Digital North Carolina Blog

Digital North Carolina Blog

This blog is maintained by the staff of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center and features highlights from the collections at DigitalNC, an online library of primary sources from institutions across North Carolina.

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Mapping Durham’s History

A new set of maps, posters, and architectural plans from our partner, the Durham County Library, has been added to our site. They range in time from the late 1880s to the present, and many provide local insight to the culture of Durham.

Map of Durham, N.C. from 1966

Map of Durham, N.C., c. 1957

One of the most exciting maps that we’ve added is this mid-century Western States Publishing Co. Mapperhaps one of the last versions that documents Durham before I-85 (1958) and N.C. 147 highway were built (1967-1970). Comparing it to the city today, you can tell what was disrupted during construction.

Detail from a 1920 map of Durham

Detail from the 1920 map of Durham County

Similarly, this map of Durham from 1920 notes the schools in the area and whether they served Black or White students. According to this map, many of the schools closest to the city center only served White students, while many of the Black schools are further out in the county.

Part of an illustrated map of Durham with drawings of buildings

Another neat item in this batch is this Historic Durham County Poster created by John B. Tomlinson. Around the drawn map of Durham County are illustrations of some of Durham’s famous and historic landmarks, including Duke University’s West Campus, NC Central University, and the County Courthouse. These and other annotations help identify some of the big moments in Durham’s history, such as the surrender of J.E. Johnston at Bennett Place.

An architectural drawing of a house

House for Mrs. L.L. Morehead (c. 1900)

Another item that illuminates a part of Durham’s history is this set of architectural plans for the house of Mrs. L.L. Morehead. The house was built for Eugene Morehead, son of former North Carolina Governor John Motley Morehead, and Eugene’s wife, Lucy Lathrop Morehead. The house was torn down in 1961, but photos and illustrations of the final product are still around. Other building plans for the house, including some of the interior, were also uploaded in this batch. 

A map with graphics about bike safety

1991 Bike Map

Map of downtown Durham with attractions listed and bike safety information

2010 Bike Map

In terms of more modern materials, take a look at these two bike maps: one from 1991, and one from 2010. The entire back side of the 1991 version is covered in safety information, like how to wear a helmet and 10 tips for “frustrating” a bike thief (No.8 is to “Engrave your social security number on expensive parts,” which doesn’t seem like common advice today.). Meanwhile, the back of the 2010 map is more like a typical city map, with directories of things in downtown Durham. 

One bonus of these maps is that they are catalogued and finable through the Durham Public Library’s website. You can see all the maps we digitized in this batch here, and you can see all materials from Durham County Library here. For more information about the library and their holdings, visit their website.


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