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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
Collage of Local Legacies
Scene from revitalized Old West Durham neighborhood, 1999
Scene from the revitalized Old West Durham neighborhood, 1999. Photo courtesy Old West Durham Neighborhood Association

Old West Durham Neighborhood

This historic district was settled before the city of Durham came into existence in the early 1850's. Originally called Pin Hook, it was a traveler's rest of dubious reputation until the early 1890's when the Erwin Cotton Mills were built, transforming the area into a neat mill town. Many of the homes, built from lumber obtained from the town's own forest and sawmill, survive today in neat rows of identical forms set close to the street on deep, narrow lots. Their three basic designs-pyramid roof, L-shaped, or T-shaped-were assigned according to the occupant's standing at the mill. Other more affluent residents built frame houses from catalogs such as Sears & Roebuck. The mill co-owner, William Erwin, provided the community with a park before Durham had any city parks. The paternalistic Erwin interacted with the workers as he walked through the village, inviting them to band concerts in the park and bringing them rose bushes to plant in their yards. Many of those bushes are still blooming in West Durham today. A thriving business district emerged around 1910 and is today a popular destination filled with eclectic shops and restaurants. Rich in history, the town is enjoying a renaissance today after hard times during the 1970's and '80's. A new neighborhood association was formed in 1995 to build a stronger sense of community and shared heritage.

Originally submitted by: David E. Price, Representative (4th District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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