Durham is a city of things unnoticed: Such an odd find at the Jack Tar Motel | Soapboxer
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Monday, August 10, 2015

Durham is a city of things unnoticed: Such an odd find at the Jack Tar Motel

Posted by on Mon, Aug 10, 2015 at 10:07 PM

"New York is a city of things unnoticed. It is a city with cats sleeping under parked cars, two stone armadillos crawling up St. Patrick's Cathedral, and thousands of ants creeping on top of the Empire State Building. The ants probably were carried up there by wind or birds, but nobody is sure."

So begins one of my favorite nonfiction stories, Gay Talese's eloquent homage to his city, "New York Is a City of Things Unnoticed." It chronicles the overlooked, the underappreciated, the infinitesimal details of daily living.

I'm always looking for these sorts of things, scanning the ground, peering down the alleys, staring up at the storefront eaves. And on Saturday, it was beneath one of these eaves, at 122 W. Parrish Street, that I spotted this switch.

Installed in the eave at 122 W. Parrish St., Durham - LISA SORG
  • Lisa Sorg
  • Installed in the eave at 122 W. Parrish St., Durham


At some point in the history of the building, which is technically part of the old Jack Tar Motel, there was a barber shop. But the underside of an eave, about 8 feet off the ground, is an odd spot for a light switch.

How did one reach the switch? Was the storefront constructed differently? What was the name of the barber shop? Who were the barbers?

City historians (paging Gary Kueber), what do you know?

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