A Diverse Historical Perspective

After the American Civil War effectively ended here, Durham is where the South’s industrial revolution started with tobacco and textile industries, where the civil rights movement gained traction, and where the nation’s first publicly funded liberal arts college for African Americans was founded. Later, science, learning and university progress made for a tapestry of stories, leaving us with three state historic sites and deep roots. The following historic sites provide a quick course in Durham history.

  • Take 15-501 N to Old Oxford Hwy. (25 min. travel time from Downtown Durham)


Historic Stagville

5828 Old Oxford Highway, Durham, NC 27712 | (919) 620-0120 | http://www.stagville.org

Historic Stagville comprises the remnants of the Bennehan-Cameron plantation, one of the largest plantation holdings of the pre-Civil War South, with approximately 900 slaves and almost 30,000 acres of land. Stagville offers a view of the past, especially that of the AfricanAmerican community, by allowing visitors to guide themselves around its extensive grounds, which include the Horton Home, the Great Barn, and Horton Grove, the remnants of the property’s slave quarters. Historic Stagville is open T-Sa, 9am-5pm. (Allow 1.5 hours.)

  • South on Old Oxford Hwy.; right onto Snow Hill Rd., then immediate left onto Infinity Rd.; left onto Roxboro Rd.; left onto Lakewood Ave. (30 min.)

St. Joseph’s Historic Foundation/Hayti Heritage Center

804 Old Fayetteville St, Durham, NC 27701 | (919) 683-1709 | www.hayti.org

Hayti was once the center of Durham’s vibrant African-American community. St. Joseph’s Church, first established by the Rev. Edian Markham, a Methodist Episcopal missionary and former slave, is now the site of Hayti Heritage Center. With its grand steeple and elegant stained glass windows, St. Joseph’s Church has long symbolized the dignity and resolve of a people once known as the most prosperous African-American community in the United States. Hayti Heritage Center is open T-F, 10am-5pm and Sa, 10am-3pm. (Allow one hour.)

  • South on Fayettville St. toward NCCU


North Carolina Central University

1801 Fayetteville St, Durham, NC 27707 | (919) 530-6295 | www.nccu.edu

Founded by Dr. James E. Shepard in 1910 as the National Religious Training School and Chautauqua to train African-American teachers and missionaries, North Carolina Central University was the nation’s first publicly supported liberal arts college for African Americans. The university’s art museum is devoted to featuring African-American artists; the James E. Shepard Memorial Library contains the Martin Collection of African-American culture; and the William Jones Building houses the Woolworth lunch counter where a historic Durham sit-in occurred. Tours by appointment. (Allow half an hour.)

  • Return to downtown Durham by going north on Fayetteville St


Downtown Durham Historic District

Downtown Durham, NC 27701

Durham’s boom years as a tobacco industry hub are evident in the warehouses at Brightleaf Square, the American Tobacco Campus, and Golden Belt, which are all on the National Register of Historic Places and which have been repurposed into a shopping district, business district, and arts complex, respectively. Additionally, Parrish St. was once known as Black Wall Street and was a center of African-American culture. To learn more, pick up a copy of the self-guided Downtown Durham Walking Tour at the Visitor Information Center or online. (Allow two to three hours.)

Duke University Chapel

401 Chapel Dr, Durham, NC 27708 | (919) 681-9414 | www.chapel.duke.edu

Just a five minute drive from Downtown Durham lies Duke Chapel, the cathedral-like centerpiece of Duke University’s West Campus. Built in 1930, the structure soars 210 feet and is one of the last great collegiate Gothic projects in the United States. The chapel hosts interdenominational services and recitals throughout each week and is open daily 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (Allow one hour.)

Take 15-501 S from Cameron Blvd. toward Chapel Hill; at I-40 turn left toward Raleigh and take exit 273A, turning right onto Hwy. 54; then take an immediate right onto Farrington Rd. (25 min.)

Patterson’s Mill Country Store, Inc.

5109 Farrington Rd, between NC Hwy 54 & Old Chapel Hill Rd | (919) 493-8149

Patterson’s Mill County Store, a historic landmark and turn-of-the century county store featuring displays of pharmaceutical Americana and tobacco marketing memorabilia, is located just 30 minutes from Duke Chapel off of I-40. A fascinating step back in time, Patterson’s Mill Country Store is patterned after the original store of the 1870s with collectibles and North Carolina Gifts for sale. The store is open Tu-Sa, 10am5:30pm; Su, 2pm-5pm. (Allow one hour.)

Return via Farrington Rd to Hwy. 54 and turn left. Turn left onto Leigh Farm Rd. (10 min.)

Leigh Farm Park

Nearby, Leigh Farm Park provides an opportunity to delve even deeper into Durham’s rich cultural history. Just 10 minutes from Patterson’s Mill, just north of the NC 54 and I-40 interchange, lies the seven-acre, historic Leigh Farm Park area, including Leigh House (circa 1835), an early 19th-century dairy, and a mid-19th-century slave cabin, among other historically significant structures. Visitors to Leigh Farm are invited to enjoy the cultural history programming as well as picnicking, fishing, hiking, and outdoor nature study. The park is open year round from sun-up to sun-down. (Allow one hour.)

After the end of the American Civil War, Durham is where the South’s industrial revolution began and flourished with the tobacco and textile industries – and consequently where one of the nation’s premier universities made its home.

Bennett Memorial Rd., (15 min. travel time from downtown Durham)

Bennett Place State Historic Site

4409 Bennett Memorial Rd, Durham, NC 27705 | (919) 383-4345 | www.bennettplacehistoricsite.com

The American Civil War effectively ended just 15 minutes outside of Downtown Durham at what is now commemorated by the Bennett Place Historic Site. In April 1865, the simple farmhouse of the Bennitt family served as a meeting place for Generals Sherman and Johnston to negotiate the largest troop surrender of the American Civil War. Bennett Place Historic Site is open T-Sa, 9am-5pm. (Allow one hour.)

Take I-85 to Guess Rd. exit, turn right on Duke Homestead Rd. (15 min.)

Duke Homestead State Historic Site

2828 Duke Homestead Rd, Durham, NC 27705 | (919) 477-5498 | http://www.nchistoricsites.org/duke/DUKE.HTM

Durham’s future leaders came home from the war and rapidly launched North Carolina and the South into the industrial revolution and beyond. Duke University’s namesake, Washington Duke, was perhaps Durham’s most notable industrial leader. Duke Homestead is the 19thcentury farm where Washington Duke first grew and processed tobacco; the historic site features a tobacco museum, Washington Duke’s home, and other historic structures. Duke Homestead is open T-Sa, 9am-5pm. (Allow one hour.)

Right on Duke Homestead Rd., then right on Carver St. Left on Duke St. (15 min.)

West Point on the Eno City Park

5101 North Roxboro St, Durham, NC 27704 | (919) 471-1623 | www.enoriver.org/what-we-protect/parks/west-point-on-the-eno/

North of Washington Duke’s homestead lies West Point on the Eno. The 388-acre park is located along a two-mile stretch of the scenic Eno River and features the West Point Mill, one of the longest-running and most prosperous mills of the thirty-two mills that once dotted the Eno river; the McCown-Mangum House, a restored Greek revival farmhouse; and the Hugh Mangum Museum of Photography, with its permanent exhibit of Mangum’s images and equipment. The park is open daily from 8am-sundown year round; historic buildings are open Sa-Su, 1-5pm from mid-March through mid-December. (Allow one hour.)

South on Roxboro Rd. to downtown, right at Jackie Robinson Dr. (20 min.)

American Tobacco Campus

318 Blackwell St, Durham NC 27701 (919) 433-1566 | www.americantobaccocampus.com

The American Tobacco campus was once the heart of Durham’s booming tobacco industry. Now, the water tower, smoke stack, and brick buildings that were once the center of Lucky Strike’s operations have been renovated into a landmark and complex of restaurants, businesses, and residences. Some of Durham’s celebrated restaurants are located in and around American Tobacco and the neighboring Brightleaf and Downtown Districts. For restaurant recommendations, consult www.durham-nc.com/restaurants. American Tobacco Campus is open M-Sa, 6am-12am and Su, 7am-7pm. (Allow one hour.)

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