|Durham Demolishes Oldest Commercial Structure in City|
|By Heather Wagner|
In October, the City of Durham demolished the oldest commercial structure in the city. Learn more about the building and its Five Points Neighbors and find out the status of other properties on Preservation Durham's Places in Peril watch list.
In January 2010, after several years of concern and ongoing research by Preservation Durham staff, the buildings at the intersection of North Mangum, West Corporation, and Cleveland Streets (known as Little Five Points) were included in Preservation Durham's first list of Places in Peril. Most of the buildings date from the 1920s and contain storefronts with tapestry brick facades, stepped parapets, and terracotta pent roofs. However, the front-gabled frame structure at the southwest corner of North Mangum and West Corporation Streets was likely the oldest remaining commercial structure in Durham, dating from the period before brick was widely used for urban commercial buildings.
The intersection suffered gradual decline with the suburbanization of Durham that occurred after World War II and with the conversion of Mangum to a one-way street. Several storefronts were bricked-in, and some buildings were abandoned. Preservation Durham has long been concerned with the condition of the structures (specifically the frame structure) and with redevelopment plans for this intersection that have come and gone over the years. The organization would like to see the properties occupied with more businesses that create positive activity and a critical mass along the pedestrian path, thus yielding a vibrant and walkable, urban neighborhood commercial district.
Unfortunately, this past weekend (10/30/2010), the frame structure at the southwest corner (731 N. Mangum) was demolished by the City of Durham's Neighborhood Improvement Services, along with the adjacent one-story brick structure (729 N. Mangum). A residence-turned-commercial structure that fronts on West Corporation Street, located behind these two buildings, was also demolished.
The intersection remains endangered, with plans for this corner lot unknown. Little Five Points is important as a gateway to downtown from the Old North Durham and Duke Park neighborhoods, as well as for out-of-town visitors arriving via I-85 for events in Downtown Durham, the Durham Performing Arts Center, the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, along with other venues in and around downtown. With the ongoing renovations downtown, in the Central Park area immediately to the west, and in the Cleveland-Holloway neighborhood to the southeast — as well as plans for the Durham Central Market less than a block away — the retention of this intersection as a pedestrian-scale commercial corridor is vital. It is important, as these buildings are rehabilitated and the surrounding land redeveloped, to retain the scale of a residential commercial district be maintained, as this will also help to provide business and employment opportunities for the Old Five Points, Central Park, and Old North Durham neighborhoods.
The status of the other properties listed to Preservation Durham's 2010 Places in Peril list is as follows:
For more information on Places in Peril, visit www.PreservationDurham.org
Heather Wagner is co-chair of Preservation Durham's Advocacy and Preservation Awards Committee and principal at hmwPreservation, a consulting firm providing architectural history and historic preservation services.