Preservation Durham announces Top 5 Places in Peril | News
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Friday, May 30, 2014

Preservation Durham announces Top 5 Places in Peril

Posted by on Fri, May 30, 2014 at 9:05 AM

Flanked by statues of angels, Wendy Hillis, executive director of Preservation Durham, announced the group’s 2014 Places in Peril last night at the Julian Carr gravesite in Maplewood Cemetery.

Maplewood Cemetery, Durham - LISA SORG
  • Lisa Sorg
  • Maplewood Cemetery, Durham


Cemeteries rarely rank near the top of budget priorities, and the state of the city-owned Maplewood and Beechwood cemeteries reflect years of underfunding: Broken gravestones, rutted roads. Stroll through Maplewood, bordered by Morehead Avenue, Duke University Road and Kent Street in Southwest-Central Durham, and you’ll find the gravesides of some of the most prominent Durhamites: the Parrishes, the Carrs, the Dukes, as well as everyday working-class families.

Beechwood, at East Cornwallis Road and Fayetteville Street, also is the eternal resting place of well-known African-Americans, including James Whitted, the principal of the first public school for black children. John Merrick and C.C. Spaulding of N.C. Mutual Life Insurance and James Shepard, who founded what would become N.C. Central University are also buried there. 

Cedar Glasgow, the city’s director of cemetery operations, has asked City Council to budget $6 million to fix up the cemeteries; some of the repairs are 50 years behind schedule.

Here is the rest of the 2014 list:

1. Central Park Historic District: Developers have swooped in to either buy or redevelop several key buildings, with a plan to build condos and apartments, including Liberty Warehouse (see Places in Peril, 2012) and part of the Motorco site. 

2. Historic streetscapes: Durham could lose at least 13,000 street trees over the next 20 years, according to a 2013 report by the Environmental Affairs Board. This does not include trees lost to development.

3. Durham Police Department headquarters on West Chapel Hill Street: DPD is planning to move its HQ, possibly to East Main Street, near the Government Services District and historic Golden Belt mill. An example of modernist architecture, the building was designed by Milton Small. 

4. The South Gregson Street corridor makes a repeat performance on the list. The Medical Arts Building and the Eloise (designed by architect George Watts Carr), are both owned by Bill Fields.

Boarded up, the Medical Arts Building has been disintegrating for years. Considering the development happening in that area—the new 605 apartment complex for example—Fields could be holding out for the highest bidder.

This is the fifth year Preservation Durham has issued its list of Places in Peril, along with ideas on how to save the properties.

There have been some success stories: Listed in 2011, several historic houses on Jackson Street were saved when they were moved to vacant lots on North Roxboro Street. Downtown The Mutual Community Savings Bank and the Jack Tar Motel, examples of mid-century modern architecture, are not being torn down, and instead being converted into boutique hotels.

However, the places are listed as imperiled for a reason, and many of them have been demolished, or soon will be.
Liberty Warehouse, listed in 2012, will be torn down and replaced with condos.

The old Holiday Inn on South Gregson Street has been torn down to make way for 605, upscale apartments catering to Duke University students and young professionals.

McPherson Hospital, has largely been demolished, although the developer is saving the facade  It will open as a Residence Inn next summer; an recalcitrant property owner allowed the city to tear down an 1870s building at Little Five Points (Mangum, Corporation and Cleveland streets); that lot is now condos.

Read more about Places in Peril, 2010–2014. 

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