You've probably driven by the Durham Police Department's West Chapel Hill Street headquarters plenty of times and not given much thought to it. Or maybe you've thought more about what goes on inside it than the building itself.
It's a largely glass structure with hints of classroom-chair blue, bookended by brown walls that display the police department's badge. Pretty unremarkable, right? Not so, says Preservation NC.
As the city seeks public input on what to do with the building once the DPD's new headquarters opens on East Main Street next year, the historic preservation group wants residents to know this isn't any ordinary municipal building.
Constructed in 1958, the building was designed by architect Milton Small to serve as the office of Home Security Life Insurance. According to Cathleen Turner, regional director of Preservation NC, it has been placed on the study list for the National Register of Historic Places. This isn't just a hint at the structure's architectural significance; it also means it's eligible for state and federal tax credits that could be put toward renovations.
"Preservation NC strongly encourages and supports the preservation of this iconic mid-century modernist building and will support the City in this endeavor," Turner wrote to the city council.
According to an N.C. State archive, Small designed fifty-seven buildings in North Carolina, including the Duke Primate Facility, the Raleigh Municipal building, WRAL's building in Raleigh, and several facilities on the N.C. State campus.
The Home Security Life Insurance building, which an N.C. State archive calls an "elegant skyscraper," was given an Award of Merit from the American Institute of Architects North Carolina in 1959. In some black-and-white photos from its heyday, it looks downright swanky. The building's past seems even more germane, considering that Carpenter Motor Co., built in 1923, was torn down to make way for the new police headquarters.
Turner is pushing for information about Small and the availability of historic tax credits to be included on the project website, where residents can fill out a survey on how they think the building should be used. The city is also hosting two public input sessions—on September 21 at seven p.m. and September 25 at five-thirty p.m.—at the Durham Armory.