Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Redlining Durham

More than two years ago I posted a striking map of Durham from the 1930s which purported to be from the public works department and which coded playgrounds, parks, public areas, and streets either  "White" or "Negro."

 I remember wondering at the time about what exactly the impetus behind the creation of this particular map had been. Later at a lecture given by the wonderful Trudi Abel of Digital Durham (which also features the above map), several audience members asked the same question. Though I don't blog very frequently about  Durham anymore I thought I would share a set of maps which helps answer this question.

First I should say that I would never have known where to go looking for these maps without the work of the T-RACES project at UNC run by Prof. Richard Marciano et al. I was introduced to their work on California mortgage redlining maps at a wonderful web conference whose complete proceedings are available here (thanks especially to Pam Lach and Molly Bragg). In the T-RACES project, Prof. Marciano and others have used maps of several California cities generated by the Home Owners Loan Corporation (a Federal agency of the New Deal era) to display patterns of residential/commercial segregation through a google maps interface.

The HOLC, whose mandate it was to subsidize and secure mortgages, commissioned maps  of cities around the country to guide and restrict the availability of their mortgage subsidies by neighborhood. The HOLC and other banking organizations coded neighborhoods and areas by how desirable they felt they would be for investment. Those areas of a city with working class and non-white residents would be outlined and coded in a way to prevent mortgage underwriting while those with wealthier and largely white residents would be coded as open for federal support.  In their extensive documentation on the project, the T-RACES team  included a list of all the cities nationwide for which these maps exist. Not surprisingly, I was excited to see that Durham was on the list. While I believe the T-RACES team plans to extend their project outside of California to include Asheville, Charlotte, Durham, Greensboro and Winston-Salem (the NC cities covered by HOLC maps), they are not yet online and have been only available at the National Archives to date.

I decided then while on a trip to DC to take a few snapshots of the maps (I will leave it to UNC to produce the high-res scans and detailed overlays!). The Durham maps below were created in the mid-1930s by consulting with local real estate agents and bankers about their perceptions of different parts of the city.  Using these descriptions, HOLC staff created discrete zones handily coded by their desirability for investment. Sample descriptions of these neighborhoods are below:

This neighborhood (close to the Morehead area) gets a C ranking (C-6), the second to worst and notes "Infiltration of: Negroes - gradual."
The Hickstown area above  is coded D (D-4) virtually excluding buyers there from receiving federal underwriting. Note that the HOLC examiners have singled out its unpaved roads, location near the RR tracks, population of "Mill Workers, laborers, mechanics," and its "many" families needing government relief as reasons for exclusion.

Below is a first draft of the map using a standard Durham street map (the same as that used in the public works map mentioned at the beginning of the post) and featuring hand drawn boundaries for neighborhoods with their designation.

This draft map was then officially printed (below) with slight alterations for use by HOLC officials and bankers. Note the A (or those deemed most underwriting worthy) areas: of Watts-Hillandale (A-1) and Trinity Park (A-2) whose houses were secured by racially restrictive covenants and which have received willing support from lenders up through the present day.

I can't say for sure but I suspect that the black/white coded map mentioned above was produced as part of a contemporaneous data-collection project to solidify race and class segregation. As such this set of maps should be seen together as examples of just one of the ways cartography can encode and maintain social inequality.

* For more on HOLC and residential redlining see Amy Hillier's excellent article in a 2005 issue of Social Science History (available to all as a pdf here ). The maps and documents from HOLC relating to Durham and reproduced above are stored at the National Archives (College Park, MD) in Record Group 195 MLR # A1-39 (Box 12).

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Morreene Dairy

I drive to and from work every day on Morrenne road - which today runs from Erwin rd. until becoming Neal rd. at the bottom of a hill near the Cookout RR trestle. I've long tripped over the spelling and wondered where the name came from. I know from older maps that the road was once called the Morrenne Dairy road and ran from Erwin to Hillsborough rd. I've also seen bottles from the Morreene Dairy (below) but had never been able to figure out where the dairy was located until this week when I stumbled across an explanatory document in the Duke University Archives.
Courtesy Duke Forest Artifact Collection
This document in the building reference collection, compiled by librarian Florence Blakely in 1964, gives the origin of the name of Morreene road and a brief history of the dairy's owners. Knowing the original owners of the dairy helped me to figure out exactly where it had been located - directly on the site of the contemporary Forest Oaks condo development.

Rough overlay of the Redmond farm plat with Morreene Dairy land highlighted

On August 22, 1922 Ben and Dora Bridge[r]s bought two lots (53+54) of the former W.T. Redmond farm south of the Hillsboro (now Hillsborough) road. These lots were located at the very end of a new dead-end road extending south from where the Hillsboro road and the NC railroad intersected. By 1925 the Bridgers had opened a dairy which they named using a combination of Mrs. Bridgers' two brothers' middle names: Vester MORRis Dorrity and Robert GrEENE Dorrity - hence Morreene.
In the 1930s the city extended the road leading to the dairy all the way to Erwin road, naming it Morreene Dairy Rd.

Segment of 1940s Duke Forest map with my addition of Cookout(!) and Old Hillsboro Rd.

Segment of 1938 aerial photo with my annotation.
Today's 15-501 bypass (not pictured) runs from middle-right to bottom left

Many thanks to Judd and Marissa at the Duke Forest office for showing me these aerials

The Bridgers stopped operating the dairy by the late 1940s and by the 1980s part of the Forest Oaks townhouse development was built over the site.
Contemporary Google map with the outline of the former Morreene Dairy
In September 1958 the Durham City Council changed the name of the road to just Morreene Rd. and over the years its exact course has varied. The most recent change coming with the introduction of NC-147 in the 1980s and 90s. Instead of meeting Neal Rd. before its turn under the railroad trestle, the builders of the highway connected Morreene and Neal into a seamless unit and parts of the old Morreene road became Bridgefield Pl.
Overlay of the planning map for NC-147 showing the former course of Morreene Rd. (red line)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Durham Marble Works

I'm always on the look out for printed books and pamphlets from 19th century Durham. Pamphlets and advertisements are particularly hard to find and so I was excited to run across an 1889 booklet distributed by the Durham Marble Works now in Duke's off-site storage.

The booklet contains a list of some 156 suggested epitaphs for the company's gravestones. Nearly all of them present a rather maudlin cheeriness somewhat jarring and unfamiliar to us (or at least me) today.

As the booklet mentions (above), the marble company was located in five points, it continued to function at that location until at least 1915. By the early 1900s, perhaps as a result of increased construction and growing population, there were two rival marble companies also located in the vicinity of five points including T.O. Sharp's marble company (below - from an excellent piece on that area at Endangered Durham) where the downtown loop and parking lot behind the book exchange are today.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Durham Photos at the Library of Congress

A friend sent me a picture the other day from the Library of Congress collection of Farm Security Administration photos. The photo (above), taken by Dorothea Lange in 1939, shows a Durham county farmer drawing driving directions in the dirt. I'd used the fantastic Durham public library collection of Durham historic photos and seen Gary work his photo sleuthing magic on Endangered Durham but had never really investigated the FSA collection before. The Library of Congress has some 171,000 digitized black and white prints and negatives from the FSA and associated government agencies which took pictures throughout the country from 1935-44 (more description on the project's homepage). There are quite a few Durham photos in the collection that I had not seen before, including a number that I only found by browsing as they lack identifying information. Though not at all an exhaustive list, I've linked to a number of them below in my own categories. There are additional Durham photos in other Library of Congress collections including the Historic American building survey which do not appear listed below.

Note: When descriptions appear in quotes they have been taken verbatim from the contemporary titles assigned photos by their makers. Otherwise the photos are untitled and I have briefly described them. In some cases I have amalgamated titled photos with negatives and prints of other similar shots but left untitled by the photographer - these are educated guesses.

City Scenes:

1. "Center of city, with Chesterfield cigarette factory in background. Durham, North Carolina."
Wolcott, Marion Post, 1910-1990, photographer.
1940 Oct.

2. "Five points, center of city, with Chesterfield cigarette factories in background. Durham, North Carolina."
Wolcott, Marion Post, 1910-1990, photographer.
1940 Oct.

3. "Durham, North Carolina [showing Post Office and theater]"
Rothstein, Arthur, 1915-1985, photographer.
1940 Jan.

4."Tobacco warehouses and factory. Durham, North Carolina."
Rothstein, Arthur, 1915-1985, photographer.
1940 Jan.

5.Citizens National Bank:

6. "Bus station in Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May.

7. "At the bus station in Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May.

8. "Street scene near bus station in Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May.

9. The "super market" in Durham, North Carolina.
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May.

10. Untitled downtown street scenes:

12. Interior downtown Store scenes:

African-American Durham:

13. Outside of the Depositors National Bank of Durham:

14. "Young Negro flower vendor [outside bank], Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May:

15. "Negro children reading the comics on Sunday morning, Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May:

16. "Street in Negro quarter of Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May:

17. "Houses in Negro quarter of Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer:
1940 May

18. "Backs of houses in Negro quarter [Hayti], Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May.

19. "Barber shop [Bob McCain's] in Negro quarter of Durham, North Carolina.”
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May.

Scenes from the Tobacco industry:

19. Diamond Feed Store:

20. "Tobacco warehouse in Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May.

21. Banner Warehouse:

22. "Street scene in Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May

23. Farmers cafe and pool hall sign outside warehouse

24. "Poolroom in tobacco warehouse district. Durham, North Carolina."
Wolcott, Marion Post, 1910- photographer.
1939 Nov.?:

25. "A cafe near the tobacco market, Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May:

26. "Cafe in tobacco warehouse district. Durham, North Carolina."
Wolcott, Marion Post, 1910- photographer.
1939 Nov.?:

27. "Cafe in warehouse district during tobacco auction season. Durham, North Carolina."
Wolcott, Marion Post, 1910- photographer.
1939 Nov.?

28. "Outside of the tobacco warehouses [Carver, Currin, Cozart] in Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May.

29. "Cop in Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May.

30. Farmer' Supply Co., Roycroft

31. "At a cattle dealer's [Dillard+Gamble] establishment. Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May.

32. Roycroft's no. 2:

33. "Home of Roycroft family, one of the tobacco warehouse owners in Durham, North Carolina."
Wolcott, Marion Post, 1910-1990, photographer.
1939 Nov:

34. Mangum's Tobacco warehouse

35. "Tobacco warehouse. Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May.

36. "Tobacco auction, Durham, North Carolina."
Wolcott, Marion Post, 1910- photographer.
1939 Nov.?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

More on Simeon Hester

I'm not really updating the site anymore but I thought I'd post a document I came across recently relating to Simeon Hester, former owner of much of today's Watts-Hillandale and the namesake of Hester Heights as featured in previous posts (1, 2, 3) and over at Endangered Durham.

Simeon Hester appears to have been born in 1837 in Oxford though the family most likely moved to Rougemount shortly afterward. Simeon joined the Orange Light Artillery (2nd co. G 40th NC Troops) towards the beggining of the Civil War. The Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections library at Duke holds copies of three letters relating to the Hester family of Rougemont (Adeline Hester Bowling papers). Simeon wrote the letter reproduced below while camped in Virginia with his regiment. The juxtaposition between his tender appreciation of a homemade cake and the disregard he shows the slave laborers building the very defenses he boasts of is jarring but not unexpected.

[From S.J. Hester to his Sister Addaline]

"Camp Near Drewry's Bluff Va
November the 20th 1862

Dear Sister it is with pleasure that I have the opportunity of answering your kind + most welcome letter which I received knight before last by the hand of Henry Bowling he reached here about dark + stayd with me all knight I was glad to got a letter from you + to hear that you was all Well. I am very much oblige to you for the Cake you sent me it was a very nice present + was very good it tased like home this leaves me well I hope this yo find you + father well + enjoying lifes Pleasures I have nothing interesting to write to you Times is quiet there is upwards of one thousand negroes camped in about one quarter of mile of us, they smell as strong as goats in flee time, they are throwing up Breastwork all over this whole country I think that thirty thousand men can keep one hundred thousand yankees at Bay, I hardly think they will ever attack this place any more, I am afraid they will make a strong attack on Weldon some time during Winter they tried to cross black water Day before yesterday + our forces succeded in stopping them + taking twelve prisoners they were brought to petersburg yesterday I was there though I did not see them Bartlet Bowles + Alexander Beasley was over there in the Hospille Bowles' wife was there with him she said she was going to start home in the morning, you wanted to know wheather McFarlin [?] had heard from his son he has not more than he has left Petersburg Lieutenant Dixon did not get him off, Dixon told me that father lost his pocket book at Hillsborough which I was very sorry to hear, he did not know how much money they was in it I hope they was not much, you must let me know when you wright I will bring this to close give my love to father + accept the same your self nothing only to remain your brother

Simeon Hester

Tell Father his neck tie is here"

Simeon and Adeline remained in North Carolina but their brother Davis moved to Texas where he wrote a glowing letter back to his siblings in 1870, extolling the richness of the soil and the openness of the land. He closed his letter by asking Simeon and Adeline if they were ready to move themselves. Simeon obviously chose not to, instead buying his massive 576 acre tract in Durham in 1873.