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Durham, the county seat of Durham County, is the fourth-largest city in the state of North Carolina with 233,252 residents (2011 census). It’s the home of Duke University and Medical Center as well as North Carolina Central University. Durham is also included in the Research Triangle, home of the Research Triangle Park.
Durham grew rapidly following the civil war with much of this growth being attributed to the establishment of a thriving tobacco industries of the Bull Durham Tobacco Company, and Washington Duke’s W. Duke & Sons Tobacco Company.
Most notably, after the Dukes established what amounted to a monopoly of the smoking and chewing tobacco business in the United States by 1900, the Federal Government forced a breakup of the Duke’s business under the antitrust laws. The Dukes retained what became known as American Tobacco but were prevented from further investment in the tobacco industry. It was then that the Dukes turned to the then new industry of electric power generation which has grown into what is today known as Duke Energy.
The early electrification of Durham encouraged the growth of the textile industry in and around Durham in the early 1900’s essentially doubling its population. Based on this economic boom, much of the early city architecture, both commercial and residential, dates from the period of 1890-1930.
In recent years the city of Durham has stepped up revitalization of its downtown and undergone an economic and cultural renaissance. Partnering with developers from around the world, the city continues to promote the redevelopment of many of its former tobacco districts, projects supplemented by the earlier construction of the Durham Performing Arts Center and new Durham Bulls Athletic Park The American Tobacco Campus and Historic District. Additionally, many of the historic tobacco buildings elsewhere in the city have been converted into loft-style apartment complexes. The downtown corridor along West Main St. has seen significant redevelopment including a number of bars, entertainment venues, art studios and co-working spaces in addition to shopping and dining in nearby Brightleaf Square, another former tobacco warehouse in the Bright Leaf Historic District.
Of course, no conversation about Durham would be complete without mentioning Duke University. The school moved to Durham in 1892 and in 1924, tobacco and electric power industrialist James B. Duke established The Duke Endowment, at which time the institution changed its name to honor his deceased father, Washington Duke.
In a study by The New York Times, Duke graduates are among the most valued in the world, having tied the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania for 7th place in the 2014 U.S. News & World Report “Best National Universities Rankings”. Forbes magazine ranked Duke 7th in the world on its list of ‘power factories’ in 2012. The university’s athletic teams, known as the Blue Devils, have won 13 team national championships in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the men’s basketball team has attended 15 Final Fours, played in 10 Championship games and won four National Championships.