About Us

Durham is a preservation town. Our favorite places have age, patina and authenticity. They tell our story – one of scrappy entrepreneurism, creative reinvention and stubborn optimism.

Who We Are

Preservation Durham is made up of folks who believe that place is important and that our past helps to shape our future. We want Durham to embrace growth and change but also to protect its sense of place – its unique identity in the Triangle –  and to remain open and available to all in our community. Everyone’s story has a place.

What We Do

Preservation Durham works to protect Durham’s unique sense of place by sharing our passion and knowledge. We offer education and advocacy to the public, stakeholders and public officials. We encourage everyone to preserve the places they love and show them how. We collaborate to protect Durham for future generations.

Fast Facts

  • Established in 1974
  • 600 members and counting  –  Become one of them!
  • 2 staff members
  • Annual Budget of $175,000
  • More than 50 properties saved
  • By Laws


Frequently Asked Questions

How can I support the work of Preservation Durham?

You can find out about the benefits of joining Preservation Durham on our membership page, or you can call us at 919-682-3036 or e-mail us if there are any questions. Individual memberships begin at $50. Our most dedicated supporters are members of the George Watts Hill Circle. Corporate underwriting opportunities are also available.

What is historic preservation, and why should I care?

Preservationists seek to preserve our existing buildings and landscapes. These are the buildings you already know and love- everything from the quaint cottage in a quiet neighborhood to the business buildings downtown to the industrial mills and warehouses. These buildings represent our heritage in a way that new construction never can. Preservation is economically viable and creates jobs. Do you try to live a green lifestyle? Preservation is the ultimate recycling. Preservation Durham wants people to think about what makes for good design and a livable city.

Are you the historical society? Can I donate family memorabilia to you?

No, we do not operate a museum or have facilities for storing and displaying historic artifacts. If you are interested in donating family memorabilia, we encourage you to contact the Museum of Durham History or the Durham County Library’s North Carolina Collection.

What’s interesting about Durham’s history?

Durham was founded just before the Civil War as a railroad depot, and grew rapidly after the war as a center of tobacco manufacture. The American Tobacco Company was founded here and they later acquired  Liggett and Myers Tobacco. Trinity College opened in Durham in 1892 and later became Duke University,  growing into one of the major research universities in the United States. Durham’s Parrish Street was a center of African American business before World War II, and in 1949 became known as the Black Wall Street. The neighborhood of Hayti was known as one of the leading African American cultural centers in the South and is home to North Carolina Central University. See our Durham History page for more information.

What is there to see in Durham?

Durham has an extensive collection of late 19th and 20th century commercial and residential architecture. The unique brick design of early tobacco architecture is of particular interest to historians. Downtown Durham is a registered National Historic District and includes many examples of 20th century commercial architecture including the landmark Hill Building. Other historic sites include Duke Homestead, early home of Washington Duke and his family, Bennett Place, site of the largest Southern troop surrender at the end of the Civil War, and Stagville Plantation, one of the most complete antebellum sites in the South. Duke University’s Gothic West Campus features the beautiful Duke Chapel. Preservation Durham provides regular walking tours and virtual tours of many historic and significant areas of the city. Also, visit the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau’s (DCVB) website for more information about other things to see & do in Durham.

Do you offer tours?

We offer free walking tours featuring different aspects of Durham history every 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Saturday of each month. The walking tours begin at the Durham Farmer’s Market.

Also, each spring we offer the Old Durham Home Tour, which focuses on a different neighborhood or theme each year. And we offer other special tours from time to time. For more information, check out the Tours page.

What are historic tax credits? Is my building eligible?

A variety of federal and state tax credits are available for a qualified rehabilitation of a historic home, and the North Carolina legislation has recently changed. For more information, check out our page on historic tax credits.