Bridging The Divide: NC Preservation Groups Announce Spring Trip To Cuba

To explore Havana’s architecture and historic preservation efforts.

historic preservation Cuba

Street scene in Old Havana


December 17, 2013 (Durham, NC) – Preservation Durham and Preservation North Carolina will co-host an exclusive trip to Cuba from April 6-12, 2014, entitled “Preservation, Architecture & Design in Havana Today.”


The seven-day, six-night program will feature seminars and talks by English-speaking Cuban experts on such subjects as Cuba’s colonial heritage and restorations in Havana, Havana’s pre-Revolutionary modern architecture, Cuban interior design, and the work of noted Cuban architect Mario Romanach.


Participants will meet with local residents, have the opportunity to dine at local homes and in an artist studio, visit Havana museums specializing in colonial history and architecture, and deliver much-needed humanitarian supplies to a charity, among other activities.


The program includes an overnight stay in Miami with an orientation dinner prior to departure, then five nights at the Hotel Parque Central in Havana’s historic Old Quarter.


According to Preservation Durham’s Executive Director Wendy Hillis, she and Preservation NC’s executive director Myrick Howard were attending a National Trust event in Spokane, Washington, when they first heard about this U.S. government-licensed exchange program.


“We looked at each other and decided right then that we were going to make it happen,” she said.


The per-person cost for the entire trip with double occupancy at the hotels is $4225 ($370 more for single occupancy). This cost includes hotels, airport transfers, flights between Miami and Havana, a private air-conditioned tour coach, local guides, meals as indicated, all gratuities, and all seminars.


For more details on the itinerary and other fine print, go to and click on the announcement.



Preservation Durham Hosts Behind-The-Scenes Tour of Carolina Theatre

Attendees will see parts of the theatre that the public never gets to see.

Carolina Theatre downtown Durham

Carolina Theatre

December 2, 2013 (Durham, NC) — Preservation Durham has announced a special “Hidden Durham Tour: Back Stage at The Carolina Theatre,” to be held Monday, December 9, from 5 to 7 p.m. 

The Washington, D.C.architectural firm Milburn & Heister designed the theatre in the Beaux-Arts style. It was completed in 1926, and it was the first theater in Durham to admit African-Americans, although there were still segregated ticket lines and lounge areas until the summer of 1963.

The theatre closed in the summer of 2011 to begin a $1.8 million renovation project that included replacing all carpet throughout the facility, lighting upgrades, replacing audio systems, and restoring and repainting damaged plaster. Safety modifications also made it possible to open six private boxes on the main stage. The boxes were built during a 1990s renovation but never opened.

During the Hidden Durham Tour, “we’ll show you parts of the theatre that the public never gets to see,” said Wendy Hillis, Preservation Durham’s Executive Director.

Periodically, Preservation Durham sponsors specially arranged tours of Durham places. These one-time-only tours are open to Preservation Durham members only, but attendees may join at the door, in advance at, or by calling (919) 682-3036.

Carolina Theatre is located at 309 West Morgan Street in downtown Durham. Tours will take place on the half hour between 5 and 7 p.m. Hidden Durham tours generally sell out so members are encouraged to reserve their spaces early.

For more information on “Hidden Durham Tours” and other Preservation Durham events, visit



HERALD-SUN: “Opposition Voiced To Old DSS Demolition Plan”

The old Durham County Department of Social Services on Main Street part of the demolition and civic plaza redevelopment proposal. The Herald-Sun | Bernard Thomas

The old Durham County Department of Social Services on Main Street part of the demolition and civic plaza redevelopment proposal. Photo: Herald Sun

Those were some of the words used to describe a downtown building that previously housed Durham County Department of Social Services offices at 220 E. Main St.

Proposed for demolition and redevelopment as a public plaza, the building is vacant now that social services has moved further east on  Main Street.

About 30 people, including architects, designers and others, attended a public meeting Tuesday at the new social services headquarters at 414 E. Main St. to gather public opinion on the demolition and redevelopment proposal, with many speaking against the demolition plan.

“Just tearing it down without (putting it up for sale first) strikes me as a really weird way to be dealing with taxpayer property,” said Durham resident John Martin. He offered putting it up for sale or out for re-use proposals as a simple way to see if it can be redeveloped economically.

County leaders have had the demolition of the old building on the books since at least March 2000, when the board adopted a plan for the county’s office space needs.

Durham County Commissioner Ellen Reckhow said that according to background information given to board members, a 1997 evaluation done through the Durham-based architecture firm The Freelon Group found structural problems with the building, including that it doesn’t meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards and contains asbestos and lead-based paint.

Kevin Turner, a principal with The Freelon Group, said at Tuesday’s meeting that the building also shares some utilities with the historic courthouse building next door, where the county’s administrative offices are located.  Turner said that would mean attempts to renovate the old DSS building would mean a “whole bunch of extra cost.”

Turner also outlined problems with the interior and exterior of the building that he said would mean the building is “pretty much as expensive to renovate as a new building would be to build.”

Durham resident Chris Bobko said “it seems strange” to demolish a building and replace it with a park in an area that is not screaming for a park. He also said he doesn’t see parking as a huge issue downtown, and said asbestos would be a problem with demolition.

He added that downtown Durham has seen drastic changes in recent years. To rely on a study done years ago “seems pretty shortsighted.”

Durham resident Matthew Dudek said he’s watched a series of buildings get demolished that are needed to connect Main Street to East Durham.

“Demolishing another key building at a key intersection to put a park – I don’t think anyone would use…a park there,” he said.

Wendy Hillis, executive director of the historic preservation-focused group Preservation Durham, said the group doesn’t have a stake either way in the building, but it does want to see another building in the location. She added that historic tax credits could be used to bring down the cost of the building’s renovation.

“Having an open space in this location is what we just don’t feel works…,” she said. READ MORE…

Preservation Durham Honors Projects and People with 2013 Preservation Awards

Award winners represent the best in historic preservation, adaptive reuse, and advocacy.

November 15, 2013 (Durham, NC) – Preservation Durham, Inc., recently handed out 11 awards to exemplary projects and special individuals who have contributed to the preservation of the Bull City’s architectural heritage during its 2013 Preservation Awards ceremony.

This year’s Neighborhood Conservation Awards, which honor projects that contribute to the historic fabric of Durham neighborhoods, went to:

> The Cookery at 1101 West Chapel Hill Street, the transformation of a ca. 1920 building into a commercial

The Cookery

The Cookery

kitchen for food entrepreneurs and an event space. Owners: Nick Hawthorne-Johnson and Rochelle Johnson; Architect: Center Studio Architecture, Durham; Contractor: Nick Hawthorne- Johnson, Rochelle Johnson, and Dane Thompson.

> Habitat For Humanity, for the organization’s work in renovating vacant houses in East Durham’s historic neighborhoods.

> The Five Points Building at 101-109 East Chapel Hill Street, a creative adaptive re-use of a large Second Empire building on a long-neglected corner of a downtown neighborhood. Owners: Center Studio Architecture, The Cupcake Bar, Bullseye Bicycle, and Pizzeria Toro, David Scarborough, Erin and Todd Mosier, and Dale and Jean Mosier; Architect: Center Studio Architecture; Contractor: Lee Street Contractors.

The Five Points Building

The Five Points Building

> The ca. 1930 garage at 1506 Hermitage Court, an excellent example of preserving and restoring a small but important historic feature within the architectural fabric of the Forest Hills neighborhood. Owners: Kevin and Julie Witte; Contractor: Stephen McDevitt.

Preservation Durham’s Pyne Awards are presented to both homeowners and commercial property owners for sensitive restoration projects that preserve Durham’s historic architecture and architectural heritage. This year’s Pyne Awards winners were:

> Homeowners Charlene Reiss and Mark Hazelrigg for the 1935 Gamble House at 1307 North Mangum, a sensitive, authentic rehabilitation of Durham’s first Modernist building and one of very few International Style buildings in the city.Contractor: Kevin Svara of Svara Restoration.

> Jay Munro and David Parker of Riverbank Construction for restoring and updating the Colonial Revival-style house at 2002 West Club Boulevard. Owners: Joseph Blocher and Marin Levy; Architect: Ron Wilde; Contractor: Munro Parker.

> Homeowners Miles and Catherine Miles Honeycutt, for their thoughtful restoration of the 1927 bungalow at 1809 Bivens Street. Contractor: Miles Honeycutt of Longleaf Building and Restoration.

> Homeowners Kevin and Darlene Davis for renovating the ca. 1920 colonial revival, two-story brick house at 1011 Gloria Avenue in the historic Trinity Park neighborhood. Contractor: Deanna Crossman; Interior Design: Nicole Baxter.

> Self Help Credit Union for envisioning and shepherding the transformation of the former East Durham Graded School (ca. 1910), a Local Historic Landmark at 107 South Drive Street, into the Maureen Joy Charter School. Owners: Maureen Joy Charter School, Self-Help Credit Union; Architect: Belk Architecture; Contractor: CT Wilson Construction.

Advocacy Awards  are given to individuals or groups who have contributed to the public discussion of Durham’s architecture and history, have lobbied for effective preservation policies, or have otherwise championed the recognition and retention of Durham’s historic resources. The 2013 Advocacy Award winner is John Martin, a retired history professor at Durham Tech Community College who has guided several historic houses through extensive renovations. Martin has also served as president of InterNeighborhood Council, or INC, an organization combining community advocacy efforts across several historic neighborhoods in Durham.

Preservation Durham also presented its first People’s Choice Award this year. The public was invited to vote on a favorite adaptive reuse project in the city. The 2013 winner is Cocoa Cinnamon at 420 West Geer Street, a tea and coffee shop located within an old gas station. Owners: Leon Grodski de Barrera and Areli Barrera de Grodski; Developer: Bob Chapman; Designer: David Solow.

For more detailed information on the 2013 Preservation Awards winners, go to


Prime Duke vs. Michigan University Basketball Tickets To Be Auctioned During Preservation Party

Four third-row tickets will join the Silent Auction line-up at Preservation Durham’s annual fundraiser.

Tallman Trask, Duke University’s Executive Vice President and a member of the Preservation Durham, Inc., board of directors, is donating his personal set of four tickets to the Duke vs. Michigan University men’s basketball game on December 3 for the Preservation Party fundraiser on November 8 at Morgan Imports in downtown Durham.

Free and open to the public, the annual Preservation Party includes a silent auction. Thanks to Trask, the ticketagain2013 partygoers will be able to bid on these tickets — for excellent seats on the third row, on even with Cameron Indoor Stadium’s eastern goal – during the party. The minimum bid will be $2000. According to, tickets of this type for this game range from $700-$800 each.

“We’re delighted and honored by Mr. Trask’s generous donation for seats that would be nearly impossible to get otherwise,” said Wendy Hillis, Preservation Durham’s Executive Director. “Die-hard Duke fans need to save the date for the Party and try to win those tickets!”

Other Duke men’s basketball tickets will be up for auction during the Party without a minimum bid.

The Preservation Party is a major, annual fundraiser for Preservation Durham, the non-profit membership organization dedicated to preserving Durham’s architectural heritage. The party will include a variety of foods donated by area restaurants, beverages, live entertainment, the Silent Auction, and shopping at Morgan Imports. All of the proceeds from the auction will benefit Preservation Durham’s efforts and programs. Ten percent of Morgan Import’s sales that evening will also go to Preservation Durham.

Morgan Imports is located at 113 South Gregson Street, Durham, NC 27701. For directions visit

For more information on the Party and the organization, visit


Morgan Imports To Host Annual Preservation Party

Food, fun, shopping, and a silent auction will benefit Preservation Durham, Inc.invite1up-0_sm


October 23, 2013 (Durham, NC) — Preservation Durham invites the general public to kick off the holiday shopping season during the nonprofit organization’s annual Fall Fundraiser Preservation Party at Morgan Imports in downtown Durham, on Friday, November 8, from 6-9:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

The Preservation Party will feature a variety of food and beverages donated by Durham restaurants, including Monuts Donuts, The Palace International, Piazza Italia, Q Shack, Scratch Bakery, Suman’s, and Revolution.

Besides shopping in Morgan Imports, The Preservation Party will include a silent auction. Partygoers will be able to bid on more than 90 items and services donated by local businesses. Auction items this year include a host of gift certificates; adult and baby clothing items along with a handmade quilt; a wine tasting for 20 at Sutton Station Wine; design consultation and advice for renovation projects and garden designs; spa, salon, yoga, and acupuncture sessions; Duke basketball and DPAC tickets; Sunset Beach and Hendersonville rentals; a Washington Duke Inn overnight stay with breakfast; a Rockwood Furniture kitchen pantry cabinet and a 19th century rosewood piano table; plus much more.

All proceeds from the silent auction sales and 10 percent of Morgan Imports sales during the event will support Preservation Durham’s preservation programs.

Along with entertainment by “Dulcimer Dan,” strolling emcee Tom Miller and Durham history maven Milo Pyne will keep shoppers entertained with auction talk and with the popular Durham History Quiz. Those who answer quiz question correctly will receive holiday sweets.

“The Preservation Party is always so much fun,” said Preservation Durham’s Executive Director Wendy Hillis. “From the delicious food to shopping in Morgan Imports and bidding on auction items, everyone has a great evening and goes away afterwards knowing they’ve helped support our efforts to leverage our historic buildings and neighborhoods through continued renovation and reuse, with the ultimate goal of generating a strong real estate engine, with unique assets, for the future of Durham City and County.”

Preservation Durham is sponsored annually by the City of Durham, Durham County, and Duke University. Sponsors for this year’s Preservation Party are Morgan Imports, Brightleaf Square, Concord Hospitality Group, the Duke Office of Durham and Regional Affairs, realtor Ellen Dagenhart, and Measurement incorporated.

Morgan Imports is located at 113 South Gregson Street, Durham, NC 27701 (919-688-1150). For more information:

For more information on Preservation Durham, visit


Preservation Durham Welcomes New History Hub To Downtown Durham

Executive Director Wendy Hillis looks forward to a synergetic relationship.

Preservation Durham's Executive Director Wendy Hillis.

Preservation Durham’s Executive Director Wendy Hillis.


October 15, 2013 (Durham, NC) – When the new Museum of Durham History — a.k.a. the Durham History Hub — opened to the public today at 500 West Main Street, just a few blocks away Preservation Durham’s Executive Director Wendy Hillis could almost hear the coupling between the city’s past and future snap into place.

“We are so excited to have the History Hub finally join us downtown, providing an accessible public venue within which to explore the unique history of our city,” she said from Preservation Durham’s office just off Main on Market Street. “With the opening of the Hub, we can focus our work on what we do best:  leveraging our historic buildings and neighborhoods through continued renovation and reuse, with the ultimate goal of generating a strong real estate engine, with unique assets, for the future of Durham City and County.”

Preservation Durham is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to preserving Durham’s architectural heritage. According to Hillis, the Hub is a natural outgrowth of the role her organization has played in the community since 1974.

“So we can be forward looking, advocating for the importance of our historic places in the future of the city,” she said, “while the Hub can look back and interpret the history that brought us to this point. The museum’s opening also allows us to focus more specifically on the future of historic preservation: the revitalization of historic neighborhoods and buildings.”

The Hub’s Executive Director Katie Spencer and her Board of Directors, three of whom also serve on Preservation Durham’s Board, have been “great partners over the past few years,” Hillis said. “We look forward to continuing this synergetic relationship.  I hope this realignment of our scope will make us more relevant to a larger sector of the population — those who are drawn to Durham’s unique character- – and help us build a support base outside our traditional demographic.”

Wendy Hillis joined Preservation Durham in September of 2012 after serving as Campus Historic Preservation Architect at UNC-Chapel Hill.  She received her Master of Architecture degree from the University of Virginia and is a past recipient of the prestigious Richard Morris Hunt Fellowship that allows an American preservation architect to study and work in Paris, France.

Durham’s History Hub will be open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., with extended hours on Thursdays and Third Fridays in the spring and summer months. There is no admission fee. For more information on Hub, go to

For more information on Preservation Durham, visit


Preservation Durham Will Present The 2013 Preservation Awards On October 23

Out of 20 finalists, the winners will be announced during the awards ceremony in downtown Durham.

October 14, 2013 (Durham, NC) — Historic preservation and/or adaptive re-use projects will be honored on October 23,2013, when Preservation Durham presents its annual Preservation Awards in the Durham Arts Council auditorium beginning at 6 p.m.

The awards ceremony is free and open to the public, and will include a reception following the ceremony.

Every year, Preservation Durham solicits nominations for awards to honor individuals and projects that preserve the architectural heritage of Durham. The non-profit organization received 30 nominations from architects, contractors and homeowners throughout the summer. During August and September, a committee narrowed down the nominations and made site visits to each of the finalist projects.

Twenty finalists are still in the running and can be seen at Ten winners will be announced during the awards ceremony.

The three awards categories this year are:

·       The Pyne Preservation Award, which is given to both homeowners and commercial property owners for sensitive restoration projects that preserve Durham’s historic architecture and architectural heritage.

·       The Neighborhood Conservation Award, which honors projects that contribute to the historic fabric of Durham neighborhoods.

·       The Advocacy Award, which is given to individuals or groups who have contributed to the public discussion of Durham’s architecture and history, have lobbied for effective preservation policies, or have otherwise championed the recognition and retention of Durham’s historic resources.

“We invite everyone and anyone interested in Durham’s historic architectural heritage to join us for this exciting event,” said Wendy Hillis, Executive Director of Preservation Durham. “The awards are one more way that we can say thank you to the businesses, builders, homeowners, and others who help preserve such an important aspect of what makes Durham a unique and vibrant city.”

The Durham Arts Council is located at 120 Morris Street in downtown Durham. For more information on the 2013 Preservation Awards, email or call 919-682-3036.


Preservation Durham To Host “Hidden Durham Tour” of McPherson Hospital

Attendees will get a look inside the historic former hospital on Main Street.

Archive photo: McPherson Hospital (courtesy OpenDurham)

Archive photo: McPherson Hospital (courtesy OpenDurham)

October 7, 2013 (Durham, NC) — The circa 1926 McPherson Hospital on West Main Street will be the site for Preservation Durham’s “Hidden Durham Tour” on Tuesday, October 15, beginning at 5 p.m. with tours every half hour until 7 p.m.

In the mid-1920s, Dr. Samuel D. McPherson built the historic eye, ear, nose and throat hospital, designed by architect Frank Milburn of the prolific Durham firm Milburn & Heister, between the 1906 Sweaney House and the former Beverly Apartments. A Georgian-style masonry structure, the hospital is adjacent to Durham’s Trinity Park historic district.

The original hospital was modified in the 1940s. In 1968 the Sweaney House was converted to hospital use. Another addition was built in 1969. The 1940s and 1960s additions have since been demolished.

McPherson Hospital eventually became North Carolina Eye and Ear Hospital and moved in stages to Independence Park near Durham Regional Hospital in north Durham.

Preservation Durham sponsors “Hidden Durham Tours” of special Durham places periodically throughout the year — “places you don’t ordinarily get to see,” says Wendy Hillis, executive director of the non-profit organization, “such as these renovation projects, previews of new spaces about to open, and cool historic spots you didn’t even know were there.”

“Hidden Durham Tours” are open to Preservation Durham members only, but attendees may join online at, by calling (919) 682-3036, and even at the door on the day of the tour. Hillis notes that these tours fill up quickly, so she cautions against waiting. These events are one-time only tours that Preservation Durham has arranged by special permission and they may have limited attendance. Attendees may also be required to wear hard hats.

For more information on “Hidden Durham Tours” and other Preservation Durham events, visit

Preservation Durham Polls 2013 Candidates, Publishes Results

Preservation Durham uncovers mayoral and city council candidates’ feelings Elections_2013_logoabout historic preservation and adaptive re-use.

September 30, 2013 (Durham, NC ) — Are you a preservation voter? In other words, does a candidate’s attitude towards the preservation or adaptive re-use of your community’s historic properties inform your voting decision?

As a non-profit organization, the folks at Preservation Durham can not endorse candidates, but they do want to make sure fellow citizens of the Bull City, who care about preserving Durham’s historic properties, know which candidates among the slate vying for mayor and the City Council share their passion.

To that end, Preservation Durham’s Executive Director Wendy Hillis and Preservation Coordinator Elizabeth Marsh created the city’s first official Preservation Voters survey, with the Board of Directors’ support. The survey explores each candidate’s knowledge of, and feelings about, historic preservation and how important it should – or should not – be in city development and growth. They sent it to the candidates at the beginning of September and asked them to return it by October 25.

The survey addresses very important local preservation issues and challenges,” Hillis explained, such as the role the Historic Preservation Commission should play in guiding future growth, whether or not preservation and adaptive re-use should be a central tenet of downtown development, and whether or not the candidate supports the Local Landmark program and expanding historic districts, among other issues.

“The questionnaire is designed to provide solid information to voters who care about these issues,” Hillis said.

Last week, Elizabeth Marsh published the candidates’ responses verbatim on the Preservation Durham website. At least, she published responses from those who chose to answer the questionnaire. All three mayoral candidates – incumbent Bill Bell, Michael Valentine, and Sylvester Williams — filled out the survey. Four of the seven candidates for City Council failed to respond at all.

“In a city with such a wealth of historic properties, we felt it was vitally important to let voters who care about the historic fabric of their city know how candidates feel about the subject,” Hillis said. “We hope our example will inspire other cities throughout North Carolina to conduct similar surveys when local elections are looming.”

Hillis noted that Historic Seattle’s similar effort, launched in 2009, inspired Preservation Durham’s inaugural survey.

To read the Durham candidates’ responses to the first Preservation Voters survey, go to