Places in Peril 2011: Downtown Mid Century Modern


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The Home Savings Bank Building, 01.30.69 (Courtesy Herald-Sun)

Durham’s best examples of Mid-Century Modern commercial design include the 1963 Jack Tar Motel, the 1968 Mutual Community Savings Bank, the 1960 Holiday Inn, and the 1966 North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. Once seen as ‘futuristic’, many people now see these buildings as dated. However, they remain valuable pieces of the Bull City revitalization puzzle.

What’s Needed: The Mutual Community Savings Bank and the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Building remain in use as office space, with future plans for the Mutual Community Savings Bank to include a ground-floor restaurant or design firm. We hope that these buildings can be a stronghold for citizens to embrace the recent past. The Holiday Inn and Jack Tar Motels have fallen into disrepair as hotels, but they have great potential as office space or affordable studio and artist space. Overall, Preservation Durham will work to broaden public perceptions of ‘historic’ buildings to include these mid-century structures. The Modern buildings along the Chapel Hill Street corridor represent a distinct period in Durham’s history. While each was built on the site of a building that we now mourn, we must be careful to not make the same mistake again.

UPDATE: In March of 2012, APAC met with developer Roger Perry to hear his plans for a major mixed-use development on the site of the Jack Tar Hotel and the adjoining property – including the dilapidated public parking garage. Preservation Durham subsequently sent a letter urging him to ask his architect, Elkus Manfredi Architects, to endeavor to find a creative way to incorporate the Mid-Century Modern hotel into his plans, but no reply has been received to date.