Monday, May 11, 2009

A Photo Love Letter to Durham

Almost a year ago, right around when Matt and I moved to Durham and began exploring the town that I'd previously only really known up through high school (imagine finally getting your license at 16 when you've grown up on a farm out in the country, and suddenly being able to drive yourself "into town", which for me meant Durham's Ninth Street district, or the Durham Arts Council where I did theater with the Young People's Performance Company), I decided I wanted to write a Durham guide for one of my favorite daily blogs, Design*Sponge.

Durham has oodles of amazing design, I thought, and set out making a long list with a commitment to photograph every single listing as a personal project and editorial challenge.

Well, after putting the project off through a busy fall, and then waiting patiently for the more foliage-heavy spring, my guide will be running tomorrow, and I'm trying not to be too hard on myself for not meeting my goal of accompanying every listing with a photo! When you see its length, you may understand; there is just so much incredible stuff going on here, it would have taken me months to do it all justice. So instead, the guide will be accompanied by my top selections of pictures, with a few outtakes here. I just hope I don't piss anybody off too much when I inevitably leave off a listing that should have made it. I feel like there's still so much to explore.

I should note that my guide doesn't even begin to touch on the fascinating history that makes Durham what it is today, though it's worth exploring. For a start, I recommend Gary Kueber's Endangered Durham, a blog dedicated to the pursuit of creative alternatives to the demolition of historic structures. As he lays out building by building's history, a larger story of Durham begins to unfold.

What a classic Durham juxtaposition: the high-security prison on the left (an idea conceived when nobody ever believed Durham's downtown would ever amount to much ever), and the sparkling new Durham Performing Arts Center, home of big-name musicians and Broadway musicals, on the right.

Here's DPAC at night:

My heart breaks for buildings like this one. Fingers crossed that someday, someone with a little start-up and some entrepreneurial drive take a chance on this place, just a block east of luxury condos. It's gonna happen.

I kind of adore both this shop (Ox & Rabbit) and its owners, Bryan and Erin, who I met while photographing for this project, and whose wedding I'm going to be shooting in August near Asheville! I love what they've done with the old soda fountain from McDonald's Drug Store, which occupied the space for decades.

OMG, their merchandise is just so tantalizing....

Vaguely Reminiscent, which has items for the very young (bins of rubber toys, intriguing painted boxes) and the design inclined (stunning jewelry, shoes, frames, etc.); one usually finds oneself in a ballet of squeezing past other customers in their intimate space to take it all in.

The Regulator Bookshop - which reminds me, I've got Domino's Book of Decorating on hold for me right now! My childhood neighbor, John Valentine, owns and runs this place.

Apparently whenever I'm at Pinhook I'm out of photo mode and just completely, absolutely, enjoying myself... I never seem to remember to take any photos of the inside, as gorgeous as it is. Check out their website to see some for yourself. What did we all do before this bar?

JC's Kitchen (I'll give you one guess as to what JC stands for): "Where the food is annointed and you won't be disappointed!"

The Federal - Saturday afternoon (or anytime, really) staple.

And its neighbor, the James Joyce. My sister, who spent a year in London, swears by their curry fries.

Heather Garrett's fun interior design shop, smack in the middle of downtown's Main Street...

I love this little padded sitting nook behind the table:

Golden Belt offers more and more events every month... I love popping into all their artists' studios on Third Fridays.

Matt at Dain's Place enjoying a cold one:

American Tobacco's man-made river:

A big thanks to Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge - I admire her hard work so much, and am grateful she let me put together Durham's guide! Check back tomorrow for a link!


Amy said...

your tour and this post are just so great- I'm a former Durham resident who was only there for a year and a half, but it looks as great as I remember!

design*sponge said...

'where the food is anointed and you won't be disappointed'?

i love it! thank you so much for sharing your incredible guide with us :)


Southern said...

Wow - great pics. I love Durham and I'm proud to call it home. People who talk negative about it definitely should visit your site and see all the great things - some I've never even been to, but def will check out now!

Jessica said...

I just ran into your blog today from Bull City Rising. Gorgeous photos of Durham! I've lived here just over 2 years and LOVE it, thanks for showing through your photos the unique and beautiful sides of Durham.

Morgan Henderson said...

Thanks for putting this travel guide together. It reminds me to visit downtown more often.

Kate Rugani said...

Beautiful photos... I'm particularly enamored with the one featuring the Dain's Place window. The composition is terrific. What a wonderful way of showing off some of the places that make Durham a great place to live!

oami said...

My husband and I are coming out to Durham at the end of this month to check it out as a potential new place to live (his office may be relocating from Oakland Ca to the Triangle). I've gotten SO excited after seeing your photos on Design Sponge & here on this blog...thanks! We also have a sweet pittie boy, that we are in love with..hoping he can take the heat & humidity okay when we move.

Lena said...

Was just googling images of downtown Durham for an urban precedent study for this term's studio... and guess what I found! I love your pictures of my favorite town. Keep it up!!

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