Image Credit to OpenDurham.org
The origin of the Watts-Hillandale neighborhood is one that can be traced as far back as the early 1900’s.
In the post-Civil War era, the city of Durham was expanding thanks to a large endowment from industrialist, George W. Watts. His donation of 27 acres of wooded land was used to build the Watts Hospital at the north end of Broad Street near the west boundary of Trinity College. The campus of the hospital was completed in 1910 and had six buildings designed by Boston architects Kendall and Taylor.
Following the completion of the hospital, a country club and water park were built and the town of Watts-Hillandale suddenly became attractive to home buyers. The first homes were known to be along West Club Boulevard and were opulent and grand – many of them owned by doctors, politicians and developers.
But with the new amenities in place, developers noticed a need for neighborhoods with smaller and more affordable homes. So, in 1913, two separate development companies purchased plots of land along Club Boulevard, Englewood Avenue and their intersecting streets. They began to groom the land and build homes. While home purchases were slow at first, by 1921, the majority of the homes that were built by the two developers were purchased and the city began to see a major boom. This boom would include large landscape amenities along the main roads like the grand willow trees that are still in place today. As well as, the opening of new businesses and shops.
By the 1940’s, the Watts-Hillandale neighborhood reached its current appearance of brick and frame traditional style ranch houses. Residents eventually began to pass their homes down to their children as they found themselves no longer needing a large home. However, with the repairs and maintenance that were required to keep the homes up, the market saw a decline in the 1970’s. In hopes of bringing back more young families, developers began to “flip” and restore homes back to their traditional style and included modern features and appliances that accented the rustic charm the homes have always possessed.
With the new updates to the community, a younger generation of homebuyers soon began to return and in 1984, the Watts Hospital-Hillandale Neighborhood Association was founded to create a sense of community and camaraderie.
Today, the neighborhood hums with life with many events throughout the year that draw both neighbors and folks who are passing through. From annual Halloween festivities to a famous Fourth of July parade, the 2,500 residents of Watts-Hillandale have created a beautiful community for all to enjoy.