2011 Preservation Durham Home Tour : Duke Park

2011 Preservation Durham Home Tour : Duke Park


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DUKE PARK / DUKE PARK POOL AND BATHHOUSE

1530
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1910
/ Modified in
1930
Architectural style: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Sun, 08/21/2011 - 10:39pm by gary

Location

36° 0' 51.5448" N, 78° 53' 37.5072" W

Comments

1530
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1910
/ Modified in
1930
Architectural style: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

 

Duke Park, originally part of Brodie Duke's large landholdings, was farmed by farmer Lee Perry during the early 20th century. It was also evidently used by surrounding neighbors to surface mine coal - Durham's primary heat source prior to its usurpation by oil/gas heat in the mid-20th century.

Per Jean Anderson, the Junior League was at least in part responsible for persuading Duke to donate the land for a park sometime in the 1910s. Duke owned most of the surrounding land, and had begun plotting streets and selling off building lots, primarily to the south of the current park, between Glendale and North Roxboro prior to his death in 1919.

The residential neighborhood of Duke Park, surrounding the park itself, came into its own in the 1920s with the rise of private automobile ownership. Large period revival homes and bungalows, in particular, were developed along adjoining streets.

There is little information about the park itself during this era - because the area immediately to the north, now occupied by I-85 was a natural ravine, the park likely had no distinct northern boundary, blending with the rural landscaped that stretched north to Bragtown. Most likely, the land stayed as it had been, although it's unclear whether grazing, farming, and coal digging still went on.

In the early 1930s, though, Duke Park became one of several Durham parks that were redeveloped by the Civil Works Administration and Emergency Relief Administration of North Carolina as agents for the Federal Works Progress administration. Jean Anderson notes that "CR Wood applied for Reconstruction Finance Corporation Funds to establish five recreation centers [in city parks]" I don't know who CR Wood was.

Evidently the construction at Duke Park was opposed by some of the tony new neighbors, who were likely not digging up their own coal and grazing their cows nearby. The opposition included Richard Wright, II who lived nearby at 1429 N. Mangum, and local lawyer Basil Watkins. Per Jim Wise, the opposition claimed that the park would attract "an influx of undesirable elements." Despite 75 names on a petition and a rant about cutting down trees for swimming pools, the trash produced by visitors, and the expense of maintaining the park, the anti-park posse lost.

Marshall Spears, chairman of the recreation commission, pushed forward with the construction of a pool, tennis courts, swings, shelters, stone entrances, and a bathhouse, all completed between 1933-1935.

These facilities appear to have been extremely popular through the 1940s and 1950s. I simply stopped scanning pictures of the Duke Park pool after awhile, as it appears to have been the reliable annual harbinger of summer for the crowds to arrive at Duke Park pool. Duke Park was segregated, as all Durham Parks were, and only accessible to white people.

I was rather surprised to discover the "Duke Park Water Pageant" in existence as early as 1949. I have no idea if the present-day "Beaver Queen Pageant" organizers were aware of this history of Duke Park, but, if not, it's rather amazing.


Duke Park Water Pageant, 08.11.49.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)


Duke Park Water Pageant, 08.11.49.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)


Duke Park Water Pageant, 08.11.49.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)


Duke Park pool opens for summer, 06.05.57
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)


Duke Park pool opens for summer, 06.05.57
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

dukeparkswimming poolopens_060455.jpeg
Duke Park pool opens for summer, 06.04.55
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)


Duke Park pool, 08.23.56 - the headline was "Duke Park Pool with No Swimmers" - due to a polio scare.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)


Duke Park pool, 06.17.57.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)


Duke Park Pool, 08.09.61. I think this is probably staged. I'm putting this in primarily to show the bathhouse in the background.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

Evidently the bathhouse was renovated in 1962.


Inspecting the renovations, 06.07.62.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

The park seems to have fallen on harder times in the late 1960s and 1970s, as did many city parks. The reaction of the white populace to the integration of parks (not specifically Duke Park, but all Durham parks) was not to embrace change. I don't know of violence or similar - but community investment in parks declined.

Per Barry Ragin, the Duke Park pool closed in 1993 due to "irremediable maintenance issues" that related to the the pool developing a leak into the underground stream below it. I always have to suspect that anything is remediable with enough money, which, granted, Durham Parks and Rec rarely has. Sometime in the early 2000s, as part of the renovation of the play equipment at Duke Park, the pool was removed, and the hole filled in with dirt.

The 1933-34 bathhouse has remained shuttered for 15 years, despite the efforts, chronicled by Barry, of the surrounding community to lease the structure from Durham Parks and Rec for a community center. It seems that DPR has a desire to raze the structure, but hasn't done so due to community opposition. So they've opted for traditional option #3 = neglect. It's the standard practice of owners in these situations - if you can wait, try to get the structure to deteriorate enough so that 1) ideally, it falls down of its own accord, 2) you can get a pliable structural engineer to sound the chicken little-esque refrain of "unsafe! unsafe!".

Which is all a shame, because Duke Park clearly has the community resources to make this a thriving community center and, by doing so, save a historic structure that helps us remember some of the things we and our elected officials did last time the economic sky was falling.


A general shot of Duke Park, looking northeast, 01.17.09


Former Duke Park pool and boarded-up bathhouse, 01.17.09

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36.014318,-78.893752

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RHWrightHouse_2011.jpeg

1429 NORTH MANGUM STREET / 105 EAST KNOX STREET

1429
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1929
/ Modified in
1940
Architect/Designers: 
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Mon, 09/18/2017 - 5:45pm by gary

Location

36° 0' 43.5456" N, 78° 53' 35.3904" W

Comments

1429
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1929
/ Modified in
1940
Architect/Designers: 
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

 

RHWrightHouse_2011.jpeg
(Courtesy Alex Maness)

Text in italics from the writeup for the 2011 Preservation Durham House Tour:

Richard. H. Wright II House (Whitehall Terrace), 1929 and 1940
105 East Knox Street

George Watts Carr designed this two-story frame Colonial Revival style house in 1929 for Richard H. Wright II, [...] and his wife, Helen Scanlon, the daughter of the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. The Wrights lived here with their three daughters, Turissa, Bettie, and Mary. Bettie Wright married Dr. Michel Bourgeois-Gavardin here in the 1950s. Long-time Durham residents will remember seeing the full-size illuminated Santa Claus sleigh, complete with eight reindeer, which Wright installed every Christmas high atop the portico overlooking Mangum Street.

[Wright was born in Durham in 1894, the son of Thomas Davenport Wright and his wife Bettie. He attended business college and served in the Army Air Service during World War I. Upon returning home, he began working with his uncle, Richard Wright, who has appeared repeatedly on this site in connection with Duke's of Durham tobacco, the Wright building, his house on Dillard Street, Bonnie Brae, the Wright Refuge, and the Wright Machinery Company. RH Wright, II became involved in the latter company upon his return from WWI. His brother, Thomas Davenport Wright (there's a lot of name repetition in this family) who lived nearby in Old North Durham joined him at the company in 1929, upon the death of their uncle.

RH Wright, II later became, much like his uncle, involved in multiple business ventures, including President and treasurer of the Allenton Company, President of Wright Real Estate Company, vice-president of the Southern Fire Insurance Co., director of the Randolph Cotton Mills in Franklinville, vice-president of the Public Hardware Co., president and director of the Durham Telephone Co., director of the Durham Bank and Trust Co., trustee of Louisburg College, and director of Family Service, Inc.

Wright was also a 'gentleman farmer', engaging in "farming on a large scale, operating the 1500 acre Snow Hill Farm at the old Cameron Plantation. In addition to tobacco, grain, hay, and other crops, he also [raised] the famous White-Face Hereford beef cattle." - GK]

With its two-story portico and neo-Classical details, the Mangum Street façade is often compared to George Washington’s Mount Vernon. The classic look has been accented by the recent addition of a bright red Japanese Torii gate in the east lawn.

The double-gabled entrance façade on the west side of the house, accessed via the driveway from Knox Street, is part of an addition built in 1940 which doubled the size of the house to 6,000 sq. ft. with a new kitchen and a music room on the main floor and extra bedrooms upstairs.

On July 4, 1980, the house was extensively damaged by fire. Mr. and Mrs. Wright, then in their 80s, leapt from their second story bedroom window to escape the flames. Both died within a few days of the traumatic ordeal and their daughters sold the gutted property to the current owner in 1981.

Restoration continued slowly for many years, then received a big boost in 2004 when the home was featured as the Junior League of Durham and Orange Counties Designer Show House. The main rooms were redone by some of the area’s best known interior designers, including Kate Strobl, Linda Dickerson, Dan Addison, Anne Aulbert, Stewart Woodard, Minta Bell, and Ross-Davis Interiors.

One approaches this elegant home via the driveway from Knox Street. Furnished with family heirlooms, the central hall extends through the house to a large porch and parterre that overlook Mangum Street. On the south side are the eclectically furnished music room, elegant living room, and library with floor-to ceiling bookshelves. French doors lead from the library to a terrace and swimming pool.

On the north side of the hall is the silk-paneled dining room. The sitting room in the northeast corner, originally the kitchen and later the breakfast room, features murals painted in 2005 by David Matthews depicting the origins of several world religions. The big kitchen was remodeled for the Junior League Show House. With the removal of a wall, it incorporates the original butler’s pantry and its cabinetry on the south side, coordinated with new cabinets, a granite topped peninsula and counters, and new appliances.

The wide staircase rises from the central hall to an airy upstairs landing. A small side corridor leads past a bathroom with original fittings to the original master bedroom and a suite of two bedrooms and a bath that were once occupied by the Wright girls.

In the Living Room is a citation of excellence for the house issued at the 1930 North Carolina Chapter of the American Institute of Architects Annual Architectural Exhibition. Continuing its distinguished heritage, the careful restoration and maintenance of Whitehall Terrace was recognized again in 1991 with a Preservation Durham Pyne Preservation Award.

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1423Acadia_2011.jpeg

1423 ACADIA STREET

1423
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1950
Architect/Designers: 
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Sun, 07/29/2012 - 6:55pm by gary

Location

36° 0' 41.8248" N, 78° 53' 41.2944" W

Comments

1423
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1950
Architect/Designers: 
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

 

1423Acadia_2011.jpeg
1423 Acadia Street, 2011
(Courtesy Alex Maness)

Dr. William M. Watkins House, 1950
1423 Acadia Street

When one of the current owners of the William M. Watkins House entered the foyer as she was house hunting, she immediately knew this was the one. The spaces of this Georgian style house in the Williamsburg tradition were perfect for her family. While the large living and dining rooms may not appeal to many contemporary families, they did to this family. Even though they had lived in contemporary houses, she always preferred a traditional design. Coming from a renowned historic North Carolina family, the Mordecais of Raleigh, she immediately recognized that the things she inherited from her grandmother would fit nicely in these spacious areas.

The house, nestled comfortably in tall pine trees, reflects many of the defining features of Georgian architecture. The simple, side-gabled box design with the centered entrance with paneled door and covered portico is a classic one with windows symmetrically arranged on both levels. The vertical glass panels beside the front door allow the morning sunlight to brighten the entry hall. Chimneys flank each end of the center portion of the house with kitchen to the right and a sunroom to the left. The six-over-six mullioned windows both downstairs and in the dormers above complete the design.

The Watkins House was designed by Archie Royal Davis, who graduated from NCSU in 1930 with a degree in Architectural Engineering. In 1939 he opened his own firm in Durham where he designed many notable public structures and private homes. His buildings have stood the test of time for their sturdiness and their trueness to design. He also built the sister house to this one at 1313 N. Gregson Street. [Despite large commissions such as these, Davis may be most well-known to contemporaneous readers for designing the South Duke Street round houses.]

A bright 12-foot wide foyer with soft yellow walls and white paneled wainscoting, added by the current owners, greets each guest. Built in 1950, the house contains the original wood floors and decorative woodwork, including the mahogany balustrade with its decorative spindles. The shoe molding is stained to match the oak floors and the 8-inch molding at the ceiling painted a bright white creates a striking effect. To the right of the entrance is the dining room and to the left the living room, both supersized. Beyond the dining room is the kitchen with an enclosed rear porch connecting a small paneled den. The living room opens to a sun room to the left and a master suite to the rear. Upstairs are two bedrooms, one large and one small, originally for the Watkins‘ two daughters. The bookcases upstairs were added in 1991, whereas those in the downstairs den are original. Because the house sits on three city blocks, the yard is sizable and is maintained in a natural state with ivy on the front bank and magnolia trees in the rear.

The house was built in 1950 for Dr. William M. Watkins and his wife Elizabeth Bizzell Watkins, who married in 1925. The area that now comprises Duke Park was originally owned by Brodie L. Duke, an older son of Washington Duke who made and lost most of his money through real estate transactions. In 1931, William Watkins bought Lots 26 and 27 and part of 25 from the Duke Land and Improvement Co. In 1945 Louise Watkins sold to her brother the other part of Lot 25. The house was built in 1950, based on the fact that the 1949 City Directory showed no listing for 1423 Acadia but in 1950 the Watkins were shown as residents here. Sometime later Watkins built a house next door for his maiden sister Louise, who taught math at Durham High School for many years. Watkins was a physician who had an office [in the Trust Building] at 212 W. Main Street. After his retirement, he and Elizabeth continued to live here until 1981.

In 1981 Darrell Paul Nelson and wife Barbara S. bought the house from the Watkins. Reportedly, they enclosed the side porch to create the sunroom and added the bar. He was pastor of Grace Lutheran Church for a number of years and parishioners recall attending concerts with small groups in the living room. They lived there for nine years and in 1990 sold the house to Alan and Nancy McNabb. The current owners bought the house in 2007. It’s remarkable that this sixty year-old house has housed only four families.

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36.011618,-78.894804

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1417 ACADIA STREET

1417
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1931
Architect/Designers: 
,
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Mon, 06/25/2012 - 7:08pm by gary

Location

36° 0' 40.4604" N, 78° 53' 41.3232" W

Comments

1417
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1931
Architect/Designers: 
,
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

 

1417Acadia_2011.jpeg
1417 Acadia Street, 2011
(Courtesy Alex Maness)

The J. A. Smith House, 1931
1417 Acadia Street

Among the last houses built in Duke Park before the crushing weight of the Great Depression halted nearly all construction, the J. A. Smith House is nevertheless an outstanding example of the Tudor or gothic revival style so popular in the Duke Park neighborhood. The house is little altered inside or out from the time James and Irene Smith first moved in back, in 1931. Its finishes and details were of first quality when they were created and they have been wonderfully preserved through the years.

Duke Park was one of Durham’s first automobile suburbs of the 1920s. Before Mr. Ford and his T model made a car a middle class necessity, city limits tended to be defined by the last stops on the street car lines. In the years preceding the First World War, the automobile progressed from a mechanical novelty to a status symbol. In the 1910s, a car cost from ,000 to ,000 – more than the cost of a comfortable new home at the time. When Ford introduced the mass-produced Model T, the “People’s Car,” in 1909, even it cost 0 which was still the cost of a modest home. By 1924, however, the Model T was only 0 and more than 2 million were being produced annually. Other manufacturers were forced to follow suit. In the case of Duke Park, it was the private motorcar that made life beyond the railroad tracks a possibility. There is a direct correlation between the cost of automobiles and the size of homes in the neighborhood. In the 1910s, when cars were expensive, only the well-to-do could afford to build in Duke Park. Their homes, like the Dillard House at 1311 North Mangum Street, built in 1917, tended to be mansions. As cars became cheaper, however, middle class families began to join their more wealthy neighbors in Duke Park. Middle class homes of the 1920s are more modest in size, but they still reflect the aspirations of their upwardly mobile owners in style and appointments.

Times were good. The country was prosperous, and the rising middle class was both moneyed and mobile. Real estate people developed new products to serve them. The automobile suburb soon replaced the street car suburbs of the preceding decades. In Durham, early experiments in automobile-oriented residential development are represented by Duke Park, Forest Hills, and Hope Valley. Newspaper ads for all three extolled the virtues of life in the country, clean air, larger lots, and space for gardens and parks. Nationally, the newly wealthy people of the 1920s favored period revival styles possessing strong connections to the aristocratic traditions of the past in Europe and America. Homes reflecting popular ideas of medieval manors and southern plantations filled the pages of ladies’ magazines and builders’ pattern books. The popularity of these styles is abundantly manifested in Duke Park where the Tudor and colonial revival styles dominate the first phase of the neighborhood’s development.

The J. A. Smith House on Acadia Street demonstrates that with imagination and the help of a good architect, even the owner of a cigar store and lunch counter could be lord of his own two-bedroom manor. James Alfonsa Smith moved to Durham from Georgia in 1923. He operated S&S Cigar Store and Luncheonette on Parrish Street. To design their new Duke Park residence, Smith and his wife, Irene, engaged the Durham firm of Rose and Rose. This firm designed the classical N.C. Mutual Life Insurance Building on West Parrish Street, and the Jacobean style Holloway Street School, among many other buildings in Durham. The Rose firm was meticulous. Surviving documents concerning the Smith’s house include a letter from Noell Brothers Hardware Company quoting a price of for a detailed list of door fixtures, locks, knobs, and hinges - covering everything including metals and finishes. “The Outside of the Front door to have a Sweedish Iron finish Handle,” the letter declares.

That heavy iron “Sweedish” handle is still there today, a perfect compliment to the medieval theme of the house. With it notice the false hinge straps (the door opens the other way) that tie the vertical boards of the heavy door together. The main entry is framed by a Tudor or Perpendicular archway set out with irregular bluestones inlaid with the flashed and “clinker” brick cladding the house. The purpose, of course is to create a rough, antique effect. The house presents a “cottage” front to the street. This lowers the roof line under end gables that reach only part-way back along the sides of the house. The rest of the house is contained under a roof gable projecting toward the rear. This makes the house appear smaller, quainter than it really is. The clipped, 'German' gables add to the medieval appearance of the house and tie it to the popular idea of ancient buildings - like the houses depicted in Brueghel’s paintings of peasant life. This gable roof treatment is also called a “jerkin-headed” gable because of its resemblance to the shoulders of the jerkin, a sleeveless coat worn in the later Middle Ages. The asymmetrical arrangement of the overlapping front gables and the stepped chimney give the house an unplanned, organic look. The heavy iron chains containing the stoop suggest portcullises and drawbridges.

In the South, owners who wanted the medieval look on the outside often did not want it on the inside. Instead they chose a lighter, colonial style. Not so the Smiths. Guided by their architects, they bravely brought the medieval inside with baronial success. The interior of the house has been beautifully maintained over the years and is very little altered. The entry hall leads into the home’s large public rooms. These are joined by broad Tudor archways. A library or den to the left is lit by a triple bank of nine-over-one sash windows. To the right is the formal living room. The focus of this room is the wonderful molded plaster fireplace with its Tudor arched firebox and escutcheons set into the corners. Another arch leads to the dining room beyond.

The baseboards are wood finished and rise high on the walls. The unusual eight-panel doors are made of a clear, light wood, maybe fir or even maple. Their finish has ripened to a deep rich color. Their brass knobs are the very ones supplied by the Noell Brothers so long ago. Note the gothic tracery in the heating vent grilles. Nothing escaped the Roses’ attention. The sand-finished plaster walls rise to a height of 10 feet. The extra foot in height makes the interior spaces lighter and airier and relieves any oppressiveness that might have been imposed by the dark woodwork and medieval details. A hallway joins the two original bedrooms. They are quite small and their woodwork is simpler. In the Twenties, people lived in the living room and slept in the bedroom. The hearth was the center of family life, not the television.

The kitchen is also very small. It was a service space, meant for work and not for guests. Originally, it was occupied by a stove and sink. Built-in counters were still a novelty in the South even in the 1930s. The reason for this is simple. Labor was inexpensive and the Smiths and their neighbors would have had cooks and other servants. The icebox would have stood in the screened porch (now the enclosed laundry). The original layout of the kitchen is something of a mystery as the space has been altered more than once. It appears that a door once gave access into the kitchen from the hall through the arch. This door was later closed up to create a chase for ductwork to the addition created in the attic space upstairs. Because the house always had a permanent stairway to the attic, the creation of additional living space there had only minimal effect on the original home below. The original breakfast nook/ butler’s pantry has also been changed. The sheetrock on the northern wall reveals where the built-in hutch once stood.

James Smith died in 1968. His wife, Irene, lived in the house until just before her death in 1990 at the age of 90. They are buried in section 2 of Maplewood Cemetery. The home they created is so obviously special that subsequent owners have cared for it as the Smiths would have wanted. The J. A. Smith House is an excellent example of its style and an important chapter in the story of Duke Park.

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36.011239,-78.894812

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1405 NORTH MANGUM STREET

1405
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1923
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Fri, 07/08/2011 - 6:58pm by gary

Location

36° 0' 36.6768" N, 78° 53' 35.8368" W

Comments

1405
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1923
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

 


1405 N. Mangum St., 2011
(Courtesy Alex Maness)
1405 North Mangum Street
Fletcher House

This distinctive Airplane Bungalow was featured in the Durham architectural inventory because its form is so unusual - only a handful of the type are standing in the city. A Bungalow is only one story by definition, with perhaps a finished attic and dormers to give additional living space or interest to the exterior; an Airplane Bungalow, on the other hand, has a pop-up above the main gable that looks a little like a tree house, a camel hump, or the cockpit of an airplane - hence the name. 1405 North Mangum is an excellent example, with a large first floor with the living room, dining room, and kitchen lining up on the left side and four bedrooms arranged down a long, central hall. Halfway down the hall, an enclosed staircase leads up into the cockpit: a light-filled space with bands of lovely windows, a private bathroom, and attic access on both ends.

Constructed about 1923 by Robert and Lille Snider Fletcher, this house may be uncommon in form but otherwise typifies residences of the era. The wide moldings, hardwood floors, and four-over-one windows are quintessential, although done to a higher level than many more modest Durham houses. Brushed plaster walls, high ceilings, and large banks of windows mark this house as a particularly fine example, and fill it with light.

The Fletchers had bought the property in February of 1923 from Gilmore W. Bryant, a Vermont native who had come to Durham [in 1898] to launch the Southern Conservatory of Music. As a music director and principal, Bryant did not buy and sell property regularly; he had bought the land only a year before from the original subdivider, Brodie Duke, via the Duke Land and Improvement Company. Surely, Mr. Bryant intended to build a house for himself and his children, set in an enviable position at a high point in the neighborhood. However, the Conservatory, once located at the [southwest]corner of Duke and West Main Streets, moved to a new site [south of town on Alston Avenue] in 1924 - and the Bryants moved into a new, large, [...] house directly across the street from it, never living on North Mangum Street. Perhaps the plans for the Conservatory’s relocation developed after the purchase of the property but before construction commenced, and Bryant realigned his plans accordingly.

Robert Fletcher, who built the house shortly after purchasing the lot, was a native of Henderson who, with his father-in-law Samuel Snider, founded the Snider-Fletcher Company, Inc., a jewelry company that boasted watchmakers, opticians, and engravers. He worked as the secretary-treasurer at the downtown store (at 110 West Main Street in 1920), while Lillie is listed as the vice-president; her sister, Mary B. Snider Umstead, as president after their father’s passing. The couple must have looked forward to having a house in the new Duke Park neighborhood, conveniently linked to downtown via the trolley lines running up Mangum Street. [The tracks extended north to the south side of the Mangum Street bridge which crosses the Belt Line rail, which just to the south of Duke Park]. They made use of the large house, bringing her father and brother Dudd to live in the house too before the 1930 census.

Mr. Fletcher passed away in 1941, and Lillie stayed in the house for a few years, selling it in 1944 to Wilbur and Anne Parker Tillett. Mr. Tillett was a tobacconist heading into retirement when they purchased the house, and he passed away in 1956. Like Mrs. Fletcher before her, Anne Tillett stayed in the house after her husband’s death, finally selling the house in 1972, when she was nearly 80 years old. Because of the settlement of the next owner’s estate a few years later, the purchase price is recorded: ,500.

The house passed through a number of owners before the current family purchased the property in 1993. Most of the work that has changed the house was done before them, including the first floor bathroom, which has three entrance doors making for a complicated arrangement. The kitchen has a painted wood floor - a treatment that protects the wood as well as the more common sealing and adds a pop of color. Other, gradual improvements that have altered the house over the years include screening in the rear porch, improving the upstairs bathroom, and extensive landscaping.

The current owners purchased the house in 1993 and have become a major part of the neighborhood, hosting a massive Mardi Gras party each year that culminates in a parade down to Duke Park. The party makes use of every square inch of the house, including the wrap-around front porch where children construct shoe-box floats, the rear screened porch, and the large back yard with ample space for entertainment.

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36.010188,-78.893288

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GAMBLE HOUSE

1307
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1935
Architect/Designers: 
Architectural style: 
,
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
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In tours

Last updated

  • Sun, 08/26/2012 - 2:01pm by gary

Location

36° 0' 33.1344" N, 78° 53' 37.0392" W

Comments

1307
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1935
Architect/Designers: 
Architectural style: 
,
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

 


1307 North Mangum, 1930s

Built on land that was originally part of the property of 1311 North Mangum Street, directly to the north, the International Style house at 1307 North Mangum Street was built by Mr. and Mrs. Howard Gamble in 1935. Mrs. Gamble's father, Richard E. Dillard, who owned 1311 North Mangum, subdivided his property and gave the southern portion to his daughter and son-in-law to build their house.

The Gambles who "took an active interest in modern art, architecture, and photography" worked with Asheville architectural firm Greene and Rogers to design the house. The house was an early example of an International Style house in the country, and particularly unique for being located in Durham - in North Carolina - in the South.

Per the historic inventory:

A celebrated novelty in Durham when built, the house integrates technology and aesthetics that combine metal, glass, and poured concrete in a design for a new open spatial vision boldly expressing the principles of the Bauhaus, the leading German school of design in the 1920s and 1930s. ... The flat, unadorned walls, which form the box-like sections of the house that truthfully reflect the floor plan, and bands of windows that often make a 90-degree turn at corners, are hallmarks of a style that was just beginning to appear in the United States in the 1930s but was never widely accepted, least so in the Southeast, for domestic architecture.

Emphasis throughout is on the horizontal. Undecorated surfaces of exterior walls and windows longer than they are tall enhance the effect of expansion along the ground. The many windows plus the frequent access to terraces on both levels increase the impression of large open spaces as the separation between indoors and outdoors is diminished. The floor plan is also unusual for its time as the communal living areas are at the rear of the house and the kitchen is at the front. A curved staircase, indirect lighting, fireplace surround of mirrors and black Belgian marble, and vivid color schemes highlight the interior.

In the decade after its construction, the house was featured in national magazines, and for many years was included in the Durham Chamber of Commerce's brochure "Points of Interest in Durham, North Carolina"

In the 1950s, the house had an unfortunate treatment with Permastone on its exterior, and slid into disrepair after conversion to a rental property.


Gamble house with a sheathing of Permastone, late 1970s.

1307NorthMangum_1981.jpg

1981 (Durham County Library)

In the late 1970s, the house was purchased by Gerard Tempest (who remodeled Fire Station #1 as an office building in the 1970s and would build "The Villa" in Chapel Hill out of parts of demolished Durham mansions.) Tempest refurbished the house in the late 1970s, adding it to the National Register in 1978.

The house remains in the Tempest family; it remains impressive on the interior, and enjoys a beautifully bucolic vista from the backyard, aided by the property's 0.66 acres and the fact that the middle of the block at the rear of the property trails back into lowlands and a powerline easement.


1307 North Mangum, 02.12.11

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106 EAST MARKHAM AVENUE

106
,
Durham
NC
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In tours

Last updated

  • Wed, 07/06/2011 - 10:30pm by gary

Location

36° 0' 34.1892" N, 78° 53' 32.5464" W

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106
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Architectural style: 
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106EMarkham_2011.jpeg
106 East Markham Avenue, 2011
(Courtesy Alex Maness)

Ernest T. Rogers House, c. 1920
106 East Markham Avenue

The Dutch Colonial Revival house at 106 East Markham Avenue stands as a testament to a time when fine architecture, the use of quality materials, and good, solid craftsmanship were commonplace in Durham’s newly developing neighborhoods. This beautifully constructed house began its life in Durham’s early-1920s heyday. It has seen dozens of occupants over the years, and yet it retains an integrity that is palpable. [...]

Sited on the west portion of lots 1, 2, and 3 of block 43 of the B. L. Duke property, which was laid out in 1901, these lots originally fronted Patra Street (now Roxboro Street), which was on their east side, and were bordered on the north by Park Avenue (now East Markham Avenue), the west by an alley (since covered over), and the south by lot 4. The three lots in their entirety were sold by the Duke Land and Improvement Company in 1920 to William A. Barbee for 00. Barbee then divided them not into individual lots 1, 2, and 3, but rather divided them vertically so that the lots fronted Park Avenue instead of Patra Street. The western portion of this divided property was sold by Barbee to Martin R. New in April 1920 for 00. (Both men were near neighbors living on Holloway Street at the time.) New then sold the property to Ernest T. Rogers in September 1921 for 25, earning a fairly sizable return on his investment.

Sometime soon after this, Rogers commissioned the house we see today on this lot at 106 East Markham Avenue. Distinguished chiefly by its gambrel roof and flaring eaves (often thought of as barn-like in appearance), the Dutch Colonial Revival style is also reflected in the large shed dormer, gable-end chimneys, and multi-light windows (here, five vertical panes over one). As in Colonial Revival houses, of which the Dutch Colonial Revival is a subtype, one finds an emphasis on a symmetrical facade, an accented front entrance (here with sidelights), and symmetrical windows hung in combination (here double central bays on either side of the front entrance and paired windows in the dormer). Along with these elements, however, one finds strong Craftsman characteristics featured in the house as well. The eclecticism hints that the house was designed by an architect rather than built strictly from a published plan book. The porch, running the full length of the house, is supported by thick brick piers on either end and box posts on brick piers in the center. Inside is a Craftsman-style brick fireplace, and much of the interior woodwork retains its beautiful, unadorned dark richness.

As originally configured, the home’s front door opened into a handsome foyer. A large dining room is found beyond French doors to the right. Behind this would have been the original butler’s pantry and kitchen. Off the back of the kitchen was a porch (now an enclosed room). To the left of the entryway is the front parlor with fireplace, and behind this is another large room, perhaps a downstairs bedroom or a music room. Immediately beyond the foyer, a long staircase leads to the second floor. While it is difficult to imagine the original layout upstairs, it appears there would have been four large bedrooms and one or two baths.

It cannot be confirmed that Ernest T. Rogers and his wife Alice Veasey Rogers ever lived in the house they had built. By 1919, city directories show them living on the north end of Mangum Street, but no number is given to their house. By 1925, they had moved to a small tobacco farm in Bahama. It is certainly conceivable that after Rogers purchased the property in September 1921, he had the house built soon thereafter and occupied it until the family moved to Bahama.

The house first appears for certain as 106 E. Markham in Durham city directories in 1926, when Marvin A. Roycroft and his wife Lyda reside there. Roycroft was a partner, along with his father and brother, in Roycroft’s tobacco warehouse, and lived with his wife in the house through 1933 when they moved to 916 Green Street in Trinity Park. The home’s next resident was Ernest T. Rogers’s mother, Lucy B. Rogers, who lived at 106 E. Markham until her death in 1936. After this time, the house went through a variety of residents year after year. Ministers, servicemen, office secretaries, and cabinet makers, a steady stream of everyday Durham heroes made this their home.

Ernest T. Rogers, who owned the house, died in 1931, and his wife Alice continued renting the house to others. She remained on the tobacco farm in Bahama and eventually remarried a man named Timothy N. Young. At some point (City directories suggest the 1960s.), the house was split into three apartments, and one can see today how a wall was added in the middle of the house, separating the large downstairs living space into two separate areas, with the upstairs becoming another apartment. After her second husband’s death in 1971, Alice Rogers Young returned to live out her final years in the house that she and her former husband had owned for so long.

Alice Rogers Young died in 1980, and the house passed to her only surviving son, James E. Rogers. He sold the house in 1982 to the current owner’s parents, who transferred the property to their son in 1994. While the number of residents in this house has been many, only two families have ever owned it. [...]

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202 EAST MARKHAM AVENUE

202
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1925
Architectural style: 
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In tours

Last updated

  • Sun, 07/10/2011 - 3:06pm by gary

Location

36° 0' 35.5608" N, 78° 53' 28.9896" W

Comments

202
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1925
Architectural style: 
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202EMarkham_2011.jpeg
202 E Markham Ave., 2011
(Courtesy Alex Maness)

Clayton S. Carpenter House, c. 1925
202 East Markham Avenue

This lovely brick home has features that are both Georgian and Federalist. The square features of the Georgian style are softened here by the curves and decorative flourishes of the Federalist style. Both architectural designs use a centered, paneled doorway, in this case covered by a broken pedimented portico, supported by six doric columns. The spectacular semicircular fan style window over the door and the matching sidelights flanking the door are typical of Federalist design. A striking characteristic of these windows is the curved wooden muntins that support the glass; often windows of this design are leaded glass. This elaborate centralized entrance dominates the front facade of this house.

The low-pitched roof, side gables, and symmetric arrangement of windows is characteristic of Georgian and Federalist design, but the tri-partite twelve-over-one windows on the first floor are Federalist. The symmetry is continued with the screened porch on the left and the sun room on the right. This brick home appears to be red brick at first glance but on closer inspection it is tricolor with a random mix of tan, dark blue, and predominantly red bricks. On the north side of the house remnants of a former addition above the screened porch can be seen.

A previous owner enclosed the front yard with a six-foot brick wall and created a meditative Buddhist garden. Small trees and shrubs soften the brick pavers lining the garden and contribute to the serenity of the space in spite of the nearby busy city street. The property is a pie-shaped lot that is completely fenced. The full basement opens to the back yard with the tip of the pie dropping off steeply to a small stream below.

Upon entering the front door, one is greeted by wall paper depicting Scottish thistle, hand-painted in Scotland. A current owner grew up in old houses in Europe and this 1930s house does not seem at all old to her! Flooring throughout the house is oak and even though some windows are not original, they are appropriate in style. All rooms are spacious and light.

To the right of the foyer is the living room with the only fireplace in the house. This room opens to the sun room and to a back hallway that houses the staircase to the second floor, a unique feature of this house in that the staircase in most houses of this vintage is located in the front hall. There are three bedrooms upstairs, one of which is used as an office by the current owners who work out of their home, and two bathrooms. This house has ample closets, all lined with cedar wood.

The back hallway winds around to the large modern kitchen with a sizable central island. A narrow back porch, original to the house, has been enclosed. The dining room can be accessed from the kitchen and the front foyer.

This very livable 80-year old house has been home to nine families. The original owners of this house were Clayton S. and Sudie M. Carpenter. Clayton and his older brother Marcus were sons of James E. Carpenter, who founded Carpenter’s Inc. in 1893 as a family partnership on Parrish Street. Carpenter’s originally sold horses, buggies, and general merchandise but by 1905 the business evolved to automotive sales of various makes and models. Carpenter [Motor Company]. moved to the [southeast] corner of South Elizabeth and E. Main Streets [in 1923] where it operated as Carpenter Chevrolet from 1935 to 1989 when the family sold the franchise. Marcus ultimately served as CEO.

In 1926 Clayton and Sudie Carpenter bought a lot from Nannie B. Tripp and in 1932 the City Directory listed 202 E. Markham Avenue as the residence of Clayton and Sudie. Clayton worked as a salesman at Carpenter’s. They had two sons, Gordon L. and James E. II. Both Clayton and Sudie died at an early age, he at 41 in 1942 and she at 42 in 1947.
In 1949, Gordon assumed ownership and he and his wife Natalie S. lived here until 1956. Gordon too worked for Carpenter’s in various positions. A daughter Marcia was born while they lived here.

In 1956 the house passed out of the family when the Carpenters sold to Cecil and Margaret Crawford. Cecil was the President and later the CEO of the Greensboro-based Morpul Corporation, a hosiery manufacturer that patented a special knitting technique that created a less constrictive top for hosiery and socks. The term is still used in the sale of socks for diabetic patients.

In 1964 the Crawfords sold the house to Dr. David E. Van Vleet and his wife Norma H. where they lived for 10 years. Dr. Van Vleet ran his dental office at 115 Arcade, Wellons Village. In 1974 the Van Vleets sold to Max M. and Anna K. Hurley. In 1975 Max was listed in the City Directory as retired but in 1978 he was listed as an administrative assistant in the City Recreation Department. By 1986, he was listed as an employee of the Veterans Administration Hospital.

In 2002, widower Max M. Hurley sold the house to Stone Mill, Inc. of Mebane, NC. In 2004 Stone Mill sold to Catherine R. Gutman, who had the brick wall constructed in the front of the house to shield the house from the busy traffic on North Roxboro Street. In 2007, she sold to the current owners.

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1617Shawnee_2011.jpeg1617Shawnee_1958.png1617Shawnee_2_1958.png1617c.jpgkinghouse-shawnee1617d.jpg

1617 SHAWNEE STREET - The Alfred Henderson King House

1617
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1957
Architect/Designers: 
Architectural style: 
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

The Alfred Henderson King House, 1617 Shawnee, Durham. Designed and built by T. W. Wilkinson in 1957. Essentially a multi-level ranch house in structure and style, the King House is four separate levels with a central stair, alternating back and forth between public and private areas. Sold to Nixon advisor Nicholas H. Morley, who used it while in town for the Durham Rice Diet. Sold to Walker L. and Martha Pruitt. Sold to 1978 to Jack and Judith M. Keene. Sold in 1987 to Michael and Rosalind Harris. Sold in 1990 to Victoria Mask.

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In tours

Last updated

  • Sat, 08/04/2012 - 6:24pm by gary

Location

United States
36° 0' 33.5448" N, 78° 53' 19.6512" W
US

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1617
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1957
Architect/Designers: 
Architectural style: 
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1617Shawnee_2011.jpeg
1617 Shawnee Street, 2011

Alfred H. King House
1617 Shawnee Street
1957

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Undeveloped until the middle of the twentieth century, the southeastern portion of the Duke Park neighborhood around Hollywood, Anita, and Shawnee Streets is notable for a cluster of modernist houses built in the 1950s and 1960s. Much of this area was owned by developer and builder T. W. Wilkinson, who at the time lived in the neighborhood in a home he built for himself and his family at 406 East Markham Avenue (see entry on this house, also on the tour). Wilkinson either sold the lots to clients and worked with them to build custom houses, or in some cases, designed and built individual homes before selling them.

One of the most striking of Wilkinson’s custom homes in this vicinity is the house at 1617 Shawnee Street. Built in 1957 for the Alfred H. King family, the modernist structure of redwood and Tennessee Crab Orchard stone consists of four alternating levels and a carport under a butterfly and flat roofs, situated on a sloping landscape and surrounded on two sides by native conifers and deciduous trees. The walls of the house are filled with a multitude of awning and picture windows, allowing a direct interplay between the dwelling and the natural world.

This house was completely up-to-date for 1957 and looks as if it could have been featured in a Better Homes & Gardens issue of the day. Young families in the 1950s found themselves looking for homes that offered ease and convenience in an interior plan; little decorative detail; and an indoor-outdoor unity that offered a relationship with nature. Unlike their Victorian ancestors, they cared little for decorative details but rather wanted houses that reflected the youthful vitality of postwar America. California and West Coast living set the trends, and 1950s’ consumers nationwide clamored for the sunny frivolity embodied in the California contemporary style.

1617Shawnee_2_1958.png

Alfred H. King and his family were already Duke Park residents and had known Wilkinson as a neighbor and friend when they purchased the Shawnee Street lots from him in 1956 and 1957 and commissioned him to build their new home. Rarely working with an architect, Wilkinson read widely and was a passionate and experimental self-taught student and practitioner of the built environment. He was a great admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright, who championed an organic architecture in which the building and its surroundings blended in perfect harmony.

Alfred Henderson King (1920-1992) was born and raised on North Driver Street in East Durham, the son of J. Robert and Luna B. King. Al’s father operated Crabtree Pharmacy at the corner of South Driver and Angier, and after graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1942 with his pharmacy degree and then serving in the U.S. Navy, Al King returned to Durham to work with his father at the pharmacy. He met Jane Barbee (1923-1997) while she was still a student at Durham High School. Jane was the daughter of Harvey Clyde Barbee and Lula Gray Baker Barbee and was also a Durham native, growing up on Buchanan Boulevard overlooking Duke University’s East Campus. The couple was married in Durham in 1942 and began their family after King returned from the war. Their three children were born in Durham in 1947, 1948, and 1952. The family resided for several years on East Markham Avenue before commissioning the Shawnee Street house.

Essentially a multi-level ranch house in structure and style, the King House is four separate levels with a central stair, alternating back and forth between public and private areas. One enters the house on the upper level through a solid door with a large single-pane sidelight, where beyond the entry foyer are located three bedrooms (one for each of the King children) and a bath. The main living area is found down the first flight of stairs. A small kitchen is contained in a room on the left (originally decorated with bright yellow and black wallpaper and pine cabinets), while the rest of the floor is a expansive open dining and living space filled with large windows overlooking the wooded landscape. Another dominant feature of the space is the Crab Orchard stone fireplace found along the interior wall, with its wide chimney rising up and out through the center of the house.

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The next floor down contains the master bedroom and bath, opening onto a porch and deck, as well as storage and laundry areas. And finally, the lower floor was the one most important to the King family. Essentially a multipurpose recreational space, this large, cool room connected directly to the outdoors. This room had a parquet dance floor and a comfortable bar and was decorated with a hand-painted seascape on the wall. The Kings had Witherspoon Rose Culture landscape the grounds, and dozens of large azaleas were planted beneath the tall trees. A slate patio was short walk across the wooden bridge.

After his father’s death in 1969, Al King continued to own and operate the Crabtree Pharmacy. He had no intentions of selling his house, but one day in the spring of 1973, while he was doing some painting in the kitchen, a man walked up to the house and rang the bell. The man asked Mr. King if he wanted to sell his house. He replied that he had no intentions of selling the house. According to King’s son, the man then offered King much more money than the house was worth, and King sold the house on the spot. The man mentioned that he owned 8 or 10 houses all over the world, and he gave the condition that the Kings must be out of the house within 30 days. He needed it right away. The Kings sold many of their possessions in a yard sale on a subsequent weekend and moved to a trailer on some property they owned in Hillsborough.

The deed shows that the house was sold to “Morley Realty Corporation, a Florida Corporation.” Neighbors who moved next door in 1974 said the house was owned during this period by Charles “Bebe” Rebozo, President Richard M. Nixon’s friend and real estate investment advisor. “Everyone in the neighborhood knew that Bebe Rebozo was using the house,” they said. “After he left, we found 21 phones in that house.” Records indicate that Morley Realty Corporation was formed in Florida in 1963 with Nicholas H. Morley as their registered agent. There was certainly a connection between Morley, Rebozo (also a Florida real estate developer), and Nixon (The Washington Post reported that Morley traveled to South America along with Pat Nixon in March 1974.), though there seems to be a simple explanation to the story, rather than a mystery. Morley Realty Corporation sold the house in 1977, and the next owner, Walker Pruitt, said that Morley bought it simply to live in while in Durham on the Rice Diet program.

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Since 1977, the house has had three other owners before being purchased by the current owner in 1990. It has been a home she has loved for over 20 years. She has made a few tasteful alterations to the house, enlarging the bathrooms and adding a window to the bathroom on the upper floor to bring a greater openness into the entryway. She added a deck off the main living area so that she could more easily go outside from that space to enjoy the garden. Her lovely artwork and the antiques and special pieces of furniture she has give the home a happy warmth. This mid-century modern home continues to be as comfortable and attractive today as it was fifty years ago.

 

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406 EAST MARKHAM AVENUE

406
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1940
/ Modified in
2007
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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In tours

Last updated

  • Thu, 01/19/2012 - 9:47am by gary

Location

36° 0' 35.658" N, 78° 53' 17.4408" W

Comments

406
,
Durham
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1940
/ Modified in
2007
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 

406EMarkhamAve_2011.jpeg
406 E. Markham Ave., 2011
(Courtesy Alex Maness)

T. W. Wilkinson House, 1940
406 East Markham Avenue

Thomas Wray Wilkinson was a well-known Durham building contractor and developer who built the house at 406 East Markham Avenue for his family in 1940. It was the first of two main houses he constructed for himself and his wife and children, but just one of more than a hundred houses he built in Durham. Additionally, it was Wilkinson who developed much of the southeastern portion of the Duke Park neighborhood from the 1930s through the 1960s. He named Anita Street for his daughter.

Born to John Walker Wilkinson and Mary Pearl Wray Wilkinson in Durham in 1913, T. W. grew up in East Durham on Angier Avenue and was primarily a self-taught carpenter and designer, studying and reading architectural books on his own, with a primary interest in the architecture of Colonial Williamsburg. He learned much about building materials from his father, who owned Wilkinson Lumber Company. In fact, T.W. and all three of his brothers became involved in the building trade in Durham. T.W. earned his contractor’s license when he was only 17 years old and designed and helped build a one-and-a-half story bungalow on North Driver Street in East Durham for himself and his father and brothers soon thereafter.

In 1938, T.W. married Frances Horn. They settled into their first home together at 406 East Markham Avenue in 1940. Designed by Wilkinson himself, this Colonial Revival-inspired house exhibits a tripartite configuration with a monumental two-story portico with Ionic columns across the main brick-veneered block, and wood-sheathed wings flanking either side.

In the early 1950s, Wilkinson built a larger Colonial Revival home farther north on Roxboro Road and moved his young family there. (This 6,000 square foot house was later donated to Northern High School who saw fit to tear it down to put in a baseball field.) The Wilkinsons sold the Markham Avenue house in 1953 to Norman Flinton Carden, Jr., and his wife Hattie Lee Carden. Flinton Carden, a native of Durham, was one of the original staff members of Duke Hospital, where he was the director of the printing department. He and his wife also ran Carden Printing Company on Roxboro Road, which is still in business today. After Flinton Carden’s death in 1962, his wife married Charles H. Jones, and they continued to live in the house on Markham Avenue. They sold it in 1968, and after that time it went through a series of short ownerships. It was purchased by the current owners as a rental property in 1984.

After making minor renovations to the home over the years, the current owners decided four years ago to incorporate the lower level and backyard into the home itself. The laundry room, for example, had a five-and-a-half foot ceiling, which proved to be problematic, especially for one-time tenant, Duke and NBA star Danny Ferry who is 6'10". More than eight tons of dirt and concrete were removed to make this room spacious and inviting for everyone.

In the re-landscaped backyard, two koi ponds holding more than nine hundred gallons of water are connected by a brook and tumbling waterfall. Thirteen tons of rocks were brought in to sculpt the ponds, brook, and six-foot waterfall. The owners call their home Fallingwaters, with a nod to Frank Lloyd Wright.

Featured in the Duke Park Newsletter in 2006 and the recipient of a George and Mary Pyne Preservation Award from Preservation Durham in 2007, this fine home with its distinctive architecture and solidly crafted quality materials is one of the many Wilkinson homes that will be admired and livable for many years to come.

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1913 GLENDALE AVENUE

1913
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1953
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
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In tours

Last updated

  • Sat, 07/09/2011 - 11:58pm by gary

Location

36° 0' 55.98" N, 78° 53' 46.6368" W

Comments

1913
,
Durham
NC
Built in
1953
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
National Register: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

 

1913Glendale_2011.jpeg
1913 Glendale Avenue, 2011
(Courtesy Alex Maness)

Text in italics from the Preservation Durham 2011 Home Tour booklet:

William M. Upchurch House, 1953
1913 Glendale Avenue

There are two Duke Park neighborhoods (even more if one’s architectural scalpel is sharp). The first is the 1920s neighborhood of deep narrow lots populated with period revival and eclectic style houses – mostly Tudors and colonials with a few craftsman bungalows to leaven the mix. These are the American homes of President Harding’s “normalcy.” Some are large and some are small, but all have essentially the same spatial elements sorted out in the same way. Formal living and dining rooms up front display fancy fireplaces and woodwork for company. Kitchens and service areas are tucked at the rear. The houses, like the lots they occupy, are often deep. Quaint cottage fronts conceal the bulk of the structure in wings and gables that push to the rear. These are homes for the prosperous middle class with appearances to maintain. The development of this Duke Park sputtered and then stopped in the twin cataclysms of the Great Depression and World War Two. Money was gone, materials were gone, men were gone, normalcy was gone.

The second Duke Park, the Duke Park represented by the Upchurch house, lies physically right next to the first, but is separated from the first by a great distance in time, experience, and attitude. Men and women picking up and starting new lives after years of depression and war no longer felt they had to keep up appearances. They wanted homes for the family life so long delayed – homes with no formality and no pretense. What was wanted, then, was a design to fulfill this expectancy, to make the longed-for simplicity of life real. Stockbroker Tudors and little “Taras” would not fill the bill. Homebuyers turned away from the European and eastern styles so important a generation earlier. Instead they turned to the new styles sweeping west from California.

The “Ranch” style as envisioned by architects like Cliff May and Lutah Maria Riggs provided the comfort and informality homebuyers of the late 40s and 50s wanted. These houses, with their long, low lines, shallow, hipped roofs, and open floor-plans evoked the sunny, relaxed California style people saw on their new televisions.

Bill and Elizabeth Upchurch were no exception. Bill grew up in Depression-era Durham. He emerged from N.C. State as a new engineer and went to work at Duke University where he was involved in the development of the medical center. When it came time for the Upchurches to build their own home, they turned to the Ranch style. Because ranch houses tend to be one level and present long facades to the street, the small deep Duke Park lots platted in the 1920s couldn’t accommodate the new style. Developers recombined the old narrow lots into wider lots large enough to hold the rambling ranches. The Upchurch house contains no more area than its bungalow predecessors, but it requires a lot-and-a-half to site it.

Although the house is modest, it possesses many of the characteristics that mark pure Ranch styles houses. Its living area is all on one level. Everywhere the horizontal is emphasized. The roof is hipped and low. The deep overhanging eaves carry all the way shining California sun. The front façade is not symmetrical. In their size and arrangement, the window openings serve the functions of the rooms inside and not the appearance of the house outside. Note the large corner window to the left. This is a typical Ranch-style feature. The entryway is recessed beneath the roof - also typical of Ranch style homes. Guests awaiting entry are invited in out of the sun. The house is clad in large, regular cedar shingles laid in broad courses creating strong lines. The corners are mitered permitting no vertical post to conflict with horizontality of the house. Even the window lights are divided in three horizontal bars corresponding with the shingle courses.

The interior plan is also markedly different from pre-war Duke Park houses. The front door opens to a central hall from which all the principal parts of the house are visible. Note: there is no living room and there is no dining room. There is no formal space in the house at all. Instead of being a relatively small space at the back of the house, the kitchen is in the front where the living room or parlor of a 1920s home would have been. The kitchen is large and its finishes are among the finest in the house. With the exception of the countertops, all of the cabinetry and fittings are original. Even-grained blond fir and chrome pulls cover ample and practical cabinets. There are pull-out shelves and a built-in ironing board. (While you are at it, be sure to notice the very high quality mechanical hardware that operates the heavy jalousie windows.) This kitchen was not merely a work space. It was a designed to be a family space and a guest space too. This was a revolutionary idea. No one in Duke Park would have invited his guests into the kitchen before the war. Although the original screened porch has been enclosed to make a less-than-satisfactory dining room today, originally the only eating area in the house was in the kitchen beneath the corner window. The house was designed to be lived in and be operated by the family. There are no areas set aside for servants.

Instead of a living room there is a den - a place where the family can relax and work together. As in the kitchen, everything in this room is original. The fireplace and built-in bookcase share the same frame - the top shelf of which performs duty as a mantel. Its long line enlarges the room and reinforces the horizontal emphasis. The bricks surrounding the firebox are laid in ranks and files marking the intersection of the horizontal shelves and the vertical paneling above. Because the room occupies the entire rear wing of the house, it is beautifully lit and ventilated.

The hallway leading from the entryway to the right provides access to two small bedrooms on the front of the house and the larger master on the back corner. This is the customary arrangement of such rooms in a ranch house. The bathroom arrangement, however, is unique. The half bath on the hallway opens into the full bath serving the master bedroom beyond. The sinks and tub are original.

Back outside, note that the driveway sweeps around the house to the rear. The Ranch style was first American style to move the family car into the family house. Although absent here, many ranch houses include a “carport” with a door directly into the kitchen. This door became the new main entry for America’s homes in the 20th century.

Ranch style houses are often dismissed today, but this is error. Every style goes through a period when it is little appreciated and the ranch may only be just emerging from its own period of unpopularity. When considered in the context of American social and cultural history, the Ranch style has much to say to us. It is the house of the TV and automobile age. It is the first truly servant-less home. The idea of the large kitchen as the center of family living was born here. The Ranch style dominated American homebuilding into the 1960s. Its beginnings in Durham are here, in the second Duke Park.

A legend associated with the house was that Mr. Upchurch designed it himself. While that may or may not be true, it almost certain that he selected the top quality fittings and materials that have served the house and its occupants for more than fifty years. The durability of these things and the functionality of the home’s design obviated the need to make subsequent changes. The result is an early Ranch style house in nearly original condition for us to enjoy and appreciate.

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36.01555,-78.896288

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