North Carolina Cities

Durham North Carolina City Information

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Durham is a city located in Durham County, North Carolina. It is the county seat of Durham CountyGR6, the home of Duke University and North Carolina Central University, and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, and is a cornerstone of the Research Triangle region of North Carolina. The 2004 Durham-Chapel Hill Metropolitan Statistical Area population was: 451,212 as July 1, 2004.

{mosimage} Photo courtesy of Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau, 2000


Durham originated in 1853 with the search for a suitable railroad depot for the North Carolina Railroad between Wilson and Hillsborough. An earlier post office known as Herndon's existed in the area from 1827, and another at nearby Prattsburg was established in 1836. The landowners at Prattsburg refused to sell land to the railroad. Somewhat further to the northwest, a country physician named Bartlett Durham lived and practiced along the route. He donated land to the railroad, which named the subsequent depot Durham Station.

The town grew slowly before the Civil War, but grew rapidly following the war. Much of this growth can be attributed to the establishment of a thriving tobacco industry. Soldiers (both Union and Confederate) encamped at Bennett Place, just outside the town, during surrender proceedings. During their long encampment, they liberally sampled the area's "Brightleaf Tobacco", which purportedly had a milder flavor than other tobacco varieties. After returning to their homes, numerous orders were mailed to Green's tobacco company requesting more of the Durham tobacco. W.T. Blackwell would partner with Green, and rename the company the "Bull Durham Tobacco Company". The name "Bull Durham" is said to have been taken from the bull on the British Coleman's Mustard, which Mr. Blackwell noted was manufactured in Durham, England. Looking south towards CCB Building Enlarge Looking south towards CCB Building The rapid growth and prosperity of the Bull Durham Tobacco Company, and Washington Duke's Duke & Sons Tobacco Company, would result in the rapid growth of the city of Durham.

The present city charter dates from 1869. While the tobacco industry dominated the city, it was soon rivalled by the establishment of multiple textile mills throughout the city, particularly in East and West Durham. Much of the early city architecture, both commericial and residential, dates from the period of 1890 - 1930.

Durham's fortunes declined during the mid-twentieth century. Textile mills began to close during the 1930s, and competition from other tobacco companies (as well as decreased smoking after the 1960s) reduced revenues to Durham's tobacco industry.

Although the region benefitted significantly from the establishment of Research Triangle Park in 1958, Durham did not experience the same early increases in housing development as did neighboring Raleigh and Cary. Suburban flight also contributed to the slow, but progressive decline of downtown Durham as a retail and economic center.

With a strong African-American community, a strong Civil Rights movement developed in Durham. Multiple sit-ins were held, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited the city during the struggle for equal rights.

Durham's growth began to rekindle during the 1980s, with the construction of multiple housing developments in the southern part of the city, nearest Research Triangle Park, and the beginnings of downtown revitalization. A new downtown baseball stadium was constructed for the Durham Bulls in 1994.

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