The Development of Duke Park
The Duke Park neighborhood is named for Brodie Duke, the original landowner. Brodie was the eldest son of Washington Duke, the patriarch of the Duke family. The younger Duke acquired the land in Old North Durham and Duke Park from Fred Geer and Atlas M. Rigsbee in the 1880s and 1890s. The area was mostly farmland and woodland cultivated for the Duke family, though legend has it that North Durham residents were allowed to graze their animals on the land.
The Durham Traction Company’s introduction of trolley lines in the early twentieth century made possible new residential areas outside of town and in 1901 Duke subdivided his land north of Trinity and began selling home sites. His holdings included most of the land north of Trinity Avenue in the Trinity Park, Old North Durham, and Duke Park neighborhoods. He platted the streets and building lots throughout, though Duke Park, being on the northern end of his land holdings, remained rural and generally undeveloped into the 1920s.
While Duke was the major land-holder and developer in the neighborhood, several other families owned land in what is now Duke Park and followed Duke’s lead in subdividing and developing their holdings. While the majority of homes in the area were built starting in the 1920s, the farmhouses of these early families pre-date the development of the rest of the neighborhood. The Glosson family owned land between Glendale Avenue and Washington Street. Their late-1800s home (the Glosson-Russell House) at 321 Clark Street is one of the earliest structures in this area. Across the street, the James Leonidas Clark House (312 Clark Street), for whom Clark Street is named, was erected around 1900. B.J. Brogden originally owned the eastern end of the neighborhood around Avondale and Camden Avenues, and erected his house at 1003 Camden Avenue in 1905.
The current boundaries of Durham’s historic Duke Park neighborhood include land owned by Duke, Glosson, Clark, and Brogden families. The northern boundary is contiguous with I-85 and follows the westward turn of Ellerbe Creek (roughly between Ruffin and Rand Streets) at its western border. The southern boundary follows the N&W Railroad tracks and the eastern border includes residential properties on both sides of Avondale Drive, Knox Street, Nancy Street, and Camden Avenue until its intersection with Colonial Street.
The topography of the east end of the neighborhood is closely related to the terrain of the land, though the west end of the neighborhood is of a grid pattern more typical of urban development. Land is generally hilly throughout the neighborhood with Mangum and Roxboro Streets running along a ridge and land dropping in elevation on each side toward Ellerbe Creek on the west and a ravine along Hollywood and Shawnee Streets on the east. The area is characterized by mature landscaping (especially along the park and Roxboro) with tall hardwoods creating a canopy over the neighborhood.
Outside of the small pockets of development around the Glosson, Clark, and Brogden farms, the earliest development was in the central and southeast portions of the neighborhood, more as an outgrowth of the Old North Durham neighborhood than as the conscious construction of a new neighborhood. The trolley line was extended from downtown north along Magnum Street in 1901 and while it did not extend as far north as the Duke Park neighborhood, it did make the area more accessible. Durham’s significant growth, from a population of 21,710 in 1920, to 52,037 in 1930, was a bigger catalyst for Duke Park’s development. This, combined with the automobile culture of the 1920s, was ultimately responsible for the neighborhood’s early development.
Initial development was concentrated along N. Mangum and N. Roxboro, where affluent citizens built conservatively-designed homes. Early residents included real estate developers, insurance executives, successful merchants, and descendants of prominent Durham families. Mr. and Mrs. R. E. Dillard erected their two-story home just north of the railroad bridge in 1917. They gave their daughter, Mrs. Gamble, the adjacent tract, where she erected her home in 1935. Richard H. Wright II, another early landowner in the area, and president of the Wright Real Estate Company, built one of the first houses on the north end of the neighborhood, across from the park, in 1929. In the 1930s development expanded along Acadia Street to the west and Knox, Vista, and E. Markham Streets to the east on land Wright acquired and subdivided into building lots.
From the 1930s through the 1960s development generally spread from the high ground of Mangum and Roxboro streets to the east and west, gradually filling in the lower-lying areas on each end of the neighborhood. Contractor Thomas W. Wilkinson erected many of the homes on Anita, Shawnee, and Hollywood streets and on the 300-400 blocks of E. Markham from the late 1930s through the 1950s.
The oldest portion of the neighborhood, along Mangum and Roxboro streets, was listed on the National Register in 1985 as the northern end of the North Durham-Duke Park National Register Historic District. In January 2011, a proposal was submitted to the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office for the expansion of that district, proposing a new boundary that extends roughly from Glendale Avenue and Washington Street on the west to East Markham and Vista streets on the east.
In 2002, members of the community formed the Duke Park Neighborhood Association to improve the quality of life for all Duke Park residents through partnerships, community events, and direct action. Each year DPNA hosts, among other events, the liberating 4th of July Kids Parade and Picnic, the quirky Beaver Queen Pageant, and the wondrous Night of Lights (Luminaria). They’ve recently formed a separate group, the Duke Park Preservation Initiative, to address the retention and rehabilitation of the Duke Park Bathhouse.
The Architecture of Duke Park
Developed gradually and continuously from the turn of the twentieth century through the post-war period and into mid-century, the Duke Park neighborhood represents a range of home styles, sizes, and ages rarely seen in other Durham neighborhoods. For that reason, this tour showcases historic homes that illustrate that diversity of style. Follow the evolution of architectural trends in Durham from the 1920s through the 1960s as you tour these homes, guided by descriptions of the specific details to watch for.
The earliest historic homes in the neighborhood are vernacular farmhouses and simplified Victorian forms. Predating the platting and development of the neighborhood, the homes have forms more commonly found in rural areas throughout the Piedmont. The one-and-a-half-story, Glosson-Russell House (321 Clark), with its low second-floor, gable-end brick chimney, and hip-roofed, near-full-width porch, is typical of mid- to late-1880s farmhouses in the area. The triple-A-roofed c. 1900 James L. Clark house (312 Clark) and Victorian-form c. 1905 B. J. Brogden House (1003 Camden) represent forms common in older Durham neighborhoods including Old North Durham and Cleveland-Holloway to the south.
Although popular throughout Durham in the 1910s and 1920s, the bungalow appears infrequently in Duke Park. However, several impressive examples of the bungalow form can be found on North Mangum Street, in the earliest part of the neighborhood. The Basil Watkins, Sr. House (1415 N. Mangum) is a lovely brick example with bracketed eaves and large brick posts and piers supporting the porch and carport. The 1923 Robert L. Fletcher House (1405 N. Mangum) is a rare example of the “airplane bungalow” form, with a gabled room that extends above the main roofline, along with windows on all sides, making it resemble the cockpit of an airplane.
The Colonial Revival style dominated the earliest stages of significant development, taking place in the 1920s and 1930s. Many homes along N. Roxboro and the northwest side of E. Markham typify the style. One prominent example is the 1929 Richard H. Wright II House (105 W. Knox) with its symmetrical façade and two-story Mount Vernon-like portico facing Magnum Street. Another example is the 1926 Laura Duke House (1709 Roxboro), which features dentils along the roofline and an entrance portico with round columns and a turned balustrade. The c. 1928 J. Grover Lee House (217 Knox Circle) has a Colonial “swan’s neck” pediment over the entrance, a concave gabled roof, and a cat-slide roof on the front-gable more common on Tudor Revival-style homes. The Colonial Revival style remained popular into the 1930s. The 1940 Thomas W. Wilkinson House (406 E. Markham) is an adaptation of the Colonial Revival style with a tripartite form, emphasized by the brick veneer on the main block, wood sheathing on the side wings, and Ionic columns supporting the wide, two-story portico.
A variety of other revival styles including Dutch Colonial, Spanish Colonial, Georgian, Federal, and Tudor Revival, were constructed in the 1920s and 1930s, though with less frequency than Colonial Revival. The c. 1922 Ernest T. Rogers House (106 E. Markham) is Dutch Colonial, defined by its barn-like Gambrel roof, though the interior features Craftsman details. Homes erected in the Spanish Colonial Revival include the 1926 Lloyd Brown House (1416 N. Mangum) and the c. 1930 Salwilowsky House (1715 N. Roxboro), both with stucco walls and terra cotta roofs. The c. 1932 Clayton S. Carpenter House (202 E. Markham) features a recessed paneled entrance with Federalist door surround and tripartite twelve-over-one windows. Several houses on Acadia were constructed in the Tudor Revival style, including the 1929 James A. Smith House (1417 Acadia). The first houses built on this street, the Tudor Revivals feature clinker brick veneers, exterior decorative chimneys, and arched entrance doors in cat-slide gabled entries. The best example of the Tudor Revival style is the 1930s Swartz House (1709 Vista) with its combination of brick veneer and applied half-timbering.
The 1940s and 1950s saw a nationwide shift to smaller houses and more modern styles, and Duke Park was no exception. Perhaps Duke Park’s most recognizable example of historic Modern architecture is the 1935 Gamble House (1307 N. Mangum) with its flat, unadorned walls that emphasize the horizontal form and its exterior terraces that extend the floor plan and blur the lines between interior and exterior. Post-World War II housing included several Lustron Houses (1811 and 1906 Glendale). Built from kits, these homes featured enamel panels covering the exterior walls and modular interior walls and amenities. More common were homes constructed in the Minimal Traditional Style, like those on the 1600- and 1700-blocks of Glendale. Defined by their overall lack of architectural detail and more specifically by their lack of porches and roof overhangs, the homes sometimes had Colonial details, like fluted door surrounds or multi-paned windows, and some had small, shallow porches inset under the main roofline.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Ranch houses and Modernist details dominated the neighborhood. Most popular in the western part of the neighborhood, Ranches are defined by their deep roof overhangs, which contribute to their emphasized horizontality and set them apart from their Minimal Traditional predecessors. The William Upchurch House (1913 Glendale) features a shingled exterior, an inset entrance, and windows that wrap around the left front corner of the house. While brick Ranches dominated the northwest portion of the neighborhood, the east side of the neighborhood has a collection of distinctive Modernist homes concentrated along Anita, Shawnee, and Hollywood streets. The 1957 Alfred H. King House (1617 Shawnee) features butterfly and flat roofs, a veneer of redwood and crab orchard stone, and large windows that merge the house with the environment. Traditional forms continued to be erected throughout the 1950s and 1960s, though with less frequency than the Ranch and Modernist homes. The 1950 Dr. William M. Watkins House (1423 Acadia) features a symmetrical façade reminiscent of the Colonial- and Georgian-Revival styles erected in the neighborhood in the 1920s and 1930s.
When viewed as a whole, Duke Park’s historic homes illustrate Durham’s evolving architectural trends from the 1920s through the 1960s.
Duke Park Links