite a bit of con- struction since then, but this has extended the continuity of design characterizing the southern half of Trinity Park rather than contrasting with it. Visually, the most significant change has been the maturation of the hardwoods that line the sidewalks to create a canopy over the streets.  

During the 1950s and 1960s, the neighborhood suffered a period of decline as many residents moved to newer suburbs. As the demand for off-campus housing increased with Duke University's enrollment, many neighborhood houses were divided into apartments. In the 1970s, however, Trinity Park began to experience a renaissance. The trend away from urban living was being reversed with the rising cost of gaso- line, soaring real estate prices for new construc- tion, and the increasing interest in preservation and restoration of solidly built houses. Scores of houses that once again are owner-occupied have been rehabilitated. Trinity Park today is one of Durham's most popular neighborhoods. 

(From the Durham Architectural and Historic Inventory, 1980)