Downtown Walking Tour
See the city, step by step
Downtown Durham is North Carolina's first commercial district on the National Register of Historic Places. It is the historic and geographic soul of a compact, walkable and vibrant place filled with exciting opportunities for eating, drinking, shopping and more.
The following text provides a self-guided walking tour that introduces the history of Downtown Durham's significant sites, architecture, public art and more.
In addition, the Downtown Durham Map & Guide is a companion piece, which covers all of downtown's dining, shopping and entertainment.
Print copies of both guides can be picked up at the Official Durham Visitor Info Center, the first stop on the tour (212 W. Main St. #101 Durham, NC 27701).
For convenience, the Bull City Connector is a free bus connecting all of downtown, making it easy to explore all of the areas on the tour.
Pardon our dust: Big things continue to break ground in downtown Durham. As you start exploring, you might notice construction and renovation throughout the area. It's all part of an ongoing renaissance that will provide even more for visitors and residents to experience in the near future. Please excuse any inconvenience, but the temporary construction will only make things better when you come back!
The downtown Durham walking tour is approximately 1.2 miles. Estimated walking time for the main route is 30 minutes or two to three hours with extensions.
BEGIN AT 212 W. MAIN ST. #101
1. Durham Visitor Info Center: Experience experts are on hand to assist visitors and newcomers with directions, maps and literature. The location is also home to Durham's official marketing agency, Discover Durham. The Visitor Info Center is housed in the historic Trust Building, a 1905 Beaux Arts-style building and tallest office building in the state at the time of its construction. (212 W. Main St. #101)
HEAD WEST ON MAIN ST.
2. Main Street: A series of architecturally and historically significant properties, many with lofts/residences along the second story. (Main St. inside Downtown Loop)
3. Old Hill Building: 1925 Georgian revival Old Hill Building commissioned by John Sprunt Hill. (300 Block of W. Main St.)
4. Temple Building: 1909 Spanish colonial-style Temple Building built with leftover materials from the 1909 Watts Hospital. (302 W. Main St.)
5. 1904 Beaux Arts-style building. (315 W. Main St.)
6. Snow Building: One of Durham's finest art deco structures, built in 1933. Its elevator was the last in the state run by a full-time operator. (331 W. Main St.)
7. Five Points/Muirhead Plaza: Includes site of 1906 invention of BC Headache Powder. (Intersection of W. Main, E. Chapel Hill St., and Morris St.)
Leaving Five Points and continuing on the Downtown Loop, the Warehouse District is on the right. Dominated by West Village, the Liggett & Myers tobacco buildings that have been converted to hundreds of apartments, offices, shops, and restaurants. Complex includes the original 1884 W. Duke and Sons factory and the 1897 Walker Warehouse, the oldest example of a Neo-Romanesque warehouse, first built by the American Tobacco Trust.
CONTINUE ALONG W. MAIN ST. TO EXTENSION B OR TURN LEFT ON W. CHAPEL HILL STREET FOR EXTENSION C. TO CONTINUE ROUTE, HEAD NORTH ON MORRIS ST.
HEADING NORTH ON MORRIS ST.
8a. Civil Rights mural: part of a collaborative art project under the direction of Brenda Miller Holmes. (At the parking lot next to 120 Morris St.)
8b. Durham Arts Council: Former 1906 Central High School and later City Hall. Now 52,000 square foot arts center with performance space, three galleries and meeting rooms. (120 Morris St.)
LOOK LEFT ON GREAT JONES ST.
9. Museum of Durham History: A museum without walls, where visitors can get a hands-on sense of Durham's history through images, signage and interactive digital displays. (500 W. Main St.)
TURN RIGHT ON MORGAN ST.
10. Durham Centre Building & Plaza: Fifteen-story commercial building housing the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce and Duke Clinical Research Institute, a powerhouse behind research trials as well as a major area employer. (300 W. Morgan St.)
11. The Carolina Theatre: Renovated 1926 Beaux Arts-style theater housing national touring acts and live performances, as well as cinemas for independent and art films and festivals. Site of civil rights protests in the early 1960s, with a third floor historical display. (309 W. Morgan St.)
12. Civic Center Plaza: Includes fountains, outdoor gathering space, and seating. (201 Foster St.)
CONTINUE TO EXTENSION A OR TURN RIGHT ON FOSTER ST.
SOUTH ON FOSTER
13. Durham Armory: Durham's original Civic Center from the late 1950s to 1989. Built by the Works Progress Administration in 1937 to house a National Guard machine-gun company. (220 Foster St.)
14. The Durham Convention Center: Anchors the Durham Convention Center Complex and includes 102,940 square feet of exhibition/banquet halls, theaters, meeting rooms, reception areas, galleries and an outdoor plaza. (301 W. Morgan St.)
CONTINUE ON CORCORAN
15. CCB Plaza: Named for the former Central Carolina Bank (now SunTrust), the plaza's focus is Major the Bull, a life-sized, one-ton bronze bull, commissioned by the bank and crafted by local artisans at the George Watts Hill Pavilion for the Arts. The bull represents Durham’s Bull City moniker, which originated from the Bull Durham Smoking Tobacco brand, which was famously made in Durham. (E. Chapel Hill and Corcoran St.)
VIEW RIGHT, PAST CCB PLAZA
16. Bull City Business Center: Former home of The Herald-Sun newspaper; built in the late 1920s with Italian Renaissance styling. Now home to Downtown Durham, Inc. (115 Market St.)
VIEW LEFT ON CHAPEL HILL ST
17. The Durham Hotel: Now a boutique hotel, this mid-century building was a former Home Savings Bank (315 E. Chapel Hill St.)
18. Through This Lens: Gallery of fine art photography that also offers books, posters and other items related to photography. (303 E. Chapel Hill St.)
19. Durham Arts Place: Art studio complex (305 E. Chapel Hill St.)
TURN LEFT ON W. PARRISH
20. City Center: A 27-story skyscraper, home to condos, retail and office space, which has been completed at the site of the former Downtown Durham Woolworth store. In the late 1950s, Rev. Douglas Moore and Floyd McKissick of Durham pioneered the student sit-in movement in several states and trained participants at churches around the community. After national media reported a 1960 sit-in held in nearby Greensboro, Durham protesters began a sit-in at the Woolworth lunch counter. (110 Corcoran St.)
21a. Historic Parrish Street/Black Wall Street: Known as America's Black Wall Street in the early 1900s. In the 1960s, the street again attracted national attention as a place where civil rights pioneers staged sit-ins and received a memorable visit from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Features six public art sculptures marking the significance of Historic Parrish Street. (Parrish St.)
21b. 116 West Parrish - National Historic Monument: Built in 1921 for North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Co.; later home to and still a branch of Mechanics and Farmers Bank, one of the oldest African-American-owned banks in the country. (116 W. Parrish St.)
21c. Parrish Street Forum: The Parrish Street Common Room is an interpretive space honoring the legacy of African-American entrepreneurs and businesses that developed America's Black Wall Street. Located in the original 1908 headquarters of Mechanics and Farmers Bank. (112 W. Parrish St.)
22. The Carrack Modern Art: The Carrack is a zero-commission gallery that hosts short installations, usually two weeks. (111 W Parrish St)
23. Orange Street Mall: Brick walkway named for a 19th-century tobacco brand Orange of Durham. (E. Chapel Hill St. and W. Parrish St.)
WHILE HERE, SEE #24 THROUGH ORANGE ST. MALL
24. US Postal Service - Downtown: 1934 neoclassical building paid for in 15 minutes of its first day of operation by taxes on local tobacco. (323 E. Chapel Hill St.)
HEAD NORTH ON MANGUM
25. Rogers Alley: Three buildings converted into residential, restaurants etc., including the 1904 fire station (Now Pompierii Pizza) and the Wright Building, long known as Roger's Pharmacy.
TURN RIGHT ON CITY HALL PLAZA
26. Durham City Hall & City Hall Plaza: Recognized as a place by the Post Office between 1819 and 1823, Durham gained its current name in 1853, and was incorporated by the state in 1869. (101 City Hall Plaza)
RIGHT ON LIBERTY AND RIGHT ON N. CHURCH
27. Trinity United Methodist Church: 1924 Gothic revival church noted for wood carvings. (215 N. Church St.)
TURN LEFT ON E. PARRISH, RIGHT ON ROXBORO, RIGHT ON E. MAIN
FOLLOW N. ROXBORO TO EXTENSION E OR TURN LEFT ON N. ROXBORO TO CONTINUE ON TO EXTENSION F.
28. Former Durham County Department of Social Services: Established in 1919. The new social services building is at E5. (220 E. Main St.)
29. Historic Durham County Courthouse: Renovated 1916 neoclassical revival that replaced the 1887 courthouse that once stood on this site. (200 E. Main St.)
30. Former Durham County Judicial Building: Site was once the famous Rialto Theater, poolroom, barbershop and jazz bar. (201 E. Main St.)
31. Celebrate mural by Michael Brown. (108 E. Main St.)
32. Kress Building: Built in 1932, one of the largest and most elaborately detailed art deco buildings in North Carolina and the first building in Durham to have air conditioning. Now houses luxury condos and offices of Greenfire Development. (101 W. Main St.)
33. Historic Baldwin Building: 1927 neoclassical building; now home to loft-style apartments and a restaurant. (107 W. Main St.)
34. 1893 Queen Anne-style building: The oldest building that remains inside the Downtown Loop. (111 W. Main St.)
35. "City View" - First National Bank Building: Originally the site of the 1840s home of Durham namesake Dr. Bartlett Durham. Present building is the neoclassical 1914 First National Bank, with notable cast-iron, flower-swagged canopy. (123 W. Main St.)
36. 21c Museum Hotel: This boutique hotel is home to an art museum that is free and open to the public 24/7. It's located in the historic 1935 art deco Hill Building, designed by the same architectural firm that designed the Empire State Building. (111 Corcoran St.)
37. End at the Visitor Info Center (212 W. Main St. #101)
EXTENSION A: Central Park & Warehouse Districts
FROM FOSTER ST. AT #12 HEAD NORTH ON FOSTER
A1. Time Bridge mural by Odili Donald Odita on the Downtown Durham YMCA. (215 W. Morgan St.)
A2. Pauli Murray and True Community mural, part of a collaborative art project coordinated by artist Brett Cook. Durhamite Pauli Murray, a noted activist and the first African-American woman Episcopal priest, was sainted by the Episcopal Church. (313 Foster St.)
A3. Triangle Biotechnology Center: Former Clark & Sorrell automobile repair garage, built in 1933. On the National Register of Historic Places. (323 Foster St.)
RIGHT ON SEMINARY
A5. Durham Center for Senior Life: This 44,000-sq.-ft. accessible and comprehensive recreational and health center is a hub for older adults. (406 Rigsbee Ave.)
LEFT ON RIGSBEE; LEFT ON HUNT
A6. Flame, Fire, Forge mural by Emily Weinstein. (214 Hunt St.)
A7. Durham Central Park: 5.8-acre urban park and district namesake with an emphasis on cultural activities, recreation and locally owned businesses. Includes a skate park and hosts the Durham Craft Market on Saturdays from April through November. (502 Foster St.)
RIGHT ON FOSTER TO GEER ST.
A8. Durham Farmers' Market at Central Park Pavilion: Open Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoons in season. (Foster St. at Hunt St.)
A9. The George Watts Hill Pavilion for the Arts: One of only a few large-scale facilities in the Southeast offering mold-making and metal casting to the public. (Hunt St. and Foster St., Durham Central Park)
A10. Northern Central Park District: A collection of historic buildings adaptively reused to house new businesses, including restaurants, retail stores, and more. At night, this area, including one block east on Geer St. at Rigsbee St. is alive with activity from bars, music clubs, food trucks and breweries. (Washington, Foster, and Rigsbee Streets between Trinity and Corporation)
RETURN TO CORPORATION ALONG FOSTER HEADING SOUTH; RIGHT ON CORPORATION
A11. Historic Durham Athletic Park: Ranked #35 in the "Top Sports Venues of All Time" by ESPN. Former home (1926-94) of the Durham Bulls, who now play a mile south at Durham Bulls Athletic Park (#D5). The movie Bull Durham was filmed here in 1987. (500 W. Corporation St.)
A12. City Place: The old City Stables, later the City Garage (late 1930s), is now home to new businesses. Both the main building and the former fire drill tower are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (501 Washington St.)
A13. Historic BC Headache Powder Factory: Former factory for the popular remedy, invented in Durham in 1906 and made here from 1928-1972. Now home to Measurement Incorporated. It is part of the Durham Innovation District, a new redevelopment that houses life science and technology companies. (423 Morris St.)
A14. Brodie Duke Building: Restored 1878 tobacco warehouse structure. (333 Liggett St.)
A15. Bullington Warehouse: 1927 national historic site was the last of the brick tobacco warehouses to be built in Downtown Durham. (500 N. Duke St.)
LEFT ON N DUKE
A16. Durham School of the Arts: Formed by the historic Durham High and W. F. Carr Junior High campuses and recognized by the Magnet Schools of America for excellence. (400 N. Duke St.)
LEFT ON FERNWAY
A17. West Village: Original phase of the largest adaptive reuse project in North Carolina's history. Overall, includes 12 former Liggett & Myers tobacco buildings (1.26 million square feet) over several blocks, converted to loft-style apartments, retail space, offices, and the Durham Train Station. (604 Morgan St.)
RIGHT ON MORRIS
A18. Former Imperial Tobacco Warehouse: 1916 warehouse of Imperial Tobacco Co. Tobacco was re-dried here before being shipped to Great Britain. Locker room scenes from Bull Durham were filmed here. (215 Morris St.)
EXTENSION B: Warehouse & Brightleaf Districts
FROM MAIN ST., CONTINUE ON W. MAIN
B1. Durham Train Station: 110,000 square foot adaptive reuse of historic Walker Warehouse, an 1897 Italianate-style brick building, to welcome Durham train passengers. (400 W. Chapel Hill St.)
RIGHT ON N. DUKE
B2. Studebaker Building: Historic Studebaker showroom redeveloped into 23,000 square feet of office space. (115 N. Duke St.)
RETURN TO W. MAIN ST. ALONG N. DUKE
B3. Peabody Place: Office and retail complex comprised of a renovated 1927 laundry and a former Nash auto showroom, dating to the 1930s. The unique iron railings are made of materials salvaged from the old laundry. (Main and Duke Streets near Peabody St.)
CONTINUE WEST ON W. MAIN
B4. Brightleaf Square: 1904 Neo-Romanesque brick tobacco warehouses and namesake for the entire district was redeveloped in 1981 and is a popular gathering spot with its central courtyard, shopping and outdoor dining. (Gregson St. at Main St.)
OPTIONAL EXTENSION: .4 MI FURTHER WEST ON W. MAIN
Residence Inn Durham Duke University Medical Area: An extended stay hotel on the site of the 1926 McPherson Hospital. Parts of the eye, ear, nose and throat hospital have been preserved and incorporated into the hotel structure. (1180 W. Main St.)
Duke University East Campus: Relocated to Durham in 1892, as Trinity College expanded to become Duke University in 1924. This original Duke campus is the home of Baldwin Auditorium and hosted the first basketball game of the Atlantic Coast Conference's famous "Tobacco Road" rivalry, played on March 2, 1906. (W. Main St. at Campus Dr.)
HEAD EAST ON W. MAIN TO CONTINUE TO EXTENSION C OR TO RETURN TO MAIN ROUTE #7
EXTENSION C: Warehouse & American Tobacco Districts
FROM FIVE POINTS, HEAD WEST ON CHAPEL HILL STREET
C1. Durham Station Transportation Center: Station for GoDurham (formerly Durham Area Transit Authority), GoTriangle (formerly Triangle Transit), and Greyhound/Trailways buses, as well as a taxi hub. (Chapel Hill and Willard Streets)
C2. North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company: Founded in 1898, this is one of the largest and oldest African American-owned corporations in the country. (411 W. Chapel Hill St.)
C3. City of Durham Police Headquarters (505 W Chapel Hill St)
C4. Duke Memorial United Methodist Church: 1907 twin-towered, brick Romanesque and Gothic revival-style church named for its benefactor, Washington Duke, features a 10-bell, manual carillon. Guide to stained glass windows available. (504 W. Chapel Hill St.)
RETURN TO MAIN ROUTE #7 ALONG W. CHAPEL HILL AND TURN RIGHT ON W. MAIN
EXTENSION D: American Tobacco District
FROM W. MAIN ST. AT #36, TURN LEFT ON CORCORAN, WHICH BECOMES BLACKWELL
D1. Old Bull Building: 1874 Italianate-style brick tobacco warehouse, one of the nation's oldest, restored as apartments. (201 W. Pettigrew St.)
D2. DPAC — Durham Performing Arts Center: A 2,800-seat, state-of-the-art performing arts theater, the largest in the Carolinas, with the largest stage between Washington DC and Atlanta. (123 Vivian St.)
D3. Diamond View I, II, and III: Office buildings that overlook Durham Bulls Athletic Park. (512 S. Mangum St.)
D4. American Tobacco Campus: The former Lucky Strike cigarette factory and national historic site has been revitalized. Includes an amphitheater, a man-made waterway, the iconic Lucky Strike smokestack, and a courtyard, all of which are viewable to the public. Includes several restaurants, businesses and a 10,000 square foot event space. (324 Blackwell St.)
D5. Durham Bulls Athletic Park: The city's 10,000-seat home for the 2009 Triple-A national champion Durham Bulls, arguably the nation's most famous minor league baseball team. Ranked fourth on Minor League News' list of "Top Ten Minor League Stadiums in the US." (409 Blackwell St.)
OPTIONAL EXTENSION: .2 MI FURTHER SOUTH ON BLACKWELL
American Tobacco Trail: Trailhead for Durham's 23-mile portion of a rails-to-trails hiking trail and spine of the national East Coast Greenway. (Downtown Durham to the Streets at Southpoint Mall, then connecting the south Durham part of the trail to Chatham County)
RETURN TO MAIN ROUTE #36 ALONG BLACKWELL/CORCORAN
EXTENSION E: Government Services District
FROM W. MAIN ST. AT #28, CROSS N. ROXBORO AND CONTINUE ALONG E. MAIN
E1. Old Salvation Army Building: The 1928 former home of The Durham Sun newspaper, featuring elegant façades with molded copper window frames. (300 block of E. Main St.)
E2. First Presbyterian Church: 1916 building stands on the site of two previous churches built in 1875 and 1890. German stained glass windows. (305 E. Main St.)
E3. Old Public Library: 1921 colonial revival building designed by the architect of the immigration center at historic Ellis Island. (311 E. Main St.)
E4. St. Philip's Episcopal Church: Congregation dates from 1878 and meets in this 1907 Gothic revival building. (403 E. Main St.)
E5. Durham County Human Services Complex: Houses the county's social services, public health, and mental health departments. Built with a number of sustainable features in compliance with LEED Gold certification. (400 E. Main St.)
.3 MI FURTHER EAST ON E. MAIN
E6. Golden Belt: Historic textile mill and national historic site transformed into apartments, galleries, artist studios, offices, brewery, and event space. (807 E. Main St.)
OPTIONAL EXTENSION: RIGHT ON FAYETTEVILLE AND .5 MI SOUTH
Hayti Heritage Center: Named for what was once one of America's most successful African-American marketplaces and neighborhoods. The center houses St. Joseph's Performance Hall (the original 1891 AME church sanctuary and national historic site), the Lyda Moore Merrick Gallery, and classroom and event space. (804 Old Fayetteville St.)
RETURN TO N. ROXBORO ALONG E. MAIN AND TURN LEFT ON N. ROXBORO
E8. Venable Center: Built in 1905 for the Venable Tobacco Company, now home to biotechnology companies. Scenes from the 1996 thriller Kiss the Girls were filmed inside this national historic site. (300 block of E. Pettigrew St.)
E9. Durham County Courthouse and Justice Center: Courthouse and offices sit adjacent to the Durham County Detention Center immediately to the South. At nearly 300,000 sq. ft. and 11 stories tall, it also has a 900-car parking deck.
RETURN TO MAIN ROUTE #28 ALONG N ROXBORO
EXTENSION F: Government Services District & Beyond
FROM N ROXBORO AFTER #28, TURN RIGHT ON HOLLOWAY
F1. Durham County Library: The first free, tax-supported library in North Carolina, founded in 1898, now has more than 470,000 volumes in nine branches. (300 N. Roxboro St.)
F2. WTVD, Channel 11 (ABC): Founded in 1954, it is the market's oldest continuous television broadcaster. Notable alumni include musician John Tesh, former Good Morning America co-host David Hartman, and Durham-born songwriter John D. Loudermilk. (411 Liberty St.)
F3. Holloway Street Historic District: On the National Register of Historic Places; includes houses from the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as the Blooming Garden Inn. (Holloway St. between Dillard and Railroad Streets)
RETURN TO MAIN ROUTE #28 ALONG HOLLOWAY AND CONTINUE ONTO N. ROXBORO