Two Durham properties make national list of historic spots
The now-vacant building that housed Durham’s first high school for African-Americans and a building on Gilbert Street that was home to a hosiery dyeing operation have made a national list of historic properties.
The two buildings and eight others were added to the National Register of Historic Places, which is the nation’s official list of buildings, objects, sites and districts worthy of preservation, the governor announced with the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.
While a listing on the register doesn’t mean that a property owner is restricted from using, changing or maintaining the property, it can mean access to federal and state incentives to help with rehabilitation costs. However, all of North Carolina’s historic preservation income tax credit programs are set to expire at the end of this year.
In Hayti, one of Durham’s historically predominately African-American neighborhoods, the J.A. Whitted Junior High School, previously known as the Hillside Park High School, stands vacant on 4 acres on Umstead Street.
The part of the building built in 1922 was Durham’s first high school for African-Americans that was later was used as elementary school and then as a junior high, according to the nomination form. A three-story brick addition and gym were added in 1954-1955. The interior of the building has seen vandalism and neglect, according to the nomination.
The county owns the property, and is working with the Atlanta-based firm Integral Group to renovate it into a mixed-use development with pre-kindergarten classrooms and affordable senior housing.
Lee Worsley, interim county manager, said development officials are waiting on approval for low-income housing tax credits from the N.C. Housing Finance Agency to help pay for the project. A proposal was turned down last year, but development officials have submitted another preliminary application.
“It was a very good application last year, but it was also true that a lot of very good applications go begging because housing tax credits are capped,” said Ned Fowler, the president of a Boone-based firm that’s partnering with Integral to try to get the tax credits.
Fowler said they want to use federal historic preservation tax credits to help finance the project. They also plan to apply for state historic preservation credits, but they’re expiring this year and they’d have to have spent the money this year to use them. He said he’s involved with a group called Preservation North Carolina that’s lobbying state leaders to keep state development credits in place.
“Because of all the decision on (state) tax reform, it’s very important that we support these particular tax credits,” he said. “This is not a giveaway; this is an economic development tool and a job creation tool.”
The other property added to the national register was the Durham Hosiery Mills Dye. Built in 1920 to 1921, the former dyeing facility was part of a large cotton hosiery manufacturing company.
Durham Hosiery Mills Corp. owned 15 mills by the time the building was built, according to nomination information. At 708 Gilbert St., the building previously housed the Durham branch of the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina. The branch recently moved to a warehouse on Angier Avenue in Durham.
Gary Kueber, CEO of the real estate firm Scientific Properties, said he was interested in redeveloping the former dye house, and that’s why he helped to submit the nomination to the historic register.
“I think it’s an amazing building, and I think that area is the next Geer Street-Durham Central Park (area),” Kueber said, because of the stock of light industrial buildings and surrounding neighborhoods. “I think it’s a beautiful building inside,” he added. “I think at some point, someone’s going to bring it back to its full potential, hopefully.”