Day 19: West Point Eno
The West Point on the Eno is a 388 acre city park and historic landmark located in north Durham and is popular gathering place for residents to fish, swim, hike, picnic, and relax. The historic buildings located inside the park played and important role for the local community and is entwined with the story of Durham in many ways. There is an old mill located within the park and while it was still active, it was the most profitable and was one of the longest running mills of the 32 located on the Eno River. Originally built in 1778, the mill was eventually accompanied by a general store, saw mill, cotton gin, and post office, all to support the three hundred or so residents in the immediate area. It also served the people passing through the area since this was one the easiest crossings of the Eno River. The mill had many different owners and with each exchange of hands came a new name. Today, it is known as West Point on the Eno Mill and Park because the community had the furthest west post office operated by Raleigh.
Unfortunately, a flood in 1942 from a heavy winter thaw demolished the dam located at West Point on the Eno and damaged the original mill. The mill in operation today, was rebuilt by 1976 and is a close replica of the original. Designs were based on photographs of the original and the replica was erected on top of the original foundation.
The house accompanying the mill was built in the 1840’s by John Cabe McCown. McCown was the owner of the mill for a period of time and while the house did not change hands as frequently as the mill, it too has many stories. Today, it is known as the McCown-Mangum house and is a museum. Presley Mangum was a Durham Post Master who purchased the house and moved there with his family in 1891. His son, Hugh Mangum, was an accomplished photographer in the early 1900s. Hugh traveled throughout The Carolinas and Virginia, photographing a wide range of subjects from portraits to landscapes. His work, as well as that of other regional photographers, is on display in the museum.
The community of West Point on the Eno was eventually brought inside the city lines of Durham. As is the consistent story throughout Durham’s history, local residents, namely the Eno River Association, played a critical role in protecting this property. In 1968, it was sold to a real estate development company that planned to demolish the buildings and create another suburban housing development and office buildings. Fortunately, the city eventually purchased the land before the historic buildings were torn down, and today, it is possibly the most used and unique Durham city park.
Night 19: Old Durham County Courthouse
North Carolina created Durham County in 1881. Soon after, in 1889, construction on the first courthouse was started, designed by a locally renowned architect named Byrun Pugin. Made of beautiful red brick and possessing a centralized clock tower, this structure, if still standing, would be an architectural gem of Durham and North Carolina. However, Durham County grew quickly and in 1916, the building was unfortunately demolished to build a larger, neo-classical style courthouse on the same site.
The new courthouse was designed by Milburn, Heister, and Company, the largest most distinguished design firm in The South, and the designers of over sixty-five significant buildings in North Carolina alone. They were also responsible for other landmarks in Durham such as the Carolina Theater and the old First National Bank building. Originally, the county had a jail on the top floor of the courthouse, and rumors have it that passersby were often heckled by the inmates. The Durham County Courthouse again outgrew its space and today, the old building is used as an office building for county services.