Durham’s Pivot: From Tobacco Road to City of Medicine


Durham's Pivot


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

COST: $81 before 7 July, 2014 early registration deadline; $96 after 7 July, 2014

How did a sleepy town at a railroad depot turn into the mecca of tobacco named “The Bull City” and then reverse course 180 degrees and rise again as the “City of Medicine”?  The historic tour of Durham is one of the most extraordinary stories you never heard.

In 1865, Union General Sherman and Confederate General Johnston negotiated the largest troop surrender of the Civil War at Bennett Place, 17 days after Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox.  While 150,000 blue and grey troops were sitting around awaiting the details of surrender, they enjoyed the local “bright leaf” variety of tobacco.  Post war those men wanted more, and the orders started rolling in, requests for that smooth tobacco to be sent home and the mega industry arose overnight.

Guests will begin their exploration at the American Tobacco Campus and Brightleaf Square both formerly brick warehouses of the tobacco empire where they learn about the industry, the Duke family that consolidated it and the huge sums of money flowing into the city during that segment of history.  These one-time factories are now part of the vibrant culture of Durham where people dine in the restaurants, shop in boutiques, listen to community concerts and even start up high-tech companies.  So in addition to learning about history, the experience is exciting as the group feels the vibe where old and new collide.
 After seeing the former warehouses, guests will take a guided driving tour of downtown Durham where employees spent their hard earned money and the tobacco industry created a thriving black middle class including shop owners, banks, an insurance company and much more; dubbed “Black Wall Street”. 

The money that tobacco brought into the local economy built many institutions that drive today’s economy, including Duke University.  Originally Trinity College, the school made plans to move its campus to Raleigh until Washington Duke outbid them and together with Julian S. Carr, enticed the college to relocate to Durham instead in 1892.  We’ll take a quick tour of the striking neo-Gothic campus and then see the highlight, North Carolina’s second most visited tourist attraction, the amazing Duke Chapel.

Ironically, Duke University has become a major nationally recognized medical hub which brings the tale full circle from war to tobacco to the science and medical research based economy that drives present-day Durham.


11:00 AM - 4:00 PM


  • Private transportation
  • Professional step-on guide throughout
  • Walking tours of Duke Chapel
  • Delicious lunch at Piazza  Italia  in Brightleaf Square
  • Iced Water available for guests

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