Gary Kueber '92: Blog Posts

Credit: Kacy Johnson

Duke Magazine asked Gary Kueber, creator of Endangered Durham, to name a few of his favorite posts.

The front of Union Station, 1968. Courtesy Duke Archives

Union Station

The first of many buildings that architect Frank Milburn would design in Durham, the 1905 Union Station consolidated the preceding small passenger depots dotting the main North Carolina railroad line that had been Durham's raison d'etre. The Renaissance Revival structure was not as massive as stations that Milburn would later design for other growing southern cities such as Savannah, but demonstrated a sense of the grand ambition that characterized the then ~50 year old city. The station was a landmark at the foot of Church Street in downtown Durham, part of a cluster of impressive municipal and religious structures that would greet visitors to the city as they disembarked. Railway service was discontinued in 1965, and the station, considered obsolete, was torn down in 1968 to make way for the 'Loop'  - a multilane, one-way ring road around the core of downtown that would become well-loathed by Durham drivers during the ensuing decades.

Trinity College entrance, 1904. Courtesy Duke Archives

Blackwell's Park / Trinity College / Duke East Campus

Durham's ambition to be a 'great city of the New South' was repeatedly demonstrated by the efforts of its wealthy industrialists to equip the town with structures and institutions they thought befitting of a great city, and of themselves. The most ambitious of these undertakings involved the effort on the part of Julian Carr, Washington Duke, and the local Methodist Church to lure Trinity College to Durham from Trinity, NC. The industrial rivals outbid Raleigh for the affections of the Trinity College board of trustees, luring the campus to a former racetrack west of town called Blackwell's Park, later to become Duke's East Campus


Academy of Music, 1907. Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection - Wyatt Dixon Collection

Academy of Music / Washington Duke Hotel

Durham's original one-stop-shop for municipal functions, the Academy of Music housed a meat and produce market, all local government offices, and a theater for traveling shows. The Academy of Music was torn down in 1924 for the construction of the Washington Duke Hotel, which would be Durham's tallest building for the next 13 years (until the construction of the Hill Building by Empire State Building architects Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon just to its south in 1937.) The hotel resulted from a concerted fundraising campaign by Durham's business community, and struggled financially at several points during the mid-20th century. It would  become part of the Jack Tar Hotel chain, and later be known as the Durham Hotel. The site of thousands of meetings, parties, and conventions, the hotel was a focal point of Durham's social and political energy until the mid-1970s, when it was closed. In 1975, the hotel was imploded, and the site became a parking lot. 

Kids playing in the pool at the Lakewood Amusement Park
Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection - Wyatt Dixon Collection

Lakewood Amusement Park

It was not uncommon in the late 19th and early 20th century for private streetcar companies to build attractions at the end of the line to boost ridership; the Durham Traction Company did so in 1902 with the construction of Lakewood Amusement park. Described contemporaneously (with a likely heavy dose of hyperbole) as the "Coney Island of the South," Lakewood Amusement Park had a natural spring-fed swimming pool, a dance hall, merry-go-round, roller coaster, and other attractions. The park was the  destination for a Fourth of July fireworks show. With the decline in streetcar ridership and dismantling of the streetcar in 1930, the park struggled and closed in 1932 . The park sat abandoned until 1962 , when Lakewood Shopping Center was constructed on the site.

View of West Durham. Courtesy Duke Archives

American Tobacco

The factory which started Durham's ascent to the pinnacle of the tobacco industry was Blackwell's Bull Durham Tobacco Company, well-known for the bull on the side of the bags in which it was sold. Construction of Blackwell's still-standing 1874 Italianate factory building was followed closely in 1884 by the Duke family's construction of a factory just a few blocks to the west. The two companies would duel for supremacy of the tobacco and cigarette market in the United States until 1898, when Duke's American Tobacco company bought Blackwell's Bull Durham plant. After the breakup of 'The Trust' in 1911 , American would retain control of the former Blackwell factory, with Liggett and Myers controlling the former Duke factory. American would continue to expand into a massive complex of buildings over the 20th century, eventually waning in the 1970s and closing in 1987. The factory complex sat abandoned for 15 years, until Capitol Broadcasting purchased it and renovated the buildings into a vibrant mixed-use facility, now an integral part of Durham's rebirth.

Geer Building, 1920s. Courtesy Duke Archives

Geer Building

One of the most beautiful of several ornate office buildings constructed in Durham in the early 20th century, the Geer Building was anchored by the Fidelity Bank which had been started by the Duke family, and a Woolworth's on the ground floor. Doctors, lawyers, and other professionals had offices on the upper floors. Wachovia Bank bought Fidelity in 1956 , and, after deciding to move to a modern structure across the street, demolished the building in 1972 – all except for one corner, that is, which continued to operate as Woolworth's for the next ~20 years. After closing their store in the 1990s, Woolworth's gave the remaining building to the city of Durham, which demolished the structure in 2001. The site remains vacant. 

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