Architect: C.C. Hook
Washington Duke (1820-1905) was an Orange County native who made a fortune through his tobacco company, based out of Durham. At the age of sixty, Washington Duke retired from the business and devoted himself to his family, his church and the Republican Party. His civic-mindedness and love of the Methodist Church coalesced in 1890 with the successful campaign to persuade the Methodist-related Trinity College to relocate to the bustling city of Durham. Duke's offer of $85,000 and later donations totaling $300,000 for the College's endowment was part of a family philanthropic pattern that was continued by the entire Duke family and their scions. Washington Duke died on May 8th, 1905, and twenty years later, at the urging of President William P. Few, James B. Duke in 1924 agreed to rename the institution in honor of his father.
The East Duke Building was originally intended to be the east wing of a new and larger Washington Duke building, joined to the West Duke Building by a colonnade with a bell tower in the middle. This two story building of white pressed brick and Indiana sandstone, roofed with green tile is the complement of the West Duke building. When it first opened, the East Duke building contained offices, including the office of the President, three assembly rooms, and two parlors, later known as the Alumnae Room and the Anna Branson Memorial Room. The east and west assembly rooms on the second floor were initially the home of the two Duke literary societies, the Hesperian and Columbian Societies. Hesperia Hall was converted into the Y.W.C.A. Chapel in 1937-1938. Columbia Hall started being used as a music practice and recital room beginning in 1936-1937 and became known as the East Duke Music Room. In 1980, the room was renamed the Ernest W. Nelson Music Room, in honor of the late founder and longtime director of the Durham Chamber Arts Society.
For Further Research:
- Biographical Reference Collection - Contains biographical information on Washington Duke.
- Building Reference Collection - Contains historical building information.
- Washington Duke Historical Article - Article exploring the life of Washington Duke.
- The East Duke Parlors History
- Flickr photographs related to the East Duke Building.