Learn - Anonymous Ancestors

Anonymous Ancestors | Trust Building Gallery | 212 W. Main Street

The Trust Building Gallery

The Trust Building Gallery is funded by Durham natives Michael Lemanski, Carl P. Webb, Sr., and Dewayne Washington; Connecting to the rich history of the Trust building and reactivating the collaborative energy of Durham’s entrepreneurial pioneers.

The Museum of Durham History has curated the opening exhibition in the Trust Building Gallery. The exhibit has two sections: Anonymous Ancestors and Bull City Soundscape. Learn more about Anonymous Ancestors below and Bull City Soundscape here.

Anonymous Ancestors

Who walked Main Street and Parrish Street before you? The current exhibit in the Trust Gallery, Anonymous Ancestors encourages visitors to ponder this question as they view historic photographs from the early 1900s.

Panorama from circa 1925: The panoramic photograph shows Durham circa 1925, taken from present-day Ramsauer and Corcoran Streets. The view is looking west down the railroad tracks that run along present-day Ramseur Street. To the south is Blackwell Street and the manufacturing plants of the American Tobacco Company (now American Tobacco Campus). Looking directly down the tracks you can see Washington Duke’s four story Cigarette Factory. The top two stories were later removed, and the two story building today houses West Village shops and apartments. To the north is the Corcoran Street and downtown. The seventeen-story Washington Duke Hotel that dominates the downtown skyline would have just been completed at the time of this photo. The building was demolished in 1975. The Trust Building, built in 1904 and Durham’s first multi-story office building stands in front of it.

Main Street and Parrish Street are visible on the far right where sunlight streams across Corcoran Street. Long predating the town of Durham, Main Street was originally a wagon road between Hillsborough and Raleigh, running along the ridge that separates the Neuse and Cape Fear river watersheds. Parrish Street (originally Clay Street) was named for tobacco entrepreneur Edward J. Parrish. In 1901, African American entrepreneur John Merrick bought a lot on Parrish Street at a sheriff’s auction. The street became a hub for black-owned businesses to the extent that, in 1949, Ebony magazine published an article about those firms titled “Wall Street of Negro America.”

Holladay Studio shot the image for the 1926 Durham Chamber of Commerce publication, Durham, North Carolina: A Center of Industry and Education. Learn more at Digital Durham.

Hugh Mangum Portraits: The photographs above the panorama give the exhibition its name. These portraits were taken by photographer Hugh Mangum, and while their names have been lost to history, they connect us to the people of Durham’s past. Itinerant photographer Hugh Mangum was born on Main Street in Durham in 1877. His family later left what was a burgeoning industrial town to live at West Point on the Eno. Throughout his adult life, Mangum traveled throughout the Southeast taking pictures. He set up many temporary studios, and several permanent ones in North Carolina and Virginia. Mangum’s portraits show a remarkable range of people; many of his photographs were taken using the Penny Picture Camera, which created inexpensive portraits.

Further Resources about Hugh Mangum:

Browse hundreds of photos in Duke University’s Hugh Mangum archive.

Photojournalist and documentary photographer Sarah Stacke has researched and written extensively on Hugh Mangum. Read her article on Mangum in Aperture here.

Visit West Point on the Eno, a City of Durham Park that includes the Hugh Mangum Museum of Photography. Mangum’s original darkroom (a tobacco pack house) was saved by Friends of West Point and opened in 1986 as the Hugh Mangum Museum of Photography.

Open Durham on the McCowan-Mangum House.