For Preservation Durham, 2018 is the year of the late Victorian house. With the Dukes’ consolidation of the nation’s tobacco industry between 1890 and 1910 and their expansion into textiles and electric power, Durham experienced a boom in wealth and population. There were street cars, electric lights, telephones, paved streets, city water, and even a college. Durham was a sleepy whistle stop no more. Historian Jean Bradley Anderson called it the “Apogee of an Era.” Thousands of new homes were built – from millionaires’ mansions to modest mill houses. For generations of Durhamites, these houses defined neighborhoods and home life. Simplified Queen Anne-style “Triple-As” and gable-and-wing houses with pressed tin roofs and gingerbread encrusted porches lined Durham’s streets in every direction. Beginning with urban “renewal” in the 1970s, however, time, neglect, and the bulldozer have taken their toll on Durham’s oldest collection of historic homes. Today, Durham’s late Victorian architecture is under threat, but here and there, clusters of these homes survive to provide a glimpse of what 19th century Durham was like. Some houses have been preserved like time-capsules and others have been lovingly restored.
The tour will begin at noon each day, with booklets available at the Chesterfield Building. The tour is self-guided, but each site will have a docent. Come for just a few hours or come both Saturday and Sunday.