Information and Current Events from Old North Durham

History of Old North Durham

by admin - September 23rd, 2009.
Filed under: History.

Old North Durham is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the City of Durham. In the late 1800’s, farmland was converted into one of the city’s earliest suburbs. At first the area was simply known as North Durham. Many of the historic homes that can be seen on Mangum Street were constructed as early as that late Victorian era. Construction of the trolley line in 1901, which runs north from Main Street directly into the heart of the neighborhood, contributed greatly to further development of Old North Durham. Through the 1920’s and 30’s many classic bungalows were additionally built.

Long-time residents of Old North Durham who enjoyed the area during the 1930’s can recall strories of large local families, and many children playing on dusty dirt roads. In the evenings kerosene smudge pots, known as flambeaus, would be lit along the sides of the main roads by local residents. By the 1940’s, Old North Durham was a close-knit community where multiple generations of the same families lived side-by-side.

After Integration in the 1950’s and 60’s, during the post-Integration period, East Trinity Street became one of the first areas in Durham where African-American families were able to purchase homes of their own, settling among their primarily white neighbors. Some of these early-integrating families are still live in Old North Durham and can recall the varied challenges, acceptance, and joy they experienced during that exciting time.

During the late 1960’s Old North Durham underwent a social and economic downturn in the same fashion as other urban neighbohoods around the country at that time. This was due to the migration of much of the population to the outlying suburban areas. During the late 1970’s and early 1980’s an effort was made by determined residents to revitalize the neighborhood. With the creation of the Durham Neighborhood Housing Services in 1981, local people were able to join city officials, along with business and banking leaders to secure the financial support for home improvements and renovations.

Through the 1990’s and today, the neighborhood is experiencing an exciting, renewed interest and increased home ownership. Because of Old North Durham’s status at a National Historic District, many homes are being historically renovated. Young professionals and families are moving here to enjoy the close-knit community, where children can be seen playing with their friends in yards and on sidewalks. Old North Durham residents continue to represent a rich assortment of social, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds. It is this melting pot that makes Old North Durham one of the city’s most interesting and energetic of neighborhoods.

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