120 W. Parrish Street

Historical Renovation in Alley 26

Photo Credits: Sandi Monroe, Mark Paris, Lisa Sorg.

The Challenge

The vacant space tucked along Alley 26, which runs behind E. Chapel Hill Street and Orange Street, was a husk of a building, the burnt out remains of a former furniture warehouse. The building was built in 1915, and while listed in deteriorated condition, it contributed to the historic character of the District. As described by the National Register Nomination for Downtown Durham:

This unusual, five‐sided, two‐story building was severely damaged by fire in 2009, leaving it basically a shell of brick walls. Remaining evident features are the round and segmental‐arched window openings at the second story and flat‐ arched openings at the ground floor. The building’s second story reached over the alleyway to the back of 119‐123 Orange Street; those walls also remain. The building stands in the middle of the block bounded by Parrish, Orange, E. Chapel Hill, and N. Corcoran streets; its entrance is on the south elevation, opening to a small courtyard adjacent to the alley behind Orange Street.

Benjamin C. Woodall is listed at 118‐120 W. Parrish Street as a harness and saddle maker in the 1919 City Directory, but 120 likely referred to the building now known only as 118 W. Parrish. A single‐story frame livery stable stood at this location as early as 1907, according to Sanborn maps. The 1937 Sanborn map, the first to show a two‐story brick building here, indicates that it was a furniture warehouse with a connection to 119‐123 Orange Street.

Arthur Rogers, commercial real estate developer and owner of Eno Ventures, saw a diamond in the rough. This building came as part of a package with another property that Rogers owns, 118 W. Parrish St., but with no street frontage, and no place for signage along the main thoroughfare, he knew a retail store would have a tough time. His plan was to build a two-story office building, reclaiming as much of the original building as possible, and house his own company within as well as another space for start-ups or incubation space.  His goal is to clean up the courtyard, and provide a natural open and light filled space outside the office building.

The Solution

Another collaboration between Arthur and Sasha of BLOK Architecture, PLCC., the following criteria had to be met during renovation and development:

In granting a certificate of appropriateness, the HPC shall take into account, in accordance with the principles and design review criteria of the Historic Preservation Plan adopted for the historic district:

    1. The historic or architectural significance of the structure under consideration in relation to the historic value of the district;
    2. The exterior form and appearance of any proposed additions or modifications to that structure; and 
    3. The effect of such additions or modifications upon other structures in the vicinity.

The historic masonry walls of the building shell on the 120 West Parrish Street parcel are proposed to be retained with new conditioned space constructed within those walls. None of the remaining intact historic openings or materials on that parcel are proposed to be removed with this work. However, the second‐story walls that span the alley are proposed to be removed as one of three options to stabilize the structure. Removal of these spanning walls does not appear to conform to either of the above standards as these walls are a distinctive feature on a Downtown structure and would not retain and preserve the historic character of the property. All other windows and finishes were done in the type and style as to match as closely as possible to the original in order to preserve the historic feel of the building.

Interior walls were left as exposed brick, reclaimed wood was used in furnishings throughout the interior.





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Sasha believes the beauty of architecture is that it is a profession that rewards a breadth of knowledge and experience. He’s not certain how his varied academic degrees, performance on viola, travels, running, race car driving or motorcycle riding inform his work, but he believes everything he has studied, seen, and done impacts his design in small to profound ways, helping to build design intuition. Visit Blok Architecture to learn more about Sasha.

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