Morehead Hill Historic District, Durham City, Durham County, Durham, NC, 27707

Morehead Hill Historic District

Durham City, Durham County, NC

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The Morehead Hill Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, and a boundary increase was listed in 2005. [‡, ‡] Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination documents.


The Morehead Hill Historic District is a somewhat irregularly shaped long and narrow residential area, oriented on an approximate north-south axis, of about fourteen blocks covering gentle hills. The street pattern is a grid of tree-lined streets with stone curbs and brick gutters. The blocks range in size from a little under three acres to around seven and one-half acres. The Morehead Hill Historic District presents a visually exciting variety of house types and architectural styles from vernacular late Victorian to period revivals and bungalows that include some of Durham's most distinctive dwellings. Except for a few lots developed since 1940 and two or three gaps where houses have been removed, the Morehead Hill Historic District looks much as it did around 1930, the majority of its houses surviving relatively intact. The most striking houses in the district may be seen from its two major thoroughfares, the paired one-way Vickers Avenue and S. Duke Street. Of the 96 primary structures in the Morehead Hill Historic District, there are only two intrusions and five noncontributing buildings, the rest being contributing or pivotal. Two of the most imposing buildings in the district, Greystone and the John Sprunt Hill House, already are listed individually in the National Register.

The distribution of the Morehead Hill Historic District's building stock reflects both Durham's general development outward from the downtown in the particular patterns of a small portion of the West End neighborhood and most of the Morehead Hill neighborhood where land speculators were active in its early years. The houses are most densely concentrated in the district's north end, on Parker Street and blocks to the north originally considered part of the West End. Here, most of the houses are of moderate size and one-story tall, positioned close to the street on narrow but fairly deep lots; virtually all of these dwellings are popular "builders houses" dating from the turn of the century to around 1920, when these blocks still were considered part of the West End neighborhood. This pattern of development continues along much of Shepherd Street down to Proctor Street, at the west edge of the district. In contrast, the building density is much lower in the rest of the district which is Morehead Hill proper, east of Shepherd Street and south of Parker Street, where about a quarter of the Morehead Hill Historic District's houses occupy more than one-half of the land. (The transition between densities in the two ends of the district is gradual so that the former boundary between West End and Morehead Hill is not evident visually.) This change in density is paralleled by an increase in the size and stylishness of the houses. Most of the houses in the central and southern end of the Morehead Hill District were built between the 1910s and circa 1930 on large lots according to architects' designs; a few are very large and occupied entire blocks at the time of their construction. The southernmost and largest block for many years was part of the John Sprunt Hill estate and was developed as formal gardens at its north end closest to the Hill House.

Almost half of the houses in the Morehead Hill Historic District fall into the broad category of "vernacular Late Queen Anne," built in the 1890s and 1900s. Located north of Parker Street and west of Shepherd Street, these houses are primarily traditional residential forms, usually exhibiting some degree of sawn or turned wood embellishment. All of these houses are of frame construction with simple gable, triple-A or hipped roofs, and most are one story tall and one or two rooms deep in square, rectangular, T- or L-shapes. Some of these traditional basic house types are quite austere, as exemplified by the one-story, one-room-deep house at 717 Shepherd Street with plain porch posts, match stick railing, and no applied decoration. At the minimum, however, most of these houses have decorative porch elements, usually the standard millwork of turned porch posts with sawn spandrels, often augmented with decorative front gables. The house at 715 Shepherd Street, with lacy bargeboard outlining its front gable, and the houses at 722 and 807 Shepherd Street, exhibiting front gable sheathing of scalloped boards and decorative shingles, respectively, are good examples of this sort of treatment.

Typical of turn-of-the-century domestic architecture generally, several of the Morehead Hill Historic District's traditional house types incorporate some classically derived features. Most frequently these are Tuscan porch columns or box posts and plain frieze boards. Sometimes these relatively simple designs combine classicizing elements with more characteristically Victorian decoration such as bargeboard, as seen in the house at 809 Jackson Street. More often, however, tapered box porch posts stand as the dominant feature of a house also characterized by box cornices with returns and an absence of applied ornament.

Several of the late Victorian houses in the Morehead Hill Historic District are more exuberant vernacular embodiments of the Queen Anne style, often transitional due to the incorporation of neoclassical elements. One of the most interesting is the one-and-one-half story house at 902 Shepherd Street, which has a clipped gable roof and a two-tiered porch at the entrance bay with turned elements at the upper level and tapered box posts at the first. The one-story T-shaped frame house at 618 Arnette Avenue combines Tuscan columns with clipped corners topped by drop pendant brackets, and decorative windows and sheathing in the attic gables. Across the street, expression of the Queen Anne style is stronger in the Neal House at 617 Arnette Avenue due to its larger and more complex one-and-one-half-story form with a cross gable roof, recessed porch and integration of dentiled courses and a Palladian window. At 914 Shepherd Street, the McGary House more fully embodies the Queen Anne style with its large irregular one-story form, multiple roofline, decorative shingles, and pointed arched surrounds embellished with scalloped molding and embossed keystones.

Several two-story houses in the Morehead Hill Historic District also embody the simplified Queen Anne and transitional Neo-Colonial Revival style. The Lewter House at 810 Vickers Avenue and the Berry House at 713 Parker Street each has a front wing ending in a two-story, three-sided bay and a spare application of decoration. Also at 709 Parker Street, the Cheek House has an entrance surround of fanlight and sidelights typical of Colonial and Federal architecture, contrasting to a distinctly Victorian interior with unusual scalloped wainscoting and heavily molded surrounds. The Morehead Hill Historic District's most robust combination of classical and Queen Anne motifs appears in the Whitaker House at 614 Shepherd Street. Here, the two-story hip-roofed form with gable-roofed wings ending in three-sided bays is fronted by a trabeated entrance and a wraparound porch with Ionic columns and gabled entrance bay. Handsome but less exuberant versions of this transitional mode are found in the almost identical Tom Shepherd and John Shepherd houses at 903 W. Proctor Street and 1014 Shepherd Street, respectively. These two Neo-Colonial houses have more regular, although still asymmetrical, configurations, tapered posts on brick plinths at simple wraparound porches, and no applied ornamentation. Smaller in scale, the Cobb House at 814 Vickers Avenue, the very similar houses at 616 and 618 Shepherd Street, and the house at 612 Arnette Avenue are simpler Neo-Colonial style houses with two-bay main facades, T-shapes and simple pedimented cross gable roofs. All four houses are fairly plain, with the exception of the small ornamental bracing and lacy bargeboard in the front gables of the Cobb House and 612 Arnette Avenue, respectively.

The 1910s witnessed a surge in construction in the Morehead Hill Historic District, much of it yielding quite large and fashionable houses built on spacious lots for some of the city's leading businessmen. By this time, the popularity of the ornamental Victorian styles was waning rapidly and the Colonial Revival style was becoming firmly established in the district and several other fashionable Durham neighborhoods. Built around 1913, the two-story Wynne House at 720 Vickers Avenue is a good example of an early popular rendition of the style. It retains the tall hipped roof and offset side gabled wing reminiscent of the Shepherd houses, but is characterized by the symmetrical handling of the facades and the Palladian window in the front attic dormer.

The largest of the Morehead Hill Historic District's early Colonial Revival style houses occupied entire blocks bordering Vickers Avenue when they were built in the early 1910s. The two-story frame Bryant House at 707 Morehead Avenue is typical of the early phase of the style in its shallow three-sided bays on the side elevations and relatively long and low proportions augmented by a long one-story wraparound porch and low hipped roof with deeply overhanging eaves. The projecting pedimented bay at the middle of the main facade and the paired Ionic porch columns complement an interior richly appointed with neoclassical elements that include Ionic columns flanking the wide primary staircase. The architect of the carefully preserved house remains unknown. One block south, the brick-veneered Foushee House designed by architect Samuel Linton Leary exhibits the same overall form, proportions and roofline as the Bryant House, but has much bolder porch supports of large brick piers with heavy corbelled molding at the top; unfortunately, many of its primary interior features, particularly an elegant staircase similar to that of the Bryant House, were removed after the house was converted to institutional use in the 1960s.

Many of the Morehead Hill Historic District's Colonial Revival style houses reflect the evolution of the style nationwide in their more academic treatments. As early as the mid-1910s, the district was distinguished with two Colonial Revival style houses characterized by stricter emulation of the features of the Georgian and Federal styles. The 1914 Lipscomb House at 911 S. Duke Street has a two-story, self-contained, gable-roofed main block flanked by identical porches supported by Tuscan columns. The focal point of the design is its beautiful Georgian style entrance porch with Ionic pilasters and columns supporting a segmented pediment. Also featuring flanking Tuscan porches, the brick-veneered Cobb-Toms House at 914 Vickers Avenue, designed by Charlotte architect C.C. Hook, is more thoroughly Georgian in flavor due to its heavier blocky form. Again, the highlight of the main facade is the entrance bay with an elegant round-arched doorway containing a leaded fanlight, outlined with classical moldings, and enframed by Corinthian columns supporting an entablature. A very wide central hall with entablatures above the doors, ceiling medallions, and heavy crown molding throughout embellish the spacious interior. Lawns that look like golf greens surround the Cobb-Toms House and are defined at the sidewalk by a carefully pruned boxwood hedge above a stone retaining wall.

Over the next decade, several other classically derived period revival style houses exhibiting a broad sampling of neoclassical vocabulary in a variety of imaginative compositions were built throughout the Morehead Hill Historic District. Among the most striking of these is the late 1910s Baldwin House at 906 Vickers Avenue. Its red tile roof lends a Mediterranean flair that complements the classical modillion cornice, lunettes above the first-floor windows, and the Doric columns and pilasters supporting the entablature at the entrance. (The house recently [1984] was heavily damaged by fire and it has not yet been determined if it can be restored.) Next door at 908 Vickers Avenue, an elaborate entrance portico in the Doric order, complete with triglyphs, metopes and denticulated cornice, dominates the main facade of the brown tapestry brick-veneered Milburn House, built in the early 1920s. Less than a block away, the mid-1920s two-and-one-half-story Johnson House, possibly by Durham architect George Watts Carr, exhibits a segmental arched portico in the Ionic order sheltering an entrance with fanlight and sidelights.

In several of the Morehead Hill Historic District's houses dating from the mid-1920s and later, extensive and precise detailing of interiors often parallels an increasingly academic approach to the exterior treatment. The 1931 Federal Revival style Fuller House at 702 W. Cobb Street with its elegant Adamesque interior embodies this trend. The 1952 Sweaney House, the only post-1930s Colonial Revival style house in the district, is a near replica of the St. George Tucker House in Williamsburg, Virginia. Pairs of French doors leading to a full-facade veranda with paired slender box posts lend a southern accent to the two-and-one-half-story Carr-Carver House at 909 S. Duke Street. The Victor Bryant, Jr., House at 1002 Vickers Avenue also has pairs of French doors on the main facade, but here they open out to patios flanking a gabled entrance porch on delicate Tuscan columns.

Three other nationally popular styles appear in the Morehead Hill Historic District, each represented by a single notable house. Greystone is the last remaining Chateauesque style dwelling in Durham and one of the few such houses remaining in North Carolina. Designed by C.C. Hook and built in 1911 by Durham contractor Norman Underwood, Greystone is characterized by the combination of the irregular form and multiple roofline with neoclassical details typical of sixteenth-century French chateaux. Piers of cut stone blocks, a denticulated cornice, and a balustrade highlight the dramatic porch that extends beyond each end of the main facade. The elegant interior by designers Irving and Casson of Boston is lavishly appointed with beautifully crafted neoclassical elements that range from denticulated cornices to plaster medallions and moldings ornamenting ceilings to Doric pilasters enframing doorways. The second of this notable trio is the Spanish Colonial Revival style John Sprunt Hill House, built in 1910. It is set back from the street on a gentle rise and surrounded by an extensive yard of lawns and hardwoods that covers the entire block. Designed by the Boston architectural firm of Kendall and Taylor, the impeccably preserved John Sprunt Hill House makes a dramatic impression with its white stuccoed walls, red tiled hipped roof with a deep overhang, and ornate Spanish baroque stone ornament applied to curvilinear parapets at the porch and attic dormer. Enormous carved marble and wood fireplaces, sheathing of oak panelling and stamped leather, and rich classical moldings decorate the interior, also by Irving and Casson. Across the street, the two-and-one-half story Tudor Revival style Budd House is another architectural focal point of the district. A variety of roof lines, elevations of brick and applied half-timbering, casement windows, and Tudor arches with stone surrounds characterize the exterior.

In the Morehead Hill Historic District there are relatively few Foursquares and Bungalows, two house types that appear in considerable numbers throughout many other early twentieth century neighborhoods in Durham. Some of the Foursquares are quite plain and modestly-sized, as exemplified by the Byrd, McCullers, and W.E. Whitaker houses built around 1910 side by side in the 700 block of Shepherd Street. With two-bay facades and gabled attic dormers above the entrance bays, these houses probably comprised one of the speculative ventures that produced many of the houses in the north end of the district. Contractor Norman Underwood built two larger and more distinctive Foursquares with hipped and clipped gable attic dormers at 802 and 804 Vickers Avenue for speculative sale. A couple of the Foursquares, such as the house at 1004 Shepherd Street with its Tuscan porch columns and Palladian combination window/vents in the attic dormer, are distinctly Colonial Revival in flavor. The large Kiker-Hobgood House at 710 Morehead Avenue is the most distinctive Foursquare in the Morehead Hill Historic District. Here, deep eaves, panelled box porch posts, and the modillions and carved brackets at the base of the robust gabled attic dormer on the main facade all reflect the same sort of Craftsman influences that appear in many Bungalows.

The Bungalows in the Morehead Hill Historic District display the same sort of variety in size and detailing as the Foursquares. Two almost identical houses, the Russell-Webb House at 811 Vickers Avenue and the Christian House at 704 Shepherd Street, are very similar to the Foursquare Kiker-Hobgood House in their form, roofline, and sheathing, but bear a much closer affinity to the Bungalow due to their full-facade gable-front porches with simple triangle brackets, exposed rafter ends, and supports of very large tapered box posts on brick plinths. Several of the more typical one-and-one-half story gable-roofed Bungalows with full-facade engaged or attached shed or gable-front porches appear throughout the north end and along the west edge of the district. The Minor House at 813 Vickers Avenue, with brick veneer and a shed-roofed dormer across most of the front, is a notably large example of this type. The very few period cottages in the Morehead Hill Historic District, such as the small one-story house at 904 Shepherd Street with a clipped gable roof and bracketed eyebrow entrance hood, are more closely affiliated with the Bungalow than with specific period revival styles.

In general, alterations throughout the Morehead Hill Historic District have been minimal. Only a few houses, including the Foushee House and the 1896 Houlton House at 806 Vickers Avenue, have been substantially remodelled. Elsewhere, a few houses have been covered with replacement siding and several porches, most of them in the northwest end of the district, have been outfitted with new posts or have been enclosed. There has been a fair amount of deterioration in the northern and western reaches of the district in recent years, but much of it has been corrected since 1980 with sympathetic rehabilitations. The largest and most fashionable houses, in Morehead Hill proper, are notable for their careful preservation.

The structure, of course, is closely related to the surrounding environment. Archaeological remains, such as trash pits, wells, and structural remains, which may be present, can provide information valuable to the understanding and interpretation of the structure. Information concerning use patterns, social standing and mobility, as well as structural details are often only evident in the archaeological record. Therefore, archaeological remains may well be an important component of the significance of the structure. At this time no investigation has been done to discover these remains, but it is probable that they exist, and this should be considered in any development of the property.


The Morehead Hill Historic District is a complex and varied collection of housing important both for its architecture and for the unique way in which it developed as one of Durham's first suburbs. Its initial development was strongly affected by early landowners, the Proctors and William Gaston Vickers. The Proctor heirs' disposition of their undeveloped land at the north end of the district was a classic reaction to the new trolley line, evident today in the array of popular house types by Durham's growing middle class. By contrast, elsewhere in the district William Gaston Vickers sold parcels of his farm for residential development over a period of five decades, beginning in the 1870s. Among his first buyers were two of Durham's most influential businessmen, banker Eugene Morehead, after whom the neighborhood is named, and industrialist George W. Watts. They purchased several tracts, established the area's exclusive reputation with their adjoining estates, and helped to induce numerous family members and business associates to build their houses nearby. Often construction necessitated removal of an older sound but no longer stylish house to another lot in the vicinity, a common practice unique in its frequency to the Morehead Hill Historic District.

The Morehead Hill Historic District is among Durham's most notable areas due to its pattern of development that yielded a significant concentration of distinctive architecture. Although the entire Morehead Hill Historic District today is considered the major portion of the Morehead Hill neighborhood, only the area south of Yancey Street and east of Shepherd Street has been called Morehead Hill from the time of its initial development around 1880. The Morehead Hill Historic District's northern reaches originally were considered part of the neighborhood of West End. All of the district, except Arnette Avenue and the 600 and 700 blocks of Shepherd Street, were considered part of Morehead Hill by the 1910s when the neighborhood had become the most fashionable in Durham. West End and Morehead Hill both emerged from farmland, but their evolution followed different patterns, evident today in the district's wide variety of lot sizes and architectural styles. Wealthy businessmen desiring fashionable homes, the steady growth of a middle class, real estate speculation, and the advent of an efficient public transportation system, all indicative of Durham's booming industrial-based economy, are important aspects of the history of the Morehead Hill District.

During the 1870s, when Durham was transformed from a regional market center with a population of 200 to a hub of North Carolina's tobacco industry with 2,000 residents, the district remained farmland. Until at least the mid-1870s, Sterling Proctor owned all of the land in the district north of Parker Street;[1] William Gaston Vickers owned the land east of Vickers Avenue and may already have acquired tracts to the west, south of Parker Street, which he certainly owned by the mid-1890s.[2] It is not certain how much, if any, of the two farms were under cultivation; a good deal of the Vickers property was woodland called "Vickers Woods" into the 1900s.[3] Little is known of Proctor, who owned land throughout Durham and its environs. He lived on either his property in the district or an adjacent site; there is no record of his house. When he died some time between 1877 and 1881, he left his land in southwest Durham to his four sons and one of his six daughters, Ella Proctor Vickers, who inherited the acreage at the north end of the district. In contrast, Vickers maintained a high profile that is remembered to this day. In addition to teaching school in Durham for more than thirty years, serving as the first superintendent for the Durham County school system, and actively investing in real estate, he helped raise his family of more than twenty children.[5]

It was during the 1870s that Durham's first fashionable neighborhoods of large and decorative houses emerged. Just beyond the town's business and industrial district, the West End neighborhood was focused on W. Chapel Hill Street where the area's finest houses were built by such business and civic leaders as W.T. Blackwell, Benjamin N. Duke, and other tobacconists, many associated with the business interests of the Dukes. As Durham continued to prosper into the late 1870s, the demand for prime residential building lots increased.

Vickers' land bordered by Lee Street (now S. Duke St.), south of West End and overlooking pastures and industrial and residential areas to the east, attracted the attention of some ambitious newcomers. In 1879, Vickers sold the tract bounded by the town's west corporation line and Lee, Proctor and Morehead streets to George W. Watts and Eugene Morehead, affluent businessmen who had moved to Durham the previous year.[6] Watts was a partner in the newly incorporated W. Duke Sons & Co. and Morehead had established Durham's first bank, the Morehead Banking Company, within six months of his arrival.[7]

Prior to 1881, Morehead and Watts built similar Queen Anne style houses for themselves side by side, set far back from Lee Street.[8] The area soon became known as Morehead Hill for Morehead's house which was at the highest elevation at this corner of town. Watts had his house moved in the late 1890s to the east side of Lee Street (where it served as Calvert School and its successor, Durham Academy, from 1937 to 1968 when it was razed to provide room for an apartment tower). In its place, he had Durham contractor C.H. Norton build the Chateauesque style Heywood Hall, a brick and stone mansion complete with turrets and several panels of carved terra cotta.[9] Morehead died prior to 1895, and by 1913 his son, J.L. Morehead, had replaced the c.1880 house with a large early Colonial Revival style dwelling named Blandwood.[10] Moving or dismantling houses for redevelopment of property was to remain an important element in the district's evolution through the 1920s. While this practice was not uncommon in Durham during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, its frequency in Morehead Hill became a unique feature of its development. Blandwood and Heywood Hall were demolished in the early 1960s by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. (The company's Georgian Revival style building now on the site is incompatible with the surrounding residential architecture and precludes the inclusion of the tract in the Morehead Hill District.)

Due to the distinction of its initial development and its removal from the hustle and bustle of downtown Durham, Morehead Hill quickly acquired an air of exclusivity that helped attract other prominent businessmen to the area. Undoubtedly it was their recognition of the area's appeal that had prompted Morehead and Watts to purchase two adjacent tracts on the north side of Morehead Avenue in 1880, enabling them to exert some control over the development of their neighborhood while engaging in real estate speculation.[11] They divided this land into three building lots which they sold to other successful Durhamites who built large Queen Anne style houses on them by 1891.[12] In the meantime, Morehead also purchased most of the remaining land in that block.[13] Morehead and Watts' initial real estate transaction in Morehead Hill set the primary pattern for the development of the south end of the district well into the 1920s. Sizable tracts continued to be accumulated by individuals who built their own distinctive houses on them and later deeded portions of their property, usually to business associates or relatives, for further development with fashionable dwellings.

The next major tract to be developed in the Morehead Hill District is immediately south of Watts and Morehead's house lots. In 1884 Vickers sold 2.25 acres in the block bounded by W. Proctor Street on the north and Lee Street on the east to Rudolph G. Lea, a tobacconist from Alamance County. Lea, who recently had established a warehouse on Watkins Street at the north edge of downtown Durham, built his large two-story frame house on the side of his property close to Proctor Street.[15] In 1892, Lea sold his house to Clara and Lewis A. Carr of Baltimore, Maryland, who also bought additional land next to the house lot from Vickers.[16] Carr (no relation to Julian S. Carr) was secretary-treasurer and general manager of the Durham Fertilizer Company (now Virginia-Carolina Chemical Co.) and his wife was the sister of George W. Watts. Lea sold Watts the undeveloped lots on the east side of S. Duke Street that he had purchased from Vickers.[17]

Scattered development occurred in other portions of the district during the 1890s on a more modest scale than that initiated by Watts and Morehead. Vickers began selling his land in the 800 block of Vickers Avenue as building lots, and at least one of the buyers, plasterer Fred J. Houlton, built a house for himself, at 806 Vickers Avenue[18] Vickers gave the block bounded by Vickers Avenue, Morehead Avenue, Shepherd Street and Parker Street to his daughter Melissa and her husband, W.H. "Bud" Berry, a contractor who built their house at 914 Vickers Avenue.[19] Members of the Shepherd family acquired land at the southwest corner of the district, including both sides of the 900 block of W. Proctor Street where they built four houses prior to 1915.[20] There is no indication that any houses were constructed at the north end of the district on the land inherited by Ella Proctor Vickers.

Although there were many transfers of land in the district, development proceeded at a rather slow pace until 1902 when an efficient trolley system was established with a main line through West End along W. Chapel Hill Street. The steady rise in population that necessitated the system also was increasing the demand for residential building lots. With the accessibility to jobs and shopping afforded by the new system, the land at Durham's outskirts suddenly became much more attractive to the city's growing middle and upper-middle classes. Before long, West End and Morehead Hill were transformed into two of Durham's new streetcar suburbs.

Apparently the increased value of land near the trolley lines prompted the action that led to the development of the north end of the district that was then considered part of West End. When Ella Proctor Vickers died childless at less then twenty-one years of age in 1891, her husband, W.D. Vickers, was granted a life estate in all of her land, which by this time totalled 22.9 acres west of Vickers Avenue between W. Chapel Hill and Parker streets. In 1902, W.D. Vickers had the land divided into eleven lots and petitioned Durham County Superior Court for a fee simple deed for the two lots totalling one acre on W. Chapel Hill Street in lieu of the life interest in the total acreage. The court granted his request and appointed two commissioners to "subdivide the land into convenient lots with convenient streets...and to offer the same at public auction." Within a year all eighty-five building lots platted by the commissioners' surveyor were sold for a total of more than $20,000 which was distributed among Ella Proctor Vickers' dozens of heirs.[21] Several investors purchased five or more lots apiece, most of which they re-sold individually for private development prior to 1910.[22] At least one of the investors, J.B. Christian, retained some of his lots for family members.[23]

Concurrent with the sale of the Proctor land, William Gaston Vickers also was profiting from his holdings in the area. Unlike the other major landholders near the trolley lines, however, he put only some of his lots on the market, such as those at the west edge of the district, and proceeded to develop much of his land himself with rental houses instead of selling it all as building lots. Although his more than two dozen rental houses were all standard popular one-story house types, they were moderately sized and well built with corbelled chimney stacks and decorative millwork targeted for Durham's middle class, in comparison to the small and simple dwellings built by the block for factory workers. Vickers built most of these houses at the edges of Morehead Hill.[24] Many were destroyed around 1970 for the East-West Expressway which defines the northeast boundary of the district; his only rental house in the Morehead Hill Historic District is at 708 Parker Street.

The building of lavish houses in Morehead Hill resumed in 1910 when attorney, banker and philanthropist John Sprunt Hill began his opulent Spanish Colonial Revival style house on the property at 900 S. Duke Street, formerly owner by R.G. Lea and L.A. Carr. Hill had married Laura Valinda Watts, the only child of George W. Watts, in 1894. He followed in his father-in-law's footsteps as one of Durham's most astute businessmen of the first half of the twentieth century, including among his many achievements the founding of Home Savings Bank, the forerunner of Central Carolina Bank & Trust Co. After the Hills moved to Durham from New York City in 1903, they began looking for property on which to build a house.[25] After L.A. Carr, Mrs. Hill's uncle died in 1909, his children sold their interests in the house lot and adjoining land to the Hills.[26] The property was ideally situated, removed from the increasingly congested downtown and next door to Mrs. Hill's father, who encouraged their acquisition of the site. The new owners had Carr's house dismantled and the materials sold for construction of three houses on S. Mangum Street (no longer standing).[27] The Hills located their new house in the middle of the block, and instead of putting their outbuildings in the rear of the yard they placed them in a separate block to the south, which they soon developed as a private park of formal and informal gardens.

The John Sprunt Hill House (National Register) was the most impressive house to be built in Durham since the 1880s and as such symbolized the enduring, indeed steadily increasing, prosperity of the city's businesses. It appears that the Hills' new house also may have heightened the neighborhood's appeal. Morehead Hill had been considered to be exclusive since its initial development by Watts and Morehead, by now it became the most popular fashionable neighborhood in the city, supplanting Durham's first elite neighborhood closer to the downtown. In fact, among the laborers living to the west, it became known as "Swellton Heights."[29]

During the early 1910s, some of Durham's most prominent citizens followed the Hills' lead, most of them building on the choice large tracts along Vickers Avenue that the major landowners had wisely refrained from marketing earlier. As the Hill House was being completed, businessman James Edward Stagg began another mansion, the Chateauesque style Greystone (National Register) on the large parcel at the corner of Morehead and Vickers avenues that Eugene Morehead had purchased from William Gaston Vickers in the 1880s. Stagg was executive secretary to Benjamin N. Duke, vice president and general manager of the Durham & Southern Railway, and a director of the Erwin Cotton Mills, the Pearl Cotton Mills and the Fidelity Bank.

Vickers also had retained several acres along Vickers Avenue. According to Vickers' son, the educator and real estate speculator had anticipated that this property on high, level ground south of Morehead Avenue would increase in value as Durham grew.[30] About the same time that Greystone was being built, attorney Victor S. Bryant bought the block bounded by Morehead Avenue, Vickers Avenue, W. Proctor and Shepherd streets where he built his spacious early Colonial Revival style house facing Morehead Avenue, diagonally across the street from Greystone. In the back yard he built a separate one-story house for his servants and on W. Proctor Street he constructed a barn for his ponies and livestock.[31] The block immediately south of Bryant's property was purchased by Howard A. Foushee, another prominent attorney.[32] Although the topography of this parcel was the least desirable of those sold by Vickers in the 1910s, Foushee converted it to an asset by siting his enormous brick-veneered house at the level northeast corner and grading the uneven, gullied southeast corner as the terraces for which he named his house.

Throughout the 1910s and into the 1920s, construction of stylish houses continued in Morehead Hill. When the supply of the neighborhood's large building lots no longer met the demand, Melissa Vickers Berry and her husband demonstrated the same sort of business acumen as her father. In the mid-1910s they moved their house to the opposite corner of their property on Parker Street so that they could sell the more desirable and valuable lot at the northwest corner of Vickers and Morehead avenues, purchased by tobacco industry executive James S. Cobb.[33] Cobb's elegant Colonial Revival style house was complemented by houses in the same mode built for department store owner R.L. Baldwin and architect Yancey Milburn in the late 1910s and early 1920s.[34] Mrs. Berry gave the large lot at the corner of Morehead Avenue and Shepherd Street to her daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. William B. Kiker, who built the Kiker-Hobgood House there.[35] At the east edge of the district, George W. Watts gave one of the lots across from the Hill House that he had purchased from R.G. Lea in 1892 to his niece, Ethel Carr Lipscomb, a daughter of L.A. Carr, and her husband, John M. Lipscomb, in 1914 for "100 dollars and other good and valuable considerations."[36]

Over the next several years, other residents of Morehead Hill would deed parcels to family members. Another instance of house moving for redevelopment occurred in the district in the late 1910s when the widow of James Edward Stagg had the house at 901 Vickers Avenue just behind Greystone moved to 914 Shepherd Street so that she could build a bungalow next door for her daughter and her new husband, Mr. and Mrs. J.L. Hackney. In the 1920s Victor S. Bryant gave approximately one-half of his block to his son and namesake, who built his large house on the lot at 1002 Vickers Avenue. As late as circa 1950, Mrs. Howard A. Foushee gave her daughter and son-in-law, Dr. and Mrs. Hunter Sweaney, the large lot at 1009 Vickers Avenue that she and her husband had bought several years earlier; in 1952 the Sweaneys built their house, a near replica of a house in Williamsburg, Virginia, on the lot.[37]

An interesting aspect of the Morehead Hill Historic District is the network of family and business relationships of many of its residents, particularly their associations with the Dukes and their business empire. Since the 1870s, the west end of Durham was considered the territory of the Dukes, who built their factories and homes and otherwise invested in a great deal of real estate on this side of town. Only a few blocks separated Benjamin N. Duke's Queen Anne style mansion at the corner of W. Chapel Hill Street and S. Duke Street from his partner Watts' Heywood Hall. With the construction of Greystone, followed by the Cobb-Toms House, Morehead Hill became an enclave of Duke associates. Stagg was Benjamin N. Duke's executive secretary and served as a director of several companies controlled by the Dukes and Watts. He also was related to Duke as a grand nephew of Duke's father, Washington Duke; Stagg's wife, Mary Washington Lyon, was Washington Duke's granddaughter.[39] James S. Cobb was a vice president of The American Tobacco Co. trust and later of Liggett & Myers Tobacco Co.

The relationships among Morehead Hill's leading families were symbolized by their architecture as well as their purchase of property close to each other. For his new house on S. Duke Street, John Sprunt Hill selected the Boston architectural firm of Kendall and Taylor, which recently had completed the design for the new Watts Hospital donated by George W. Watts.[40] When Stagg bought his Morehead Hill property and Benjamin N. Duke decided to replace his late 1870s Queen Anne style mansion, shortly after they returned together from New York City to Durham, both men commissioned Charlotte, NC, architect C.C. Hook to design their new houses. Hook had been designing buildings with which the Dukes were associated since the late 1890s, including several at Trinity College; later he designed James B. Duke's house in Charlotte, NC. For Ben Duke and Stagg, his designs for the very similar Four Acres and Greystone are updated, more academic renditions of the same Chateauesque style Watts had selected for Heywood Hall.[41] When James S. Cobb decided to build his house across from Greystone, he, too, commissioned C.C. Hook.[42] The contractors for all three houses, as well as the Bryant House and Duke Memorial Methodist Church (a few blocks to the north), was Norman Underwood.

While architect designed houses were going up throughout Morehead Hill proper, the narrow lots platted from the Proctor land at the north end of the district were becoming densely developed with popular builders' houses. Considered part of West End early in the century, the area was populated primarily by merchants and artisans.[43] Long-time Durham resident William Coman, who grew up at 702 Shepherd Street, recalls that proximity to schools and jobs was a major attraction of the area. Most of the men walked to work, and those who did not took the trolley. Morehead School was a few blocks to the east and several neighborhood shops were located nearby on W. Chapel Hill Street. Also on W. Chapel Hill Street, at the corner of Shepherd Street, Temple Baptist Church, formerly the Second Baptist Church, was a forceful presence in the community, including in its congregation a great many of the residents of this end of the district.[44] (The church and its immediate surroundings are excluded from the district due to their orientation toward the greatly altered commercial area of W. Chapel Hill Street and the incompatible 1950s Colonial Revival style of the replacement church building.) ·

It is fitting that William Gaston Vickers' homeplace was the last block in the district to be platted as residential lots. After Vickers' death in the mid-1920s, his house and outbuildings were removed and the property was divided into six building lots, only two of which were built upon prior to 1940.[45] The construction of houses on the remaining four lots during the 1950s and 1960s reflects the enduring popularity of Morehead Hill in spite of the proliferation of newer fashionable suburbs.

As one of Durham's earliest suburbs, Morehead Hill gradually came to be considered part of the city proper as Durham grew outward with rings of suburbs. Nevertheless, many of the people who built Morehead Hill remained, and several were succeeded by their children. Deterioration typical of older inner city neighborhoods was minimal as late as the 1960s, and it was restricted to the district's densest, north end of smaller houses that had become unfashionable and likely to be sold as their long-time residents opted for more up-to-date housing. Since then, the entire district's quiet residential atmosphere has been affected by thoroughfare patterns and zoning, as well as continued deterioration at its fringes. The construction of the East-West Expressway through the northern end of the Morehead Hill neighborhood exerted the most severe impact upon the area. In the Morehead Hill Historic District itself, some of the larger houses along Vickers Avenue and S. Duke Street, now paired one-way thoroughfares, have been converted to office and institutional uses. In recent years, however, residents have formed a neighborhood association that is taking an active role in directing the future of the district. Due to the sensitivity of conversions, careful maintenance of key properties, and perseverance of many long-time residents, the Morehead Hill Historic District has retained something of the aura of elegance that characterized its heyday during the first five decades of this century. At its north end, the houses have regained their popularity and many are being restored. Today, the Morehead Hill Neighborhood Association is working with the City Department of Planning and Community Development and appointed citizen review boards to prepare a neighborhood plan that will identify goals and objectives for its growth, preservation, protection and enhancement.

Morehead Hill Historic District Boundary Increase

The Morehead Hill Historic District Boundary Increase adds approximately eight blocks on the west and south side of the existing roughly fourteen-block Morehead Hill Historic District (NR 1984) to the National Register. Composed primarily of houses built from ca.1905 to ca.1955, the boundary increase will bring the historic district to its logical boundaries. The expanded Morehead Hill Historic District, including the boundary increase, is bounded on the northeast by State Highway 147 (known as the Durham Expressway); on the north by a major commercial avenue, Chapel Hill Street; on the west by the rear property lines on the west side of Arnette Avenue; on the east by South Duke Street. On the south, the boundary meanders, centered on Wells Street. The north and east boundaries divide the neighborhood from the central business district. The west boundary abuts the neighborhood of West End that has smaller housing that includes a lot of rental property. Wells Street is the northern boundary of the Forest Hills neighborhood, a planned curvilinear subdivision platted in 1927 that contains stylish houses on large lots.

The Morehead Hill Historic District Boundary Increase contains ninety-six houses built between ca.1905 and ca.1955 that contribute to the district. There are eighteen noncontributing residential buildings, five of which predate 1956 and have lost their architectural integrity through alterations. The remaining noncontributing buildings were built after 1955. Twenty-two outbuildings, primarily garages and sheds, were built before 1956 and are contributing. Twenty-three outbuildings were built after 1955 or else have lost their integrity. Seventy-five percent of the total resources contribute to the architectural significance of the district.

During the Morehead Hill Historic District's initial construction phase from ca.1905 to 1920, frame one-story middle-class houses of simple Queen Anne style were constructed in the northwest blocks of the district — the 700 block of Arnette Avenue and the 800 blocks of Yancey and Parker streets. The two dominant house types of this phase are the one-story single-pile tri-gable house and the one-story double-pile pyramidal hip-roof cottage. Both house types were built as speculative housing as well as rental housing. A row of three pyramidal cottages stand at 807, 809 and 811 Parker Street, all built before 1913. Each has a tall hip roof with two interior chimneys and originally had a substantial front porch, but only 809 Parker Street retains its original porch. Smaller entrance porches have replaced the original full front porches on the other two houses. These houses were trimmed with decorative porch and gable sawnwork, but this has largely been removed over the years. At 809 Yancey Street stands an intact tri-gable house that retains its hipped porch with turned posts and decorative brackets. At the southwest corner of the district, in the 1000 block of Wells Street, are two one-story tri-gable houses and one two-story tri-gable house that formed an outlying settlement in the 1910s. The Bob Wells House at 1013 Wells Street, probably the oldest house in the district, is also the Morehead Hill Historic District's best-preserved tri-gable house, with its front door containing original Queen Anne colored glass and hipped porch with turned posts.

During the second construction phase in the 1920s and 1930s, several dozen frame and brick bungalows and Tudor Cottages were built throughout the district, primarily in the 800, 900, and 1000 blocks of Arnette Avenue and in the 1200 and 1300 blocks of Vickers Avenue. The finest collection of bungalows are a solid row of six located at 1202 to 1214 Vickers Avenue on land that was apparently platted into lots when William Gaston Vickers, whose farm occupied the 1100 block of Vickers Avenue, died about 1925. The bungalow at 1202 Vickers Avenue was apparently built for Claude T. Vickers; the bungalow at 1212 Vickers Avenue for Clyde L. Vickers, both sons or otherwise related to Gaston Vickers. These substantial frame bungalows have side-gable or front-gable roofs, large front porches, attic rooms, and characteristic Craftsman trim such as eave brackets, wood shingles, and brick and frame porch posts. Another handsome bungalow is the brick house with a clipped gable roof at 1015 Arnette Avenue. Behind the house is a matching brick garage with clipped gable roof.

Over a dozen picturesque Tudor Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival style houses were built in the Morehead Hill Historic District boundary increase area from the late 1920s to the mid-1940s, most probably for owner-occupants rather than as rentals. Three stand in a row at 1301, 1303, and 1307 Arnette Avenue, built from about 1930 to 1945. Number 1303 has stuccoed walls with half-timbering in the gable ends and a gabled porch with arched bays. Durham Daily Products salesman Lester G. Martin had the picturesque Spanish Colonial Revival style stucco house at 1000 Arnette Avenue built in the late 1920s. The one-story flat-roofed house is replete with terra cotta tile wall accents, tile roof hoods, arched openings, and a decorative front chimney.

The 1200 block of Arnette Avenue has two handsome Colonial Revival style houses. About 1928 Thomas C. Atwood, a partner in the architectural firm Atwood and Nash, constructed his own residence at 1212 Arnette Avenue. His partner Arthur C. Nash designed the two and one-half story house with wood shake walls, a slate gambrel roof, handsome pedimented dormer windows, and a full classical front porch. This is the only house that Nash designed in Durham.[46] Next door at 1208 Arnette Avenue stands a handsome two-story stone house of Georgian Revival style, apparently built for Charles C. Haynes about 1930.

The last historic building phase consists of approximately one dozen Minimal Traditional style houses built in the 1940s and early 1950s. These are small one-story, side-gable houses with modest classical trim.

The Ranch house appears in the Morehead Hill Historic District about 1954. Four historic examples of this house type exist in the district, at 1202 Arnette Avenue, 1108 Shepherd Street, and at 1019 and 1021 Wells Street. These early Ranch houses contribute to the Morehead Hill Historic District's architectural character. Two brick Ranch houses and one Split-Level house built in the late 1950s and early 1960s are noncontributing because they were built after the period of significance.

Two historic duplexes of two-story frame Craftsman style stand at 813-815 and 817-819 Arnette Avenue. Both were built about 1935, probably by the same landlord. They are an intact and early example of multifamily housing, and contribute to the Morehead Hill Historic District's architectural character. Several two-story duplexes and fourplexes have been built in the district in recent years and are noncontributing. These stand at 801, 804-806, and 808-810 Yancey Street and at 811 Arnette Avenue.

Morehead Hill Historic District Boundary Increase Significance

The Morehead Hill Historic District Boundary Increase, an approximately eight-block area extending along the west and south side of the Morehead Hill Historic District (NR 1984), expands the boundaries of the Morehead Hill Historic District to include the additional historic blocks of the neighborhood. The original nomination focused on the historic core containing large, stylish houses. The boundary increase expands the district to include the neighborhood's historic middle and working class housing. The ninety-six contributing houses were largely built from ca.1905 to ca.1955. The original Morehead Hill Historic District contains the fashionable estates and large houses built for Durham's business elite in the early twentieth century on large lots purchased from William Gaston Vickers — farmer, educator and developer. The most significant houses are attorney and banker John Sprunt Hill's 1910 Spanish Colonial Revival style mansion at 900 South Duke Street, designed by architect C.C. Hook, and the stone Chateauesque mansion called Greystone, also designed by Hook, and built in 1911 for businessman James Edward Stagg at 618 Morehead Street. Around these mansions are stylish Colonial Revival style houses built in the early twentieth century. On the north and west side of Morehead Hill is the West End, a distinct neighborhood of small rental and owner-occupied early-twentieth century cottages.

The first development phase of the Morehead Hill Historic District boundary increase, ca.1905 to ca.1920, consists of the construction of small working-class houses in the West End along Arnette Avenue and its intersecting streets on lots owned by W.G. Vickers and others. This part of the West End neighborhood became assimilated into Morehead Hill later in the twentieth century. In 1925, shortly after the death of William Gaston Vickers, his heirs subdivided his undeveloped property south of Parker Street, known as Vickers Woods. Craftsman Bungalows and Tudor Cottages were constructed on the lots for middle-class owner occupants in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Two of W.G. Vickers's children, Claude T. Vickers and Clyde L. Vickers, lived in Bungalows in the 1200 block of Vickers Avenue. During the 1940s and early 1950s Minimal Traditional style houses and Ranch houses were constructed on some of the remaining lots. The additional blocks of early and mid-twentieth century frame and brick houses complete the historic architectural resources of the Morehead Hill neighborhood.

The Morehead Hill Historic District Boundary Increase is eligible for the National Register for its planning and community development significance to the city of Durham. The district is also eligible for its local architectural significance. The period of significance begins ca.1905 with the oldest district building, and continues to 1955 when historic development of the neighborhood was completed. No further development occurred until ca.1970, after which only thirteen buildings (single-family and multi-family dwellings) were added through the mid-1990s. The historic buildings in the Morehead Hill Historic District generally retain their architectural integrity, including original porches, windows, and front entrances.

Historical Background: Development of Morehead Hill

The following summary of the history and architecture of the existing Morehead Hill Historic District is condensed from Claudia P. Roberts and Diane E. Lea's 1982 Durham Architectural and Historic Inventory and Claudia Roberts Brown's 1984 nomination.[47] The district contains 114 primary buildings bounded on the north by the Durham Expressway (NC 147), constructed in the 1960s, on the east by Willard Street, on the south by Lakewood Avenue and West Cobb Street, and on the west by Shepherd Street. The Morehead Hill Historic District contains two distinct types of houses: the large landmark residences of Durham's elite businessmen in the ten-block area east of Shepherd and south of Yancey streets, known as Morehead Hill, and the rental houses and small owner-occupied houses of merchants and tradesmen in the five block section at the north end of the district known as West End. The Morehead Hill neighborhood was named for the large Queen Anne style house built about 1880 for Eugene Morehead in the 800 block of South Duke Street, on the highest elevation in this corner of Durham. Morehead, who moved to Durham in 1878, established Durham's first bank, and became a member of Durham's original power elite that also included George W. Watts, Richard Wright, the Duke family, and Julian S. Carr. These men's mills, banks, electric companies, trolley system, and land development projects shaped the industrial and residential expansion of Durham in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.[48]

The first generation of tobacco industrialists built ornate Victorian houses next to their factories along the North Carolina railroad line in the 1870s and 1880s. For example, Washington Duke, founder of W. Duke and Sons Tobacco Company, built a Queen Anne style mansion called "Fairview" across from his factory on West Main Street in the late 1800s. Gradually, however, the industrialists followed the lead of Eugene Morehead and began to build their new houses at a remove, less than one-half mile away from the factories and mill houses, along West Chapel Hill Street and South Duke Street in the new section known as Morehead Hill. Morehead purchased the land from William Gaston Vickers, a farmer, schoolteacher, and the first superintendent of the Durham County school system. Vickers owned most of the land that became the Morehead Hill neighborhood, and gradually sold off small parcels of his land from the late 1870s to the 1920s. Vickers's farmhouse occupied the entire 1100 block of Vickers Street until his death in the mid-1920s. Morehead Hill overlooked the factories along the railroad tracks. The closest mill complex was the Duke family's American Tobacco Company located three blocks east, surrounded by hundreds of factory houses built for its laborers. The American Tobacco plant still stands, but the mill houses have been demolished.

Durham's economic boom allowed these industrialists and professionals to replace their initial Queen Anne style dwellings with up-to-date mansions in the early twentieth century. Most were constructed on sizeable tracts of land, sometimes on whole blocks. Next to Morehead's house on South Duke Street, George W. Watts, a partner in W. Duke & Sons Company, moved his 1880s Queen Anne style house away about 1899 and replaced it with a Chateauesque style mansion called Heywood Hall. In 1910 John Sprunt Hill, an attorney and banker who married George W. Watts's daughter, built an opulent Spanish Colonial Revival style mansion on the entire block of 900 South Duke Street, one block south of the Morehead and Watts mansions. The white stuccoed house with a red tile roof, designed by Charlotte architect C.C. Hook, was the most impressive house built in Durham since the 1880s and made Morehead Hill the most fashionable neighborhood in Durham. The entire block south of the mansion, between South Duke and Hill streets, was laid out as formal gardens for the mansion. In 1911 Hook designed a Chateauesque stone and brick mansion called Greystone at 618 Morehead Street for businessman James Edward Stagg. At about the same time, Hook also designed a Chateauesque mansion named Four Acres for Benjamin N. Duke, a son of Washington Duke, at the corner of South Duke and West Chapel Hill streets. About 1912 attorney Howard A. Foushee built a stylish brick Craftsman-style mansion at 809 West Proctor Street. It was designed by Samuel Linton Leary, architect of the main building at Trinity College (Duke University), in Durham. Attorney Victor S. Bryant had a large frame house of Colonial Revival style built about 1912 that occupies one-half of the block at 707 Morehead Avenue. Eugene Morehead's son J.L. Morehead demolished his father's house about 1913 and erected a large Colonial Revival style house named Blandwood in its place. Only four of these mansions have survived: the John Sprunt Hill House, Greystone, the Howard Foushee House, and the Victor S. Bryant House.

Around these mansions on their spacious grounds, other wealthy Durham citizens built large houses on smaller lots in the early 1900s. Beginning in the mid-1910s the prevailing style became the Colonial Revival style, executed in brick, of two-story form, with lavishly finished classical entrances. Prominent examples are the Cobb-Toms House, 914 Vickers Avenue, built in 1911; the Lipscomb House, 911 South Duke Street, built in 1914; and the Victor Bryant Jr. House, 1002 Vickers Avenue, built about 1928. A notable exception to the Colonial Revival style is the Budd House at 903 South Duke Street, a 1920s picturesque large Tudor Revival style house designed by Raleigh architect Murray Nelson.

The West End neighborhood began to develop about 1902 when the Durham trolley system built a main line along West Chapel Hill Street at the north end of the Morehead Hill neighborhood. Demand for housing for the city's growing middle class resulted in the subdivision of the lots along Shepherd, Jackson, and Arnette streets and the construction of small one- and two-story houses on sixty-foot-wide lots. The major developers of the West End section north of Parker Street were W.D. Vickers and William Gaston Vickers. W.G. Vickers constructed approximately one hundred rental houses along Yancey, Parker, Proctor, Wells, Shepherd, Jackson, and Arnette streets in West End from about 1900 to 1910. These moderate-sized middle-class dwellings — including the tri-gable house, the gable-and-wing house, the pyramidal cottage, the bungalow, and the foursquare — were more desirable than the smaller and less well-appointed laborers' houses built around tobacco factories.[49] (Many of Vickers's rental houses were demolished about 1970 when the Durham Expressway was constructed.) The gable-and-wing type house with a front bay window and sawn-work decoration at 907 Jackson Street in the existing district is believed to be one of W.G. Vickers's houses.

Development of the Morehead Hill Historic District Boundary Increase

The ninety-six contributing houses in the boundary increase were built in three principal phases that correspond to the phases of development of the William Gaston Vickers property. From about 1902 to about 1920, one-story middle-class frame houses of simple Queen Anne style were built in the West End area of the district in the 700 block of Arnette Avenue and the 800 blocks of Yancey and Parker streets. Some of these houses were probably built for sale or rental by Vickers himself, such as 809, 811, and 812 Yancey Street and 806, 808, 807, 809, and 811 Parker Street. These are pyramidal cottages and tri-gable houses that are present on the 1913 Sanborn map. The early owners and tenants of these houses worked in Durham's tobacco factories, building trades, and retail stores.

The major owner of the land south of Parker Street, which includes almost all of the boundary increase, was William Gaston Vickers. The architectural history of this section of the boundary increase begins in 1925 with the death of Vickers and the immediate subdivision of much of his remaining land, resulting in the second phase of development of the boundary increase.[50] The subdivisions are documented on three William Gaston Vickers Estate subdivision plats: Book 6, pages 12, 13, and 77, that include the property from Cobb Street on the north to Arnette on the west, Wells Street on the south, and South Duke Street on the east. The lots were marketed by the Durham Auction Company. This development represents the majority of the boundary increase area. Because of the Great Depression, many of the Vickers Estate lots were not built upon until many years later. Plat Book 6, page 13 shows the 1925 subdivision of the 900 block of Arnette Street, both east and west sides. The houses on this block are bungalows and Tudor Cottages built soon afterward. The 1925-1926 subdivision plats in Book 6, pages 12 and 77 show portions of blocks throughout the Morehead Hill Historic District and the boundary increase that were owned by the William Gaston Vickers estate and were subdivided into lots. The Vickers homeplace block bounded by Proctor, Vickers, Hill, and Cobb streets was subdivided in 1926, but only two houses were built in the block before 1940. This block is located in the existing Morehead Hill Historic District.[51]

Middle class professionals purchased the Vickers estate lots from the Durham Auction Company and built Bungalows, Tudor Cottages, and Colonial Revival style houses in the second half of the 1920s and early 1930s in the 900 to 1300 blocks of Arnette Avenue and in the 1200 and 1300 blocks of Vickers Avenue. The more affluent character of the 1200 and 1300 blocks of Arnette Avenue reflect the influence of the prestigious 1927 Forest Hills subdivision, whose northern boundary adjoins the Morehead Hill neighborhood at Wells Street, at the south end of the 1300 block of Arnette Avenue. These two blocks of Arnette contain larger custom-built Georgian Revival style two-story houses built for upper middle-class professionals. Thomas C. Atwood's large Colonial Revival style house at 1212 Arnette Avenue was designed by his partner, Arthur C. Nash, about 1928. Atwood, a nationally respected engineer, was engaged during the 1920s in supervising construction of the south campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The south campus buildings, including Wilson Library, had been designed by the New York City architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White. Arthur C. Nash was the supervising architect. Atwood's residence on his Morehead Hill lot was the only house that Nash designed in Durham. Atwood's wife called the handsome two-and-one-half story Colonial Revival residence her "Boston house." Rather than being faced with the red brick that was traditional for southern Colonial houses, the Atwood House has wood shingle walls, and its slate gambrel roof and alternating pedimented and segmental arched dormer windows are high-style features. The deep, full-facade classical porch, however, is suggestive of southern Colonial architecture. Atwood lived here until his death in the early 1940s.[52]

Businessmen and professionals built other substantial and stylish houses in the 1200 and 1300 blocks of Arnette Avenue. Charles Haynes's two-story stone Georgian Revival style house at 1208 Arnette Avenue was built about 1932. Haynes was a foreman with American Suppliers Inc., a tobacco company. The brick Tudor Cottage at 1214 Arnette Avenue was built about 1940 for Kennie U. Bryan, vice-president of a building and loan company. The stylish Craftsman house at 1206 Arnette Avenue was the residence in the 1930s of Robert Sykes, an attorney, judge, and bank president. The large two-story Colonial Revival style house at 1310 Arnette Avenue was built about 1945, apparently for Claude Jones, the city attorney.

The 900 to 1100 blocks of Arnette Avenue were built up with smaller middle-class bungalows and Tudor cottages. Among the early owners were a tilesetter, a manager of a shoe store, a bank teller, several bookkeepers, a number of salesmen, a police captain, and a building contractor. The finest row of bungalows in the Morehead Hill Historic District boundary increase are a row of six at 1202 to 1214 Vickers Avenue, all built in the mid-1920s on land newly subdivided from the estate of William Gaston Vickers. Two of his twenty children lived in these bungalows. Claude T. Vickers, at 1202 Vickers Avenue, was a collector, probably for the Vickers rental houses, and later in life became a life insurance agent. Clyde L. Vickers, at 1212 Vickers Avenue, was an owner of Smith and Vickers Auto Service. Other owners in the bungalow row were T.O. Sorrell, with the Durham Insurance Service Company, and Oscar Pleasants, a clerk.

The final phase of development in the Morehead Hill Historic District boundary increase was the construction of Minimal Traditional and Ranch style houses on the remaining unsold lots of the Vickers estate property in the 1940s and early 1950s. By about 1955, the district boundaries were largely built out. About 1940 small Minimal Traditional style frame houses were built at 1002 and 1004 Wells Street, apparently as rental houses. About 1945 James P. Davis, owner of Davis Baking Company on Chapel Hill Road, apparently built the brick Minimal Traditional style house at 802 Parker Street. He may have torn down the early twentieth century house, perhaps built by William Gaston Vickers as a rental house, that stood on the lot. Dr. Carl Patterson, a physician at McPherson Eye Hospital, apparently built the frame Minimal Traditional style house at 1301 Vickers Avenue for himself about 1950. Minimal Traditional style houses were built up to ca.1955, as seen at 904 and 1109 Arnette Avenue. A few modest-sized Ranch houses were built from ca.1953 to 1955. Insurance agent Eric Tilley Jr. is the earliest known owner of the brick Ranch house at 1202 Arnette Avenue, built ca.1954. Ranch houses were built at 1108 Shepherd Street and 1019 and 1021 Wells Street about 1954. These completed the historical development of the district.

During the 1960s, due to changing demographics, transportation patterns, and the development of popular new suburbs further away from the central business district, the Morehead Hill neighborhood declined in prestige and underwent much change. In 1957 the city of Durham built the Morehead Elementary School on the block between Arnette, Cobb, Shepherd, and Lakewood streets. The modern, one-story brick school is still in use. In the early 1960s, the Heywood Hall and Blandwood mansions on South Duke Street were demolished and a large Georgian Revival style brick office building was constructed on the block by Blue Cross Blue Shield Insurance Company. At the same time Benjamin Duke's mansion, "Four Acres," at the corner of Duke and West Chapel Hill streets, was demolished for the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company office tower. At John Sprunt Hill's death in 1961 his mansion was left to a foundation for use as a meeting place. The Durham Woman's Club now has their headquarters here.[53] The John Sprunt Hill gardens were donated to the city of Durham for use as a city park, and now stand in their natural state. The Foushee House at 809 West Proctor Street was acquired by the Durham Arts Council in the early 1960s and now serves as the Camelot Academy, a private school.[54] Greystone is owned by the Brame family and used for special events such as weddings. The Victor Bryant Sr. House is a private rehabilitation clinic.[55]

The most severe impact came in 1970 when the Durham Expressway was constructed through the northeast corner of the neighborhood, destroying several blocks of houses. In order to route traffic to the expressway, South Duke Street and Vickers Avenue became one-way thoroughfares. The Morehead Hill Neighborhood Association, founded about 1980, has worked diligently to stabilize and rejuvenate the neighborhood. Although West End is still an identifiable neighborhood, its eastern portion is included in the neighborhood association's boundaries, and the entire area is now known as Morehead Hill. In the year 2000, the entire neighborhood was designated as a local historic district. The addition of the boundary increase area to the existing Morehead Hill National Register Historic District will further recognize the historic significance of these additional blocks of the Morehead Hill neighborhood.

Durham's Streetcar Suburbs

The northern half of the Morehead Hill Historic District and the boundary increase are one of the Durham's earliest streetcar suburbs. The first streetcar suburb in Durham was Trinity Heights, created in 1890 by Durham industrialists Richard H. Wright and Julian S. Carr. They formed the Durham Consolidated Land and Improvement Company, which bought the land north of Trinity College (later Duke University) and platted the subdivision of Trinity Heights. The area saw little construction until Wright's 1902 construction of the Durham Traction Company established an east-west trolley line along Main Street that linked the suburb to downtown Durham. Sales and home building in Trinity Heights became brisk after the trolley system began running. Brodie Duke, older brother of James B. Duke of American Tobacco Company fame, subdivided the much larger subdivision of Trinity Park, on the east side of Trinity Heights, in 1901 as the trolley line was under construction.[56] The new trolley line also resulted in the subdivision of William G. Vickers's and W.D. Vickers's Morehead Hill/West End property whose north edge adjoined the trolley line. Other streetcar suburbs are the Watts-Hillandale Historic District (NR 2000) and the Lakewood Park Historic District (National Register-2003). By about 1915 Morehead Hill had become the most fashionable neighborhood in Durham.

The suburb of Morehead Hill differs fundamentally from Trinity Heights, Trinity Park, and Watts-Hillandale because it was not planned in its entirety by a development company, but was developed piecemeal from the early 1900s to the 1920s. Much of the boundary increase area was owned by William Gaston Vickers and was called "Vickers Woods" well into the twentieth century.[57] Vickers had sold off some land bit by bit to the affluent industrialists who built large estates in the district beginning in 1879. After 1902 Vickers built some one hundred rental houses on portions of his property along Arnette Avenue and its intersecting streets.

Morehead Hill's housing also differs fundamentally from that of Trinity Park and Watts-Hillandale. Morehead Hill was a mixture of stylish mansions, custom-built middle-class houses, builders' speculative houses, and rental houses. Trinity Park and Watts-Hillandale were more socioeconomically and architecturally homogeneous neighborhoods. These planned subdivisions had custom and speculative builder houses set on uniform-sized lots and owned by professionals, businessmen, and merchants. A few houses were designed by architects. The majority of houses in the planned streetcar suburbs are one- and two-story Craftsman, Tudor, and Colonial Revival style dwellings.

Morehead Hill's housing is unique among Durham's streetcar suburbs because it is a combination of upper class, middle class, and working class housing. Unlike the other Durham developers of streetcar suburbs, William Gaston Vickers, developer of Morehead Hill, built "fashionable, moderately sized rental houses, targeted for tradesmen, artisans, and skilled laborers, on the land closest to the trolley."[58] Claudia Brown describes these as "sturdy structures...moderately sized with corbelled chimney stacks and prefabricated sawnwork ornament, and often embellished with three-sided window bays and wraparound porches..."[59] The house at 907 Jackson Street in Morehead Hill, typical of the more than one hundred rental houses built by Vickers, is a gable-and-wing type house with a three-sided bay with drop pendant brackets. The most intact tri-gable single-pile house in the boundary increase is the Bob Wells House, 1013 Wells Street. Wells purchased the lot, at the south end of the district, from William Gaston Vickers and had the house built for himself about 1905. When he moved from Durham, he sold the house back to Vickers, who gave it to his son Claude in 1909.[60] Similar tri-gable houses stand along Lakewood Avenue and Chapel Hill Road in the nearby Lakewood Park neighborhood (National Register-2003). The pyramidal cottage, a one-story two-room deep house with a tall hip roof, was popular at the turn of the century throughout North Carolina. Three of these are at 807, 809, and 811 Parker Street in the boundary increase. Very often this type was built as rental housing in Durham, and a number of these houses also stand in Lakewood Park.

In the 1920s the Morehead Hill Historic District Boundary Increase was built up with the dominant Bungalow/Craftsman forms found throughout Durham's suburbs. Blocks of similar housing stand along Englewood Avenue in the Watts-Hillandale Historic District, which also largely filled up during this decade. The Tudor Cottage, Colonial Revival, and Minimal Traditional style houses built in the Morehead Hill Historic District Boundary Increase in the 1930s and 1940s are similar to those constructed on the smaller streets of the Watts-Hillandale Historic District, such as Englewood and Virginia avenues.

At the south end of the Morehead Hill Historic District Boundary Increase, the larger and more stylish houses that abut the Forest Hills subdivision represent the architecture of suburban automobile development rather than the streetcar suburban architecture. The most substantial houses in the boundary increase are engineer Thomas Atwood's house, 1212 Arnette Avenue, tobacco businessman Charles Haynes's house, 1208 Arnette Avenue, and city attorney Claude Jones's house, 1310 Arnette Avenue, all built on large lots in the Colonial Revival style in the 1920s to 1940s. The size and handsome decorative finish of these houses are similar to the smaller houses in the Forest Hills subdivision that adjoins the south boundary of Morehead Hill. Forest Hills was laid out by the New Hope Realty Company in 1927 as an elegant automobile neighborhood with spacious lots with lush foliage around a golf course with a pool and clubhouse. From the beginning, elegant Tudor Revival and Colonial Revival style houses dominated.[61] One example of a smaller Forest Hills house is the house young architect George Watts Carr, Sr. built for himself in 1925 at 15 Oak Drive — a frame two-story Colonial Revival style house. Another smaller house is the informal one-story Colonial Revival style residence with a gabled front wing built in 1927 for Vernon Miller at 800 East Forest Hills Boulevard.

Suburban automobile development continued in Durham during the period from 1940 to 1955 when historic construction in the Morehead Hill Historic District Boundary Increase area was completed. Durham's economy mirrored that of the rest of the nation during this period. In the late 1930s, residential construction was recovering from the collapse of the housing industry during the Depression, but came to an almost total halt again from 1941 to 1945 during World War II. After the war, the pent-up demand for housing caused by the Depression, the war, and by millions of returning veterans who were married and starting their families resulted in the largest building boom in United States history. The unbuilt lots of earlier subdivisions were developed with the two most popular house types of the era — the Minimal Traditional and the Ranch house. The Minimal Traditional house, the dominant house form of the post-war 1940s and the early 1950s, was a simplified form of the previously dominant Tudor and Colonial Revival styles of the 1920s and 1930s. These one-story houses have low pitched roofs and inexpensive decorative accents such as classical trim around the front entrance. By the early 1950s the Ranch style replaced the Minimal Traditional style, and remained dominant through the 1960s.[62] The scattered examples of Minimal Traditional and Ranch style houses in Durham's Morehead Hill Historic District Boundary Increase area illustrate the final construction phase of this historic neighborhood.


[1]Codicil to Sterling Proctor's Will, 3 April 1877, Durham County Clerk of Superior Court, in Special Proceeding No. 450. It is generally believed that Proctor also owned land south of Parker St.

[2]Claude Vickers, interview in Durham, May 1981.

[3]Pauli Murray, Proud Shoes, revised edition {New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1978), p.261.

[4]Codicil. It is not known if Ella Proctor Vickers' husband, W.D. Vickers, was related to William Gaston Vickers.

[5]Claude Vickers.

[6]Durham County· Register of Deeds (DCRD), Deed Book 1, Page 44.

[7]Robert F. Durden, The Dukes of Durham, 1865-1929 (Durham: Duke University Press, 1975), p.18; and William Boyd, The Story of Durham (Durham: Duke University Press, 1925), pp.116-17.

[8]"Gray's New Map of Durham, 1881" (Philadelphia: O.W. Gray & Son); Hand-Book of Durham, North Carolina, 1895,, Duke archives copy with handwritten notes by Prof. Louise Hall of Duke University, pp.76 and 79. The second Morehead house was named after the Morehead family homeplace in Greensboro of the same name, which still stands. The Greensboro Blandwood, one of the city's foremost architectural monuments, was built early in the nineteenth century and enlarged as an Italianate villa designed by A.J. Davis for Gov. John Motley Morehead, father of Eugene Morehead.

[9]Claude Vickers.

[10]Hand-Book, pp.29 and 76; and Sanborn Map Co., "Durham, North Carolina," 1913 series.

[11]DCRD, Deed Book 1, Page 44.

[12]"Bird's-Eye View of The City of Durham; North Carolina" (Madison, Wisconsin: Rugby and Stoner, 1891).

[13]DCRD, Plat Book 5A, Page 30.

[14]DCRD, Deed Book 2, Page 562. Prior to 1887, Lee Street, was renamed Lea St.; between 1898 and 1902 it was renamed once again, this time to S. Duke Street, its present designation.

[15]Directory of the Business and Citizens of Durham City for 1887 (Raleigh: Levi Branson, Publisher); Hand-Book, p.78; and "Bird's-Eye View..." Also in 1884, he purchased additional lots on the east side of Lee Street, and the following year he bought a tract adjoining the south side of his house lot. DCRD, Deed Book 12, Page 133.

[16]DCRD, Deed book 12, Page 71, and Deed Book 12, Page 94.

[17]DCRD, Deed Book 12, Page 133.

[18]DCRD, Deed Book 45, Page 111; and Mary and George Pyne, interview in Durham, 7 March 1984. The Lewter House, at 810 Vickers Ave., as well as a house formerly at 901 Vickers Ave. (now 914 Shepherd St.) also appear to date from 1890s, but their builders have not been identified.

[19]Claude Vickers. Shortly thereafter, two other houses were built immediately north of the Berry house, either by other Vickers family members or by unrelated individuals who purchased lots from the Berry's.

[20]Virginia Nichols, Shepherd descendant and owner of 903, 907 and 913 W. Proctor Street, interview in Durham, February 1981. The Shepherds are reported to have acquired the Proctor St. property through the marriage of two of William Gaston Vickers' sons to two Shepherd sisters.

[21]Durham County Clerk of Court, Special Proceeding No. 450, which includes original plat also filed in DCRD, Plat Book 5, Page 26. The heirs appear to have been her nieces and nephews.

[22]For example, see DCRD, Deed Book 29, pages 56 to 59 and 63 to 67.

[23]William Coman, Christian descendant, interview in Durham, 7 March 1984.

[24]DCRD, Plat Book 6, pages 11 and 12; and plat book 4, page 124.

[25]H. McKeldon Smith and John B. Flowers, III, "John Sprunt Hill House," National Register of Historic Places nomination, N.C. Division of Archives and History, 1977.

[26]DCRD, Deed Book 40, Page 543.

[27]Ethel Lipscomb Girvin, interview in Durham, August 1982.

[28]Murray, p. 257.

[29]J. Marshall Bullock, "Greystone," National Register of Historic Places nomination, N.C. Division of Archives and History, 1981.

[30]Claude Vickers.

[31]Ibid., and Sanborn Map Co., 1913 series.

[32]DCRD, Deed Book 42, Page 247.

[33]Claude Vickers; and Sanborn Map Co., 1913 and 1937 series.

[34]The later houses were built on the adjacent lots vacated by the other owners in the block who had their two late 1890s houses moved around the corner to Parker Street, next to the Berry House.

[35]Claude Vickers and Mrs. Cecil Cooke, owner of Kiker-Hobgood House, interview in Durham, February 1981.

[36]DCRD, Deed Book 87, Page 68.

[37]Mary and George Pyne; and Sanborn Map Co.


[39]Durham Morning Herald, 6 February 1935, p.1.

[40]Smith and Flowers.


[42]Telephone interview March 1984 with Charlotte V. Brown, one of the authors of Architects and Builders of North Carolina, currently in preparation for publication. During her research for this book, Dr. Brawn read a letter stating that Hook designed the Cobb-Toms House.

[43]See Durham city directories.

[44]William Coman.

[45]Claude Vickers.

[46]Roberts and Lea, Durham Architectural and Historic Inventory, 243. (hereafter referred to as Durham A & H Inventory)

[47]Roberts and Lea, Durham A and H Inventory, 233-243; Brown, "Morehead Hill Historic District," National Register nomination, June 1984, North Carolina Historic Preservation Office.

[48]Roberts and Lea, Durham A and H Inventory, 312.

[49]Roberts and Lea, Durham A and H Inventory, 233.

[50]See Durham Plat Book 6, pages 12, 13, and 177. These plats cover most of the 1200 and 1300 blocks of Arnette, Shepherd, Vickers, and Hill streets between Cobb and Wells streets. Vickers's land extended south to the north boundary of the Forest Hills subdivision at Wells Street.

[51]Plat Book 8, page 11: Map of the W.G. Vickers Homeplace, bounded by Proctor, Vickers, Hill and Cobb streets, 1926.

[52]Interview with Oliver and Joanne Ferguson, owners of 1212 Arnette Avenue, Feb. 13, 2003. Thomas C. Atwood was dead by 1946.

[53]Roberts and Lea, Durham A and H Inventory, 239.

[54]Roberts and Lea, Durham A and H Inventory, 238.

[55]Roberts and Lea, Durham A and H Inventory, 237-238.

[56]Roberts and Lea, Durham A and H Inventory, 185, 197-198.

[57]Brown, Morehead Hill Historic District nomination, 8.2.

[58]Brown, "Durham's Early Twentieth-Century Suburban Neighborhoods," 42.

[59]Roberts and Lea, Durham A and H Inventory, 233.

[60]Roberts and Lea, Durham A and H Inventory, 286.

[61]Roberts and Lea, Durham A and H Inventory, 283-284.

[62]Ames and McClelland, Historic Residential Suburbs, 65-67; McAlester, A Field Guide to American Houses, 477.


Ames, David L. and Linda Flint McClelland. Historic Residential Suburbs. National Register Bulletin, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, 2002.

Brown, Claudia Roberts. "Durham's Early Twentieth-Century Suburban Neighborhoods," pp.38-47, in Bishir and Earley, eds. Early Twentieth Century Suburbs in North Carolina. Raleigh: Archives and History, 1985.

Roberts, Claudia P. and Diane E. Lea. The Durham Architectural and Historic Inventory. Durham: City of Durham and the Historic Preservation Society of Durham, 1982.

Brown, Claudia Roberts. Morehead Hill Historic District National Register Nomination, North Carolina Historic Preservation Office, 1984.

Durham County Deed Books, Register of Deeds Office, Durham County.

Durham County Plat Books, Register of Deeds Office, Durham County.

Hill's Durham City Directories, 1919-1920, 1925, 1930, 1935, 1940, 1945, 1950, 1952, 1955. Microfilm copies at the Durham Public Library.

McAlester, Virginia and Lee. A Field Guide to American Houses. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989.

Sanborn Maps of Durham: 1913, 1937. Copies in nomination file.


Oliver and Joanne Ferguson, owners of 1212 Arnette Avenue, Feb. 13, 2003, by M. Ruth Little.

Alice Raney, daughter-in-law of R. Beverly Raney, March 2003, by Robert Upchurch.

Eugene Brown, owner of Distinctive Properties, a Durham real estate company, April 17, 2003, by M. Ruth Little.

‡ Claudia Roberts Brown, consultant, City of Durham Planning Department, Morehead Hill Historic District, nomination document, 1984, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

‡ M. Ruth Little, Longleaf Historic Resources, Morehead Hill Historic District Boundary Increase, Durham County, NC, nomination document, 2004, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

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Arnette Avenue • Cobb Street West • Duke Street South • Hill Street • Jackson Street • Lakewood Avenue West • Morehead Avenue • Parker Street • Proctor Street West • Shepherd Street • Vickers Avenue • Wells Street • Yancey Street

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