Have you explored the tunnels under Durham’s West Village? The new property manager, Maureen McDivett, hopes to soon offer tours of the West Village buildings and is working with the City of Durham to open the wrought-iron gates of the complex property during the day to let traffic pass through. 

The Ligett-Myers Tobacco complex was built in 1893. Not until 1999 were the West Village buildings finally designated as a National Registry Historic District (Brightleaf district). Many of the tobacco plant’s facilities were demolished in the name of progress. Luckily, the largest building (the Chesterfield factory) was preserved, and it’s opulent architecture includes intricate red-brick masonry along with dozens of false chimneys. The Romanesque revival style also includes cornices, parapets and chimney pots at the top of ventilators. The Chesterfield is slated to be mixed use residential and commercial once redeveloped, while both the Cobb and O’Brien warehouses now contain lofts. There are approximately 320 lofts total, each unit in a unique shape with windows and beams in varying locations. 

Renovations to West Village have been completed in several stages, Phase I in 2001 and then Phase II in 2008.  Images on large canvas panels are peppered throughout the hallways portraying the before/after of each buildings reconstruction. Large pieces of machinery were taken out but many buildings yet the small gears and metal pulleys were left along the ceilings. In the residential lofts, there are 25 foot ceilings, exposed brick, timber columns, pine wood floors and a separate parking deck. The buildings also incorporates environmentally friendly features such as a bioretention gardens and energy-efficient lighting. 

A courtyard nestled inside the property has hosted several events, including weddings. With the help of restaurant 604 West, residents and business owners can dine outdoors on a patio overlooking the green space. Large open-air balconies on the first level allow for folks to gather in the evening with a real sense of community. Alison Steele, a resident of West Village and local Architect at A + S Designs, just moved in last year and says the heart of downtown living has no comparison!

For more information, visit one of these sites:                    

 http://www.westvillagedurham.com

http://www.owdna.org/History/history.htm

http://preservationdurham.org/about-durham/historic-neighborhoods/

With special help from: Bob Ashley, Executive Director, Preservation Durham

http://www.bullcityrising.com/2007/05/west_village_ph.html