Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Tour of Durham

As I've mentioned, several of my co-workers and I recently read Best of Enemies, by Osha Gray Davidson. We were inspired by the book (and our director) to drive around Durham, looking at several of the historic sites mentioned in the book. PM and I did some research and planned the route, using a lot of information from Endangered Durham.

Yesterday, we took two vans filled to the brim with a total of twelve people and actually drove around town. It was a beautiful day for it, too. I'm not sure making stops to walk around or getting out for inter-van communication would have been as pleasant during the six summer months.

First we drove around downtown, focusing on West Parrish street, also referred to as "Black Wall Street", which was the location of what were once some of the most successful black owned businesses in the world. Unfortunately, we couldn't park close enough to the old NC Mutual building, but we had a brief consultation with the other van at the corner of Main and Mangum. While I was waiting, I had a nice view of what I think is one of the coolest buildings in town, the Kress building, which is a fine representation of art deco architecture. You can see some of the details if you look at a larger size of the image. Driving around downtown and observing the revitalization is remarkable to me, because I remember countless drives when I was a kid where I would see street after street filled with vacant buildings. Actual restaurants were unheard of, much less successful ones. It's really coming along now.
Next we drove past the American Tobacco Campus and drove through part of Hayti to North Carolina Central University. We looped around and then drove to the parking lot of the St. Joseph's AME church, which is now the Hayti Heritage Center. At least, that was the plan. I drove right by it. Once I realized that I'd gone too far and my cell phone started ringing (a coincidence, I'm sure) we turned around and went back. It's a very interesting building in that Washington Duke, a patron of the church, is one of the featured subjects in the church's stained glass windows. I waited in the getaway van to save time, but I would be very interested in going inside to look someday.
We followed the excursion with a barbecue lunch from the Q-shack (Bullock's was closed) and an engaging discussion of the book and related topics. Overall, it was a wonderful experience. I found it pretty amazing in that I felt that I had already benefited a great deal from reading the book, attending the event on campus and reading Osha Davidson's comments on this blog. Learning even more about Durham and the historical buildings added yet another layer of learning that made me further appreciate living in a place that has such a rich and fascinating history.

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