The majority of what we now know as Northgate Park neighborhood was built in the boom years after World War II throughout the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. NPNA was formed in 1987.
As the development evolved, local Real Estate Auctioneer J. Franklin Barfield, his wife Ruby D. Barfield and C. B. Wagoner donated parcels of land to the City of Durham to establish the Park as we know it today. First came the donation of the main Park area in March 1938, recorded in Record of Deeds Book 125, page 365. C.B. Wagoner had to first resolve a note on the property then sold it for the princely sum of $1 to the City. Interestingly, this deed was notarized by one Ruby D. Barfield, Notary Public. In October 1940 came the dog park area (Book 135, page 585), followed in April 1941 by the Tennis Court triangle (Book 138, page 540). Both of these tracts of land were jointly owned by Wagoner and the Barfields and each transferred for $1 to the City.
Of surprise to many local residents is the fact that German Prisoners of War were housed locally. Butner Prisoner of War camp was closed in the 40’s with some buildings dismantled and the materials sold to local businesses and residents to build homes. You can recognize some of these materials in attics around the neighborhood by their thicker than normal 2x4s appearance and rough cut versus factory planed.
The original NGP houses were white, had wooden siding and the shutters had silhouette cut-outs. If you have shutters like these now, hold on to them: they are almost antique! Have you ever wondered why there are so many aluminum window and porch awnings in Northgate Park? It is because of Mr. Norman Draper who lived at 2701 Farthing. His truck even had a small aluminum awning on the driver’s side! Norman’s work was so popular that after retirement he even had to black out the phone number on the driver’s door of his van to stop the calls.
It’s interesting to note that parts of the community and individual roads have changed names several times over the years: back in the 20’s, Shenandoah was Hutchins Street and Farthing was Midway Avenue then Maxwell; East Hammond was Fleetwood. Part of the neighborhood around Murray/Herring/Maynard used to be called MacArthur Heights.
- Gresham Avenue used to be called Leon until the mid-1990’s. It was renamed after Buck Gresham who was a long term resident and city employee.
- Acadia, in plan at least, continued all the way up and intersected Herring Boulevard.
- In to the 50’s Duke Street dead ended at Leon.
- As late as the 1960’s Murray Avenue was a dirt road and had quail living in the adjacent woods. Some of the Murray family still live in the neighborhood today.
Many people think that the house just next door to the church is part of a parsonage. In actuality, two brothers (Wesley Loftis was one) purchased the two lots, just north of the site where Parkview Baptist Church now sits, after they returned from World War II in 1946. The two houses were later purchased by Line and Terri Dempsey in 2006 and 2008, who became the second owners of each home after 60 plus years. It is interesting to note that in the Wesley Loftus house, four generations lived in the house at the same time in this small two bedroom one bath house. Although the houses sit next to each other, their street addresses are two different streets (Acadia Street and Elgin Street). These two houses feature large in NPNA over the years – Wesley Loftis was a founding Board member of NPNA in 1987 and Line is a recent Past President!
2303 Glendale Ave, the second house up from the corner of Chamberlain across from the park (the two story with the balcony) was built by Edison Johnson (the Edison Johnson Recreation Center up on Murray by NCMLS is named after him) in 1948 and his family owned it until around 2004. Edison Johnson was the director of public works in Durham in the 50′s, 60′s, maybe into the 70′s (dates?). He also wrote the first NC state building code (dates?).
Bus routes used to run through Northgate Park (there was one stop at the junction of Gresham and Shenandoah and another near the traffic stop at the junction of Lavender/Glendale) taking local workers to the Tobacco Warehouses.
The area at the end of Gresham across the creek by the dog park was deeded by Durham Realty & Insurance Company in October 1958 by deed recorded in Book 252 Page 613.
The Barfield Center
Where the tennis courts currently stand is the site of the burned down Barfield Center, a community center. Many of the older residents remember after-school tap dance lessons there as well as Saturday evening square dancing! The Barfields used to live at 101 Club Boulevard. Flo Johnston’s column (Sept. 5, 2009) reminds us that “a group from the Glendale Heights Community met at the Barfield Center at Northgate Park on Sept. 13, 1959, to form a new Methodist Church, which became known as Glendale Heights and eventually moved to its present location on Leon Street.”
Tribute to Frank Barfield
The Herald-Sun (Durham, NC)
December 8, 2003
Letters to editor
All citizens of Durham, let’s come together to honor a wonderful man, Frank Barfield. Barfield gave an Easter egg hunt yearly for all children for more than 20 years. A classy showman, Barfield often had a “pep band,” gave away food and tossed silver coins to the children at his entertaining auctions. I, for one, remember him well. Could Northgate Park be renamed Barfield Park in his honor. Shouldn’t it be?
- In 1980, the section of Acadia that runs where the Tennis Court Picnic shelter now sits was closed permanently.
- The Dog Park used to house the Jaycee Ball Field.
- Fowlers Grocery store was where the pawn shop is now on Roxboro and Club before it moved to Brightleaf Square (They subsequently moved to alongside Morgan’s and after a couple of changes of ownership became ‘Parker and Otis’)
The Museum of Life and Science
The original “Museum” was called the “Children’s Museum”, founded in 1946, and was housed in the white house on the junction of Lavender and the Creek, on the right as you look upstream. 1960s Museums attractions included a two-headed calf and a stuffed wallaby! The Museum was moved to the South side of Murray where it became the Museum of Life and Science. The Mercury Redstone rocket was trucked up from Alabama on the back of local space enthusiasm driven by the training of Astronauts in Chapel Hill.
Our beloved Bronto is just one of many exhibits from the original Dinosaur Trail (founded around 1970 by Richard Wescott and running until Hurricane Fran wreaked havoc in 1996). 2009 saw the Save the Bronto campaign which raised over $20,000 to restore and protect the famed beheaded-Bronto.
Throughout 2009/2010 we experienced the restoration of the park, re-routing of Ellerbe Creek and the establishment of the no-mow zones. Northgate Park residents were appropriately vocal in ensuring that their views and needs were heard!
Past residents of Northgate Park include:
- Christian Laettner – Duke Basketball
- Eddie Neville – Durham Bulls 1940’s and 1950’s
- Sherriff Worth Hill
- Dan Hill (former council member)
- Lib Albright (a Teer)
- Edison Johnson
- Bob Fowler of Fowlers – everybody’s grocery in the 40s, 50s, and 60s
- Long term residents include:
- Janet Neville who moved in to her house (corner of Highland and Hammond) in 1933!
- Randy Boswell was born December 8, 1948, and he is still living at his first home
- The Henderson family on Murray has been in the neighborhood since 1962
- Becky and Carl Buckner moved in to Northgate Park 1966