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Houses Tobacco Built

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When you mention "Durham," people often think of tobacco, given that the city was largely founded on revenue derived from the manufacture of cigarettes. Until recently, you couldn't draw breath downtown without filling your lungs with the smell of cured tobacco. Too bad it's not as healthful as it is fragrant.

The tobacco industry may be yielding to the information age, but the buildings that sprang up to house its manufacturing machinery are still with us--and are still the landmarks we navigate by.

The Historic Preservation Society of Durham is nurturing our sense of place by inviting anyone interested in architecture and the creative adaptation of old buildings to new uses to join its fourth annual tour on May 6. This year's tour focuses on some of the monumental structures associated with the tobacco business, many of which have been transformed into exciting spaces for living or working. To whet your appetite for the tour, Kate Dobbs Ariail and Alex Maness lead off this issue of Casa with a photoessay that highlights some of what you'll see.

Beth Livingston toured Blue Devil Ventures' West Village, buildings which formerly served as Liggett & Myers' tobacco warehouses, and which are now being converted into modern apartments. She came away with the salient details of the features that make these dwellings the hottest new addresses in the Triangle.

Frank Hyman viewed the landscaping plans for West Village and found a lot of positive things--and a few negative ones--to say about the choice of trees and shrubs. Hyman, himself a landscaper, recalls the late J.C. Raulston's efforts to get people to think beyond the obvious in their plantings. He points out some of the other interesting choices of trees and plants that enliven downtown Durham.

Finally, I visited John Reese and Dan Lilley in their large, light-filled Raleigh home. The house retains some of the characteristics of its original incarnation as a neighborhood grocery store and meeting place--but you should see it now. Its 3,000 square feet have been thoughtfully designed as a space for living, working and entertaining--with panache.

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