Preservation Durham Places in Peril : 2012



Why it’s Important:

Neighborhood concern for park properties throughout the city and county has brought these buildings to the 2012 Places in Peril list. Some of these structures include: the Duke Park Bathhouse, a Works Projects Administration project from the mid-1930s; the Forest Hills Park Clubhouse, designed by George Watts Carr, Sr in the 1920s for the historic golf course; and the Lavender House in the Northgate Park neighborhood, home to the Trailside Museum in the 1940s which became the NC Museum of Life and Science. Other historic DPR properties of note include Leigh Farm, West Point on the Eno, Spruce Pine Lodge, and the City Armory downtown.


Why it’s in Peril:

Durham is recognized statewide - even nationally - as a community rich in historic resources, showcasing such redevelopments as the American Tobacco Campus, West Village, and the Golden Belt mill complex. Durham doesn’t have a beach, a riverwalk, or a mountain range; instead, the clever reuse of historic buildings and the private sector’s support of preservation sets Durham apart from many other communities in the state. While our local government has contributed financially to projects like West Village and American Tobacco, it has failed to adopt preservation guidelines into the treatment of its own aging property holdings and has a history of neglecting historic schools and other significant structures that impact entire neighborhoods.


The poor treatment of park buildings is symptomatic of the larger problem of how Durham’s publicly-owned properties are maintained and renovated - a paradigm that can result in galvanized neighborhood concern for buildings with important pasts but uncertain futures. Moreover, the fact that preservation standards are not utilized in undertakings funded by bond referendums further frustrates citizens who recognize the importance of protecting our cultural heritage and the resources that make Durham unique.


What’s Needed:


Durham’s local government should lead by example in the preservation of their historic buildings, as this plays an important role in shaping public support for other preservation efforts across Durham County. The maintenance and sensitive rehabilitation of publicly-owned historic buildings signals to residents and visitors alike the value that Durham’s leaders place on our built heritage in all sectors. In contrast, employing non-sensitive practices to rehabilitation work on public buildings sends the wrong message to the public - especially to those living in local historic districts - about the stewardship of older properties and how the citizenry should maintain its own historic properties.


Preservation Durham supports a proactive approach to ensuring that the rehabilitations of historic public properties - including park buildings - strive to emulate the private-sector development models that have made Durham a distinctive community. Several possible ways to pursue this include:


  • Requiring a minor Certificate of Appropriateness from the Durham Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) for all rehab work on publicly-owned historic buildings, regardless of whether or not they are located in a local historic district.
  • Encouraging training in the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation for General Services staff charged with coordinating projects on historic properties, for City Council members and County Commissioners who set the agenda for public dollars, and for other public administrators involved with Durham’s historic property holdings.
  • Requiring local government to coordinate with General Services, the Durham HPC, Preservation Durham, the State Historic Preservation Office, and other preservation-minded community members to develop preservation plans for all publicly held historic properties, recognizing that this may include a process for selling off historic properties with conservation easements - as was done with the 5-Points building currently under construction by Re:Vamp Durham - that cannot be appropriately maintained.


Add new comment

Log in or register to post comments.