Day 2: Erwin Mills & Brightleaf Square

Day 2:
Since moving to Durham, I have driven by the old Erwin Cotton Mill countless times, always wanting to photograph this beautiful brick complex. Erwin Mills was originally built in 1893 in the small town of Pin Hook and was the catalyst for development; the Erwin Mill Company built housing, a minor plumbing system, and other amenities for its employees. Eventually, Pin Hook was adopted by the city of Durham and is now the historical district of Old West Durham.

During the spring, the blooming dogwood trees at the front of the mill offer a stunning contrast to the refurbished red brick. This is a common scene in Durham, a city littered with brick tobacco warehouses and mills in styles similar to that of Erwin Mill. The blooming dogwoods are one of the many reasons why spring is among my favorite seasons in Durham.

Night 2:
The Watts and Yuille tobacco warehouses, now known as Brightleaf Square, were a part of the many tobacco warehouses owned by the American Tobacco Company(ATC). The two near-identical parallel buildings, built between 1900 and 1904 at the height of ATC’s prosperity, offered a subtle display of the Duke family’s wealth. At this time the American Tobacco Company owned 90% of the world’s tobacco market. After the company was broken up by an antitrust ruling in 1911, the buildings were sold to the Liggett-Myers Tobacco Company headquartered a few blocks away.

In 1980, Liggett-Myers sold the buildings to a development company which turned them into the retail and restaurant complex that we see today. Maintaining a large amount of the historical details, this complex is a treasure of Durham’s downtown and has been a centerpiece for the city’s revitalization and redevelopment.


Day 1: American Tobacco

Durham, NC: In 1865, Washington Duke started a small tobacco company named Duke & Sons from his 300 acre farm in what is now North Durham. After merging with his competitor,“The Bull Durham Tobacco Company,” Duke and his family quickly turned the company into one of the largest tobacco enterprises in the world.  Under the new name American Tobacco Company, they created famous brands such as Lucky Strike and Genuine “Bull” Durham Tobacco.

Although nowadays most people associate the Duke name with Duke University, it was because of this entrepreneurial family that Durham boasts the skyline we see today. In 1865, Durham was just another train station that was more or less a stop to refuel. However, the development of Bright Leaf Tobacco, thought to be one of the smoothest varieties of tobacco, put Durham on the map and turned it into a boom town. Soon, Durham became a textile and financial center which included the “Black Wall Street.” All of these industries and developments helped to create Durham as a city with strong historical character.

This morning, I started with the iconic Durham skyline. I chose the American Tobacco Center Campus as my starting point and centerpiece because this is the symbol for the beginnings of the Durham, NC that we see today.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

This is an extended exposure (about 15min) of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in Buxton, NC out on the Outer Banks. We were lucky that we had a full moon that night while I was taking the shot so I didn’t have to light up the subject artificially.

The Lighthouse was built in 1870, and is the tallest brick lighthouse in North America. For those of you who are not familiar with the story, the lighthouse is currently not in its original location.  In 1999, it was decided that the ocean had come too close to the base of the lighthouse and was threatening its structural integrity.  On June 5th, they began what is known as “the Big Move.” With the lighthouse fully intact, they lifted it off its original base and moved it about 2,900 feet SW to its current location.

This park was probably one of our favorite locations, and the view from 200 feet up was sweeping and spectacular. I hope you enjoy this gem of a park.

We camped in the National Park campground.