Inside Liberty Warehouse, a hidden history

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For several years, the INDY stored copies of the newspaper at the historic Liberty Warehouse on Rigsbee Street in Durham. Early on Wednesday mornings, the trucks from Fayetteville, where the INDY is printed, would unload the papers; and our delivery drivers would then distribute them Triangle-wide.

We now use a warehouse in Raleigh and a new one in Durham, as it's likely that the former tobacco auction house, with its leaky roof and its state of general disrepair, will eventually be torn down. Since part of its roof collapsed after a heavy rain more than two years ago, displacing the warehouse's many tenants, Liberty has become one symbol of problematic development in Durham. The city ordered Greenfire Development to repair the building several times, threatening the company with daily fines. But ultimately, the city let Greenfire, which owned many troubled properties in Durham, financially off the hook.

Greenfire sold Liberty and it appears that site will become part of the voracious redevelopment of Old North Durham and the Central Park district: Cocoa Cinnamon, Fullsteam, the Surf Club, Motorco, Geer Street Garden and the Bar have turned that corridor—which until the last several years, was inhabited primarily by Lloyd's Lounge—into Durham's new happening place. I've even heard the growth described as the "Brooklynization" of Durham. 

Before the INDY recently moved its papers out of Liberty, I took these photos. Liberty still smells faintly of tobacco; there are still numbers for the auction stalls hanging from the ceiling. Some parts of the wooden floor are still sound. Curiously, there is no women's restroom. The tobacco's auction house was a man's world. 

For What It's Worth is the editor's blog for the INDY. It documents life in the Triangle in photographs and stories.
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