‘Mount Merrill’ to memorialize former Stone Bros. & Byrd manager

Jan. 24, 2014 @ 05:28 PM

George Merrill Davis III, the former general manager of the Durham lawn and garden supply store Stone Bros & Byrd, was “in your face friendly,” and when you needed a favor, he was “all over it.”

So said Lee Ann Tilley, who established a strong bond with Davis while they both worked at businesses near Durham Central Park. She’s the co-owner of Acme Plumbing Co. of Durham, a family-owned business on Foster Street. Stone Bros & Byrd is nearby on Washington Street across from the old Durham Athletic Park.
“A lot of [people] know him as that guy down at Stone Bros. & Byrd who was so helpful,” Tilley said.
Davis died in October 2012 from injuries he suffered in a car accident. After he died, Tilley said she put out a call to see if there do something they could do in his honor.
“I just was grieving and put this email to friends and just said, ‘I just want to do something,’” she said.
Now Durham Central Park leaders are raising money to build a climbing mound at the park for children in honor of Davis, Tilley said. The climbing mound is planned to be one aspect of a larger project -- a children’s play area called “Wanderland” – that will be on the east side of Foster Street, Tilley said.
Tilley, who is the president of the Durham Central Park Board of Directors, said she believes it will be fitting because Davis was a “huge supporter” of the park. She said they passed the park during their morning walks to the Post Office, and were the eyes and ears watching out for it. Ann Alexander, executive director of Durham Central Park, said that Davis was the first to hold a wedding in the park.
In addition, Tilley said he was also active in The Exchange Club of Greater Durham, a community service organization that raises money for organizations that help children, as well as other nonprofits.
Tilley said the design for what’s now known as Mount Merrill was unveiled in October. The vision is of a handicap-accessible climbing mound that will be equipped with two slides, climbing net, curving benches, boulders for climbing, and sculptures.
Project designer Katherine Gill, the co-owner of Tributary Inc., a landscape architecture, design and build company, said the idea is that the mound will be a multi-dimensional exploration area where people of all ages can climb, walk, explore, sit and slide.
It’s hoped that the play area will fill the void for families who come to the Durham Farmers’ Market at Durham Central Park who need entertainment for their young children, Tilley said.
“Thousands of people are coming to the Farmers’ Market, that’s just been a huge success,” she said. “There’s not much else for families to do other than climb on those little critters they have … [this will] help fill that void of giving young families a place to hang out.”
Durham Central Park leaders are in the early stages of fundraising for the project, Tilley said. The Exchange Club of Durham provided $7,500 as initial financing for the project, she said, and as of Tuesday, they’d raised about $37,000. They hope to raise a total of $120,000.
“I just think this would be the most fitting memorial to a sweet guy because this is going to attract children from all over the city,” Tilley said. “It’s just going to be a children’s magnet.”