Faculty Houses on Campus Drive: An Overview

Duke University was organized in 1924 and built around Trinity College, thanks in part to the generosity of James B. Duke. His establishment of the philanthropic Duke Endowment provided the means for the construction of a new campus, known today as West Campus.  Construction of the new campus began in 1927 and was largely complete by 1930.  Trinity's original campus became the Woman’s College and the new campus became the home of Trinity College for Men and the professional schools of the University.

During construction, administrators recruited professors to teach at the University. Some were from out-of-state and a main concern for them was housing. Up until this time, many faculty members lived in homes around the existing campus, in the University Apartments, or in Hope Valley.  With the creation of a new campus came a demand for University-provided faculty housing. Justin Miller, Dean of the School of Law, admitted in a letter to Robert L. Flowers, Vice President of the Business Division, that he promised a recruit that the University would build him and his wife a house and that this promise was one of the major inducements for his coming to Duke. The recruit, Professor Douglas Maggs, stated that "When Dean Miller invited me to join the law faculty at Duke, he explained to me that the University would build me a house on the campus, and that fact played a not inconsiderable part in my decision to accept."

In early 1929, it was decided that the faculty houses would be located in the area off of Campus Drive, then called Myrtle Drive, and that the University should put as much as $350,000 towards constructing them. University administrators also recommended that Horace Trumbauer, whose firm designed the University's buildings, be contracted to design the faculty houses, four of which would serve as residences for University administrators. Trumbauer accepted the job for a fee of 4.8% of the cost for each house. By Spring 1931, eight houses were completed with three others expected to be ready by fall.

With suggestions from the Duke Endowment, the University established a few policies regarding faculty housing. First, the annual rent would be 8% of the total cost of the house, to be paid monthly and by the academic year. The rent would not include the land value. Secondly, the faculty members initially chosen to rent these houses would have a say in the size and architecture as, said Dr. Flowers, the administration did not want an architectural stereotype. It should be noted, however, that the style of the four administrators' houses was to match the neo-Gothic architecture of West Campus. Thirdly, a faculty member could occupy his house as long as he taught at Duke or unless the University decided to make other arrangements. If he left Duke or retired, then he would have to vacate the house. Lastly, the professor would pay for all utilities. In response to an inquiry by Johns Hopkins Professor Dr. Wiley Forbus, Dr. Flowers remarked that the University would likely never sell the houses in an effort to ensure that individuals not connected with Duke do not live there.

In getting plans underway for the construction of the homes, the University hired Olmsted Brothers, a landscape architectural firm from Brookline, MA. Olmsted Brothers selected the sites for the houses and together with Chief Engineer of Duke Construction Company, A. C. Lee, decided which house went on what site, after plans for each house were drawn. According to Dr. Flowers, by having Duke Construction Company do the work, costs could be kept down. Duke Construction Company then contracted with companies such as William Muirhead Construction Company, E. H. Clement Company and George W. Kane Company.

Trustees and administrators alike continually remained concerned about construction costs. The demand for housing on-campus, of course, was greater than the University could supply, largely due to financial constraints. In an effort to accommodate the desire for housing near campus, the Duke Endowment recommended that the University sell plots of land within Duke Forest to professors who could then build houses on them. The neighborhoods now lining Route 751 and Anderson Street in Durham developed from this recommendation.


Sources:

  • Justin Miller to Robert L. Flowers, October 4, 1930, Flowers Papers.
  • Douglas B. Maggs to Robert L. Flowers, May 13, 1930, Flowers Papers.
  • Robert L. Flowers to G. G. Allen, February 1, 1929, Flowers Papers.
  • Horace Trumbauer to A. C. Lee, May 23, 1929; Memorandum on building committee meeting held May 27, 1929, undated, Flowers Papers.
  • Report of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, June 1931, Board of Trustees Records
  • Robert L. Flowers to Dr. Wiley D. Forbus, October 28, 1929, Flowers Papers.
  • William R. Perkins to Robert L. Flowers, January 29, 1929, Flowers Papers.
  • Flowers to Forbus, October 28, 1929, Flowers Papers.
  • Alex H. Sands, Jr. to Robert L. Flowers, April 9, 1930, Flowers Papers; Minutes of The Duke Endowment Building Committee held April 29, 1930, Flowers Papers.
  • List of faculty houses and occupants, 1933, S. W. Myatt Files, Folder 154, Operations and Maintenance Records.
  • Duke Telephone Directory 1977-1978, 1978-1979.
  • A. C. Lee to Robert L. Flowers, September 25, 1930, Flowers Papers.>
  • Agreement between Robert L. Flowers and Frederic M. Hanes, May 30, 1935, University Treasurer’s Records.
  • Duke Telephone Directory, 1977-1978, 1978-1979
  • Ibid, 1973-1974, 1974-1975.
  • The Educational Improvement Program may have moved in as early at 1965. Unfortunately, the 1965 Duke Telephone Directory is missing for that year.