The 23rd Annual Home Tour | Building the American Dream

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American Dream Home Tour 2019

The Preservation Durham Annual Home Tour is back for 2019.

Visit homes which reflect the housing boom of Post-WWII.
April 27 & 28, 2019

Your Home Tour booklet is your ticket inside homes. Please pick up your booklet before you start the tour at:

Inhabit Real Estate, 2814 Hillsborough Rd, Durham, NC

In 2019, Preservation Durham is concentrating on residential architecture just before and immediately following World War Two.  The Great Depression of the 1930s wrecked the housing industry in America for nearly a decade. The industry barely got back on its feet before America’s entry into the war stopped home construction again as materials were diverted to the war effort.  This double hiatus lead to a bumpy recovery, but a combination of pent-up demand and renewed economic activity stimulated by New Deal policies like the FHA loan program and veterans’ housing benefits in the G. I. Bill, finally led to a post-war housing boom.

Turning away from the bungalows of the 1920s, architects looked for new inspiration and found it a number of diverse sources.  The restoration of Colonial Williamsburg by the Rockefeller family stimulated a new interest in an American traditional style that ranged from small, practical, entry-level homes promoted by government programs to high-end homes rich with historically accurate detail.  Wartime industrialization and mechanization led to experiments with new materials and new designs resulting in fascinating modernist homes including the all-metal “Lustron” house. Societal changes brought on by years of sacrifice during depression and war changed American expectations of family life and architects responded with the more informal Ranch style house.

During this period, home ownership became the central component of a new “American Dream” of economic and social security. Of course, the picture that developed was far from perfect.  The benefits of a renewed economy and the post-war housing boom did not reach all people.  Old attitudes about race and class survived.  Neighborhoods, like schools, shops, and other institutions, remained segregated.  African Americans had little access to financing and even black veterans found it difficult to enjoy their hard-won housing benefits as lenders and government agencies instituted systems of redlining.  But in Durham African American families did build new homes in the new postwar styles.  Many of these are concentrated on Pekoe Avenue and Nelson, Otis, and Cecil Streets.

For months now, Preservation Durham has been engaged in identifying nearly one hundred houses across town representing pre- and post-World War Two architecture in all its variety.  All the issues of this period are manifested in Durham and, because Durham is like no other place, the story has some unique Durham twists.  Our purpose is to promote a fuller public appreciation of these houses, the people who lived in them, and Durham at the time they were built.  We are planning a series of programs to tell Durham’s special story during this complicated period, the high point of which will be a tour of a handful of the best-preserved houses this spring.  We have several examples of houses built in the Minimal Traditional Style.  This is the house designed and funded by the federal government to restore the housing industry and provide homes for WWII vets.  Nearly 3,000,00 were built.  For three generations, these houses have served as the gateway to homeownership for American families.  We have a rare and wonderful Lustron house, the super-efficient, all-steel experiment in housing.  We have a small but exquisite early Ranch Style house that exhibits all the salient features of the style.  And we have two lovely Williamsburg Colonials designed by a master of the idiom, Durham’s own Archie Royal Davis.  The tour houses stretch across Durham’s historic neighborhoods – Forest Hills, Trinity Park, Watts-Hillandale, and Northgate Park.  Join us on the tour. See these houses in a new light.

Eventbrite - Building the American Dream

We also hope you’ll join us for a FREE Preservation Durham Talk

Preservation Durham Talk:  American Dream Homes 1938-1951
Lobby, Center for Responsible Lending Building, 302 West Main Street, downtown
6:30 p.m., April 23rd

Durham architectural historian and preservation consultant, Jennifer F. Martin, will take us through the aesthetic, political, and social movements that shaped the form, style, and materials of Durham’s dwellings from the Great Depression into the post-World War II period. She tracks a swirl of forces that created a housing stock to meet the needs and financial realities of home-buying families. The history and houses of this period tell a story of opportunity for some families while documenting the evolution of the built suburban landscape over a twenty-five-year period.  This program will help tour goers understand and appreciate the houses built during this turbulent period.

This program is free and open to the public


A special thank you to our sponsor:

Phillip Clark Builders logo