By: Kathy Carter, PD Board Member
It’s that time of year again as many volunteers put in untold hours planning and organizing the Preservation Durham Annual Home Tour. My first experience with Preservation Durham was with the 1999 Home Tour in our neighborhood, Watts Hospital-Hillandale. My husband and I had lived in our 1920’s bungalow for ten years and were asked if we would open our home to the tour. We were thrilled, proud and terrified. We love older homes so much that we wanted to share our love of beautiful craftsmanship and the value of saving these wonderful old homes.
I love the home tour so much that I’m serving as Tour Chair for the second time. I see the Home Tour as not just a chance to tour pretty homes, but a chance to highlight our older, historic neighborhoods. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to showcase the creative ways homeowners and others save and rehab older homes. There have been homes in tours over the years that had been allowed to be altered in almost unnatural ways from lovely single family homes into multiplexes that the original owners would not have recognized. To see these old homes brought back to their original glory, even smaller homes, is a joy.
A few of my absolute favorite parts of the Home Tour are getting to know new neighborhoods and hearing the stories of the families that have lived in the homes.
Durham has wonderfully diverse neighborhoods made diverse by the housing style and history of evolution of the neighborhood. My own neighborhood developed around the old Watts Hospital which opened in 1908. The Home Tour in 2008 was held in WHH to celebrate the neighborhood’s centennial. There were so many stories from this tour. One home had been owned by a family who turned out was related to a co-worker of mine at the time. My co-worker volunteered as a docent and shared stories of visiting his great aunt many years before. At our panel lecture that year one of the previous home owners who participated share many funny and poignant stories of courting his wife and buying their home. These are human moments, but tied so strongly to the homes – homes that were old enough to have history.
This year the Home Tour will be focused on the bungalow architectural style. This is a modest house style and the first truly American house form. The bungalow dominated residential construction across the country from the time of World War I up to the Great Depression. Many thousands of bungalows were built in Durham during this time and thousands survive today. Mayor Bill Bell has proclaimed April 23 and 24 as Bull City Bungalow Days. The Home Tour will kick off with a lecture on April 20th, given by Myrick Howard, Executive Director of Preservation North Carolina. The lecture is free and open to the public. The tour on April 23-24 will take place from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm each day, in neighborhoods across the city.
I can’t wait to hear new stories and fall in love with new neighborhoods with this year’s tour.