Published: Oct 15, 2005 12:30 AM
Modified: Sep 28, 2006 10:32 AM
This Sunday, Trinity Park is holding its every-other-year tour of homes, a worthy endeavor for a historic neighborhood. Historic, like so much else in Durham, with an ironic twist.
Trinity Park may be fairly called the birthplace of political consciousness among Durham's neighborhoods. It was a pioneer in Durham's inner-city gentrification.
However, this liberally genteel section is troubled by the lingering presence of carousing collegians. And trendy Trinity Park is the product of that much-maligned creature, a real-estate developer -- himself a carousing character, to boot.
His name was Brodie Leonidas Duke. Eldest son of patriarch Washington Duke, Brodie was the first of his clan to leave the farm and go into the tobacco business in the budding village of Durham.
In 1880, against his father's advice, Brodie eschewed the fashionable residential section along Dillard Street and bought 150 acres on the west, between the town and Blackwell Park (now Duke East Campus). Brodie's home stood at the site of old Carr Junior High on Morgan Street.
Brodie's half-brother Ben dubbed him "the great real-estate king of the town." By 1900, Brodie had bought property in the country, in Asheville, Virginia and Florida, and in a vast sweep to the west and north of Durham. Trinity College's arrival in 1892 boosted his property values, but Brodie bided his time until the Durham Traction Co. laid a trolley line down Main Street, bringing light-rail convenience to suburban commuters.
In 1901, Brodie subdivided his property and started selling house lots. They sold so well that, in 1908, he started a contracting business. He even used his subdivision to take a shot at George Washington Watts, a partner in the Duke tobacco firm who had taken over Brodie's Pearl cotton mill during one of Brodie's financial reversals.
When he laid out his streets, Brodie named the north-south thoroughfare on the west, "Watts"; on the east, "Duke"; in the middle, "Hated." On the plat records, they read, "Duke Hated Watts." Or vice-versa.
It didn't last. The middle street was quickly renamed "Gregson," in honor of Amos Gregson, first pastor at what is now Duke Memorial United Methodist Church.
Now, Brodie was a drinking man, given to riding his horse into the family tobacco works and disappearing on extended benders. When W. Duke Sons & Co. was reorganized in 1884, Brodie was specifically banned from overindulging and embarrassing the firm.
Brodie died in 1919, leaving his fourth wife, Wylanta, a reputation as his family's black sheep, a suburban tract all but built out from Lamond Street north to Trinity Avenue, and maybe more. For when those young Dukes and Duchess get liquored up and carry own, it might just be old Brodie's spirit, out on another spree.