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American Tobacco Historic District

If you plan to travel to Durham on there are numerous amazing places to see than you can cover in a few hours or even in a week. During your trip to Durham you simply cannot miss the American Tobacco Historic District. What was once the epicenter of the American tobacco industry has now become downtown Durham’s entertainment district.

The American Tobacco Historic District has an extremely interesting past. During the Civil War a young farmer by the name of Washington Duke returned to his farm after he reluctantly fought for the Confederacy. Upon his return all of the farm’s crops were destroyed with the exception of the some bright leaf tobacco that he had planted prior to the war. The Duke family packed the crop into sacks and sold it out of a wagon. During this period of time Washington Duke brought his sons into the family business. By 1874 Washington Duke become financially stable enough to sell his farm and move to Durham, NC in order to start his tobacco company, W. Duke Sons and Company. By 1881, his factory developed a process where tobacco could be easily formed into hand rolled cigarettes and small bags for pipe smokers. The company grew rapidly from 1881 to 1890, expanding into larger and larger factories in downtown Durham.

Duke and Sons became large enough to compete with one of the largest tobacco companies in the country, the Genuine Bull Durham Tobacco Factory. In 1890, James Duke joined forces with Bull Durham Tobacco and two other large tobacco factories to form The American Tobacco Company.  At this point, Washington Duke retired from the family business in order to let his sons run it. He spent his time becoming involved with Trinity College, which would later become Duke University, in 1924. To this day Duke University is considered one of the finest institutions for higher learning in the world. (They also have some pretty great sports teams, so if you happen to be traveling to Durham, NC during football or basketball season try to catch a game.)

By 1896 the American Tobacco Company became one of the largest businesses in the world, and was even one of the original twelve members of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Talk about the historic foundation of the American Dream! In essence the American Tobacco Historic District started with a small farm, a wagon, and a close-knit family’s great determination to succeed. It is truly a part of history that needs to be both celebrated and appreciated by all visitors.

Which brings us to the present day. Cigarettes are no longer made at the American Tobacco campus. It has now become a one million square foot district. Visitors can enjoy a plethora of hotels, restaurants, shopping venues, and even an outdoor amphitheater that holds over 2,000 people for concerts and other major events. Durham Bulls Athletic Park, home to one of the world’s most famous minor league baseball teams the Durham Bulls, is located in the American Tobacco Historic District. If you travel to Durham during the season be sure to purchase tickets to a game. It is a great time for both adults and kids alike.

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Written by JennBenn

Blumenthal Performing Arts Center (Charlotte)

NC and the American Revolution