The focus of recent public intervention and attention, Northeast Central Durham is often defined as a neighborhood facing difficult challenges. This definition pays little regard to the rich and varied history of this area's four distinct neighborhoods. While civic and municipal leaders clearly look forward to addressing the challenges facing this section of Durham, much can be gained by also glancing back at this historically significant area.

Early Development
Development of Northeast Central Durham (NECD) began in 1884 when Julian Carr built Durham’s first textile mill and adjacent millworker housing. For nearly a half-century, the textile industry thrived in NECD, and Carr was soon joined by many other investors. When integrated factories failed in the 1890s, Carr built separate factories and housing for blacks. NECD was also home to Jewish and Greek neighborhoods, middle-class commuters, and wealthy families living along Dillard Street’s "Mansion Row."

Public Housing
With the decline of the textile industry in the 1930s, former millworker housing in the East Durham and Morning Glory-Edgemont neighborhoods was converted to low-cost, rental housing. Residential areas further to the north continued to do well for some time, but increasing numbers of well-off families left the neighborhood in the 1940s and 1950s with the post-war suburbanization wave. The city’s 1st public housing developments, Few Gardens and McDougald Terrace, came soon after this. At the time, however, public housing tended to be mixed-income and was not seen as a threat to the neighborhood.

Urban Renewal
The urban renewal movements of the 1960s marked the beginning of a decline for NECD. Though these developments were intended to eliminate slum housing and maintain downtown viability, they tore apart the nearby Hayti neighborhood. Many poor blacks were displaced during this process and moved into NECD, further sparking whites and middle-class blacks to flee to the suburbs.

During the same period, streets were rerouted and parking lots built throughout historic NECD neighborhoods in an attempt to relieve pressure on the rapidly growing downtown. As a result, many historic homes, including most on Mansion Row, were demolished or converted into apartment buildings. By 1970, 3 of NECD’s 4 neighborhoods had become predominantly black, and a number of welfare recipients had risen astronomically.