ERWIN COTTON MILL COMPANY STORE / WEST DURHAM POST OFFICE

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ERWIN COTTON MILL COMPANY STORE / WEST DURHAM POST OFFICE

605
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1892
/ Demolished in
1961
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

Comments

  • Submitted by Lynn on Monday, June 29, 2009 - 11:12pm

    So, let me get this straight: The 9th Street post office is now the Kangaroo post office? *biting tongue*

  • Submitted by Anonymous on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 - 11:11am

    Superb series on the Erwin Mill complex, past and present. Kudos!

    Does anyone know what the unusual white building just north of -- and connected to -- the office was? It had a very odd roof feature. The north face was pitched back 30 degrees or so to catch light. The south face was curved into a quarter-circle, and I believe had glass of some type. It appears in several photos, but you have to view all of them to appreciate its unusual angles.

    A plaque honoring WW II war dead from Erwin Mills, formerly located at Erwin Auditorium, was saved and is located at Oval Drive Park, southeast corner of Club and Oakland.

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Last updated

  • Sun, 08/19/2012 - 8:34pm by gary

Location

36° 0' 24.264" N, 78° 55' 21.1008" W

Comments

605
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1892
/ Demolished in
1961
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 

 


1913 Map showing the Company Store (next to the reservoir and denoted by the "S") with the small post office located to the north of the building.
(Copyright Sanborn Map Company)

The Erwin Mills Company Store was constructed contemporaneously with the mill in 1892. As the name implies, the store provided a place where employees could purchase groceries and other goods. Typically in company stores, although I don't know the specifics regarding the Erwin Mill store, employees could purchase on credit against future earnings. The West Durham Post Office was established in a smaller structure immediately to the north of the store building.

It appears from some oral histories that the generation working in the mills by the 1930s-1950s had no memory of buying at the company store, although their parents had. I suspect that as the commercial district on Ninth Street grew and prospered, the company store became obsolete - perhaps by the 1920s.

During the first decades of the 20th century, the company store building evidently also served as the West Durham trolley stop, per one oral history. (From downtown, the trolley came to West Durham via West Main St., taking a right at Ninth Street, a right at Perry Street, and a left at Broad Street.)


Aerial showing the company store/post office at the corner of West Main and Ninth Street, 1950s.

By mid-century, the post office has taken over the entire building. It appears to have been remodeled for this purpose during the 1920s-1930s. Various groups appear to have rented the 2nd story of the building - by 1959, the Knights of Pythias used it as meeting space.


West Durham Post Office, looking south (with Knights of Pythias lodge on the second floor,) 1959.
(Courtesy Bob Blake)


West Durham Post Office, 1961. The windows/brickwork on the east, south, and west faces appears more typical of 1920s-1930s versus that on the north, which resembles that of the mill.
(Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection)

A new West Durham post office was constructed in 1961, just to the north of the original.

The post office / company store was demolished that same year.

westdurhampo_old_1960s.jpg


Demolition of the West Durham Post Office.
(Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection)

You can see in the background of this picture the then-new, replacement West Durham Post Office, located ~150 feet north of the older building.


New West Durham Post Office, 10.21.61. Note how close the structures on Ninth Street once were to the "Cloth Building."

I'm not sure if anything replaced the old post office / company store on the corner immediately thereafter - my guess is, given the odd grade and small amount of room between the former reservoir and the street, that it remained empty. By the 1980s, the Erwin Square redevelopment had regraded the Mill site, and a Wachovia branch bank was constructed on the old store site (actually a bit to the west and north of the store footprint.)


Site of the original West Durham Post Office and Erwin Mills company store, looking west, 04.04.09

The 'new' West Durham Post Office was, in due time, abandoned as well. I'm not sure when this occurred, but the opening of the can-it-be-any-more-isolated Kangaroo St. branch was likely the cause. It now houses a store that sells Duke-related merchandise, and it has managed to succeed despite Duke forcing them to change their name to "Duck".


 

Comments

So, let me get this straight: The 9th Street post office is now the Kangaroo post office? *biting tongue*

Superb series on the Erwin Mill complex, past and present. Kudos!

Does anyone know what the unusual white building just north of -- and connected to -- the office was? It had a very odd roof feature. The north face was pitched back 30 degrees or so to catch light. The south face was curved into a quarter-circle, and I believe had glass of some type. It appears in several photos, but you have to view all of them to appreciate its unusual angles.

A plaque honoring WW II war dead from Erwin Mills, formerly located at Erwin Auditorium, was saved and is located at Oval Drive Park, southeast corner of Club and Oakland.

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