West Durham Lumber, 1930s.
West Durham Lumber was established in 1923, and purchased by Russell Barringer, Sr. and a friend in 1925. Barringer managed the business. The company became successful early on - Barringer lived in Hope Valley and supplied much of the lumber for new construction and new developments.
B.B. Olive wrote of the West Durham Lumber Company for the Old West Durham Neighborhood site:
"A special place remains in my store of memories for the West Durham Lumber Company. As a young boy interested in building a rabbit box, a skate scooter or something similar, I was always able to find a friend at the West Durham Lumber Company who would give me a few scrap boards or handful of nails and send me on my way with a word of encouragement. Such experiences helped keep me usefully occupied and perhaps taught me many other things."
By the early 1930s, the firm was selling more than half of the wood materials used to build houses in Durham.
West Durham Lumber Co lumberyard, looking north with Hickstown in the foreground, 1950s.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)
Unfortunately, as the picture above shows, the West Durham Lumber Company burned on May 11, 1961. I don't know whether they were able to salvage and reuse this building after that point, but a new building was in its place by at least 1963.
Barringer became the sole owner in 1972. The lumberyard stretched southward towards Hickstown throughout the mid-20th century until the Durham Freeway came through in the 1980s, when Barringer fought the construction of Freeway, arguing that the project took too much of his business' property and restricted customers' access. Barringer filed suit against NCDOT in 1984, and eventually reached a settlement.
In 1986, Barringer spent $600,000 to build a new 40,000-square-foot office and store, located between the railroad tracks and the Durham Freeway.
The Barringer family sold the business to Talbert Building Supply of Roxboro, NC in October 2004, which continues to operate the business at the site. I haven't had a reason to go to Talbert's, but I used to enjoy going to West Durham Lumber, where they were always helpful to a non-professional home renovator like me.
The ~1962-63 building still stands on Hillsborough Road, although it is not a part of Talbert's.
Original site of West Durham Lumber Co., 04.05.09. (Photo by Gary Kueber)
Submitted by John Schelp (not verified) on Fri, 4/17/2009 - 6:46pm
A wonderful series, Gary. It's getting exciting as you make your way down Hillsboro Road. Folks have been alerted. :)
The younger Barringer helped us with our first clean-up of Cedar Hill cemetery nine years ago. The grave yard, for employees of Erwin Mills and others, is just southwest of West Durham Lumber... http://www.owdna.org/cemclean.htm
We were worried that some of our elderly volunteers, driving in from out of town, would need a place to powder their nose. When asked, Barringer immediately wrote a check to rent a port-a-potty (it was the nicest one I ever seen).
The aerial you found of Hickstown is fascinating! Hawkins Hicks, whose family is the namesake for Hickstown, is buried under a handsome marker -- behind West Durham Lumber.
As always, thank you for what you're doing here. (Folks, you may not realize this but, Gary drives all over Durham trying to get photographs to scan at high resolution -- so his images on Endangered Durham can be sharp and clear.)
Submitted by JPL (not verified) on Sat, 4/18/2009 - 8:30pm
I bought supplies for a project at Talbert in the Fall. The guy at the counter was really helpful, and even corrected some misinformation I'd gotten from another vendor. Service was 100x better than at the home improvement place in North Pointe.
Also, I know you're trying to show what became of the original site but, in case anyone is thinking of going, I wanted to point out that Talbert's retail operation is on the south side of the railroad tracks, not in the building pictured here.
Submitted by Brendan Love (not verified) on Sat, 5/30/2009 - 1:19am
Talberts is the only place to go for building supplies in Durham. It's a completely different experience from the big box stores.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 1/21/2012 - 12:59pm
I love looking back at Durham, especially before I was born. I was born in 1953, so my mother did all her shopping on and around main street. Most times, I was with her. I remember the people being dressed in suits and most men wore hats then. I remember the old cars, and a few horse and waggons even on the street then. My grandfather who was born in 1895 said he worked at West Durham lumber. I remember he said the work was hard and at one time he was grading lumber. I don't know if that was less physical or not. I think he worked there up until the early 1950's.
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