Day 20: West Village / Liggett Myers
An extensive complex of condos, apartments, restaurants and offices, West Village is the past and present of Durham. Once this network of brick tobacco warehouses and factories was full of bustling workers, the smell of drying tobacco, and trucks picking-up/delivering cargoes. Liggett and Myers took their first steps into the Durham tobacco industry by building two warehouses (Cobb and O’Brien) in 1898 and 1899, along Main Street. Soon after completion in 1899, Liggett and Myers was acquired by the American Tobacco Company (ATC), helping to make the ATC the largest company in the world. The Liggett and Myers Main Street campus expanded quickly while under the control of the American Tobacco Company. With similarly styled, parrallel chimneyed orange brick warehouses, to that of Brightleaf Square, the complex grew from two buildings to 12, by 1930. The booming business helped Durham to be known for the aroma of drying tobacco that wafted through the streets.
In 1911 the United States Congress issued a Dissolution Decree which forcibly broke apart the American Tobacco Company into four smaller enterprises, a reconstitution of the Liggett Myers Tobacco Company, the creation of R.J. Reynolds Company, P. Lorillard, and a new American Tobacco Company. Shortly after the dissolution, Liggett Myers headquartered their tobacco manufacturing in Durham and did so until 2001, when it closed its Durham tobacco operations. In 2003, the buildings were sold to a development company which had a master plan to turn the buildings into a planned community. Now, Durham’s West Main Street is a cultural center, with residential neighborhoods, condos, apartments, vibrant restaurants, and other locally owned businesses. These iconic brick buildings, still leave an impression and anchor this part of town’s economy.