Monday, August 11, 2008

Hester Heights Part II

If you're just starting here this is a continuation of a post (below) about the Hester Heights section of West Durham. In the years following his large purchase of 1873, Hester farmed parts of his land while selling off others to now-familiar Durham names like F.C. Geer and John Sprunt Hill. By the early 20th century Hill had bought substantial portions of what had once been Hester land and begun construction on a golf course and club house to the north and west of today's Hester Heights. Between 1912 and 1913 Hester took advantage of skyrocketing real estate prices in Durham and the impending extension of the street car line to the waterworks by selling some of his remaining tracts near Club boulevard to the Durham Land and Trust Company (run by Hill) and the West End Land Company. These tracts did not however include a small triangle of land bordering Hillsboro road (today's US-70 Hillsborough rd.). In February 1913 the partnership of Southgate Jones and R.F. Worth bought this 16.25 acre parcel for $8,125.

The "proposed street" to the east (left) of the plat is now Alabama Ave. and Hester Rd. to the west (right) is now Georgia St.

Jones and Worth quickly subdivided this empty parcel into lots fit for homebuilding and sale and by 1914 had mapped out 73 lots in 5 sections and named the property "Hester Heights" for the first time.

Clarkson St. is now Englewood Ave. and Third st. is now Alabama Ave.

The map above should look quite familiar to readers who know the area today as the basic street layout of the neighborhood has not radically changed except for the extension of Englewood to Hillandale. If you have Google Earth you can download this overlay which juxtaposes the above plan with a contemporary map. Southgate Jones was an aggressive promoter of Durham real estate and his papers at Duke University contain some of the thousands of letters he sent out to real estate agents and private citizens throughout the US and Canada extolling the virtues of owning property in Durham. While some Hester Heights lots were sold to individuals, others were bought by investment companies like the Griswold Investment company or the Piedmont Insurance Trust and then sold again, sometimes after being subdivided into smaller lots. By the mid 1920s individual lots were selling for around $400. It's unclear to me when the first house in Hester Heights was built but the 1920 soil survey map (published in 1920 not necessarily showing 1920 conditions) shows very few buildings and only on the periphery:

The real homebuilding boom seems to have taken place in the late 1920s and by 1937 the neighborhood was well filled in with residential structures. This post is a bit image heavy so I'll hold off some more recent property maps for the next post.

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