The Rising of the Bull City

It is hard to imagine Durham coming from such humble beginnings while strolling through the pristine American Tobacco Campus or Brightleaf Square.  But, as the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Durham is no exception.  Eric Ferreri, in his article for the Duke Magazine, reminds us of Durham’s past and the amazing strides the city has made. Just 10 years ago, what is affectionately known as the Bull City was full of run-down and abandoned factory buildings.

Sudi Swirles, one of PSCP’s owners, opened a restaurant in downtown at 111 W Main St. in 1975. Just out of college, Sudi thought she was getting into downtown at the beginning of the renaissance of the city then, “what did I know at age 24? I only saw the potential! I imagined the buildings downtown completely renovated and full of young entrepreneurs living and working downtown. Little did I know it would take another 35 years to come to fruition!”

tobacroadOne of our resident Durham experts, Liz Dean, gave her perspective on the transformation of Durham. “In the 70’s you just didn’t go downtown for anything but business, from about eight to five you would go there, but after then you didn’t go downtown,” Dean comments. Brightleaf Square started to arrive on the scene in ’83, but it has only been in the last five or six years that Durham has really transformed.

Dean comments, “In 2003 they were introducing the idea of a new Durham, but nobody believed it.” The first thing that really brought people downtown was the Durham baseball field, but Liz remembers Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) as being the real “clincher.” Bit by bit as new restaurants and business popped up in downtown Durham, the landscape changed from a desolate tobacco town to a cultural destination. The moment Liz Dean knew Durham had really arrived on the cultural scene was around the fall of 2007,”I saw someone walking around Durham with a map and said ‘Darn, there are tourists in Durham now!’”

If you are new to Durham or even a veteran, Eric Ferreri’s article is worth a read. The history of Durham’s transformation is nothing short of amazing. To read the full article, go to:

By Rachel Pratt