We live in a work / play city. Our competitive cost of living, world-class health care, and wealth of recreational and cultural resources combined with quality schools, top-notch colleges and universities, extraordinary dining and shopping opportunities all contribute to the exceptional quality of life that Durham residents enjoy.

Durham is home to the world-renowned Research Triangle Park (RTP), home of more than 170 high tech companies, as well as a thriving entrepreneurial community, making it a great place to pursue employment.

We are a community of individuals from all over the world and all walks of life.  We’re diverse in every way and we love it. Our citizens like to challenge and be challenged.

Durham is distinguished by it’s high rate of educational attainment.  In Durham County, 44.7% of adults over 25 years of age have obtained at least a bachelor’s degree.

Read the 2015 Relocation Guide from Durham Magazine >>

In this section:

Durham History

From Railroads and Tobacco to Research and Technology

dukehomestead09 WMNamed for Dr. Bartlett Durham, Durham originated in 1853 as a railroad depot. Durham was incorporated in 1869 and soon became known for its tobacco and textiles. The tobacco manufacturing industry focused worldwide attention on the area after the Civil War. Bull Durham Tobacco and American Tobacco Trust combined to produce a majority of US cigarettes and smoking tobacco. As a result of that thriving business, Durham grew and prospered tremendously.

The tobacco industry dominated the city. Durham quickly developed a vibrant community. Although the center of the African-American community was an area known as ‘Hayti’ (pronounced HAY-Tie), members of the African-American community established some of the most prominent and successful African-American-owned businesses in the country during the early 20th century. These businesses, the best known of which are North Carolina Mutual Insurance Co., and Mechanics & Farmers’ Bank, were centered on Parrish St. in downtown Durham, which would come to be known as “Black Wall Street”.

In the 1950s,Durham took on a new venture with the development
of Research Triangle Park. The region benefited Durham History Hubsignificantly from this establishment, bringing several large businesses and industries to the area. Due to this development, the tobacco industry began to experience the effects. A new era in economic development was ushered in and the economic base in Durham began its transformation.

Durham’s growth began to rekindle during the 1980s, with the construction of multiple housing developments, and the beginnings of downtown revitalization. Today, Durham is a vibrant, unique community that continues to grow and prosper with new industry and amenities for all.

Read more about Durham’s history >>

Durham Historic Growth


Learn how our growing and dynamic home is a welcoming place for all!

Read the complete census data >>

Quick Facts about Durham County Demographics:

  • 2013 Population Estimate: 288,133 people
  • Land Area: 285.98 sq. miles
  • Median Value of Owner-Occupied Housing Units, 2008-2012: $179,800
  • Total Number of Private Non-farm Establishments, 2007: 6,713
  • Mean Travel Time to Work, Workers 16+, 2008-2012: 21.4 minutes

For more in-depth information, check out our Economic Profile.


Durham is Recognized in Top 10 Best Places to Live

U.S. News & World Report – February 2017

Durham Hotel Recognized as “A Hotel with a Sense of Place and Midcentury Style”

The New York Times, January, 27, 2017

Durham is recognized No. 2 as “Best Value Southern Gaycation”

Trivago, January 24, 2017

Durham is recognized in “Top 10 American Cities for Working Moms”

Citi  – Nov. 23, 2016

Durham recognized as “Most Educated City in the State”

Yahoo Finance – October 11, 2016

Durham is recognized as one of the “Top Ten Cities for Creatives”

Smart Asset – July 7, 2015

Cocoa Cinnamon is #7 on “24 US Coffee Shops You Have to Visit Before You Die”

Buzzfeed – January 2015

Durham is deemed the 9th Coziest City in America

Elle Decor – January 2015

Raleigh-Durham International Airport recognized as 9th Best Airport in 2014

Conde Nast (customer survey) – December 2014

Durham is a Top 50 Best Place to Travel in the World!

Travel & Leisure – December 2014

Durham is 1 of 11 Southern Towns You’re Forgetting But Shouldn’t

Huffington Post – November 2014

Top 10 Most Educated City in the US

Yahoo – November 2014

Durham ranked top 10 most affordable and desirable cities to live in

Kiplinger – September 2014

Durham County was recognized as the 13th most affordable county for rental properties in the United States in 2014.

RealtyTrac – August 2014

A list of most-cited scientists for 2014 features 32 researchers affiliated with Duke University

Thomas Reuters – June 2014

The Parlour ice cream shop was recognized among “The Country’s Coolest New Ice Cream Shops”

CNN Eatocracy – July 2013

Monuts Donuts was recognized as one of “The 21 Best Donut Shops in America”

Thrillist – April 2014

Mateo bar de Tapas was named among the “100 Best Bars in the South.”

Southern Living – January 2014

DPAC, Durham Performing Arts Center was ranked the #4 most attended theater in the United States in 2013

Pollster – January 2014

Durham was recognized (along with Raleigh) as part of “10 Up and Coming Cities for Entrepreneurs”

Forbes Magazine – September 2013

Durham’s American Underground was selected by Google to become one of seven Entrepreneur Tech Hubs in the United States and Canada

Google – September 2013

Durham No. 10 on list for “Best Places for Business and Careers 2013″

Forbes Magazine – August 2013

Durham Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Durham Inc.’s “World’s Smallest Office” or Smoffice, won “Best Unconventional Project”

2013 International Chamber of Commerce World Chambers Federation Competition – April 2013

Durham named “Tastiest Town in the South”

Southern Living Magazine – February 2013

Durham No. 6 in “America’s Top 10 Cities for Small Business”

Washington Post – February 2013

Durham No. 2 Best City for Mid-Career Professionals

Kiplinger – July 2012

Durham No. 1 Among America’s Leading Creative Class Metros

The Rise of the Creative Class– Revisited – July 2012

Durham No. 1 in Top 10 Large-Sized Fourth Economy Communities

Fourth Economy Community Index – December 2012 

Durham named No. 1 “Large County Best Positioned for Growth”

Fourth Economy Community Index – December 2012

Durham ranked highest paying in the South

Triangle Business Journal – May 2011

Durham, NC was No. 10 on the list Where Americans Spend the Most

Forbes – April 2010

Durham tied for No. 11 on the list of the “Best Cities” for Business

Market Watch – December 2010

Durham listed as one of America’s Up and Coming cities

Yahoo Finance-September 2010

Listed as one of the 20 Cities Surviving the Recession

Yahoo Finance – May 2010

Durham ranked No. 1 Best Place to Retire

Money Magazine – September 2010

Durham Ranked No. 4 Best City for Gollege Grads

Daily Beast – May 2010

Durham Listed Among 41 Places to Go

New York Times – January 2011

Durham ranked as having the No. 1 Housing Market in the U.S.

Wall Street Journal – August 2010

Durham MSA ranked No. 2 on the list of America’s Brainiest Cities

The Daily Beast – September 2010

Durham ranked No. 4 Brainiest Bastion in America

Portfolio.com – December 2010

Durham ranked seventh among the 2010 Most Livable Bargain Markets

MSN Real Estate-September 2010

Durham MSA projected to have the ninth-highest Creative Class Job Growth in the country

The Atlantic Monthly – September 2010

Durham ranked No. 1 among the Best Mid-Sized Cities for Jobs

Forbes – September 2010

Durham named the fourth Most Affordable City in America

NBC Today Show – March 2010

Durham ranked No. 5 among Top-Eating Cities

Bundle – May 2010

Duke University ranked the fifth best College in the South

Forbes.com – November 2010

Durham MSA named the Sixth Healthiest Housing Market in the U.S.

Hanley Wood Market Intelligence – February 2010

Durham MSA ranked seventh among the Best Places for College Students to Live

American Institute for Economic Research – September 2010

Duke University named the No. 9 College That Brings the Highest Paycheck

CNBC – December 2010

Duke University tied for the ninth on the 2011 list of America’s Best Colleges

U.S. News and World Report – August 2010

Duke University Hospital ranked No. 10 among America’s Best Hospitals, 2010-2011

U.S. News and World Report – July 2010


Find Out Why We Love Durham >>