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May 07, 2005

"Welcome to the 1st National Bank Building. My name is lisa."

my shift as a HPSD tour docent began at 3:20pm; my training consisted of reading through a page of information at 3:05pm, and hearing the previous docent's speil at 3:19pm. over the course of the next three hours, i told 133 people the following information about 123 W. Main St:

"The building was built in 1915 when the 1st National Bank outgrew their original location. They commissioned archictect Frank Pierce Milton to build this building for them in the Neo-Classical style that was popular at the turn of the century. If you look around the lobby, you can see many original architectural details, such as the carved marble staircase and elaborate plaster ceiling, which has been restored. Also original is the ironwork canopy over the front entryway, which has kind of an interesting story behind it. About five years ago, it was removed. At the time, newspaper stories stated the reason as being that it was a safety hazard. However, I have had people come through today and tell me that other rumors were floating around Durham as to the real reason it was removed. It was lost after it was removed. About a year ago, someone spotted it in a local ironwork shop, recognized it for what it was, and they were able to bring it back and mount it on the building again. If you look through these glass doors, you can see the original bank vault, which they have left open so people can get a look at it. After you've seen the vault, if you wish you can take the elevator up to the seventh floor to see some of the offices that have been renovated."

My favorite tour-go-ers were a group of three gray-haired hippies who good-naturedly asked me every possible question. I don't think i've ever said, "I don't know" so many times in a row, but they were very cool about it and we had a good laugh. I can't remember all of their questions, but i seem to recall: "Where were the original elevators? How long has Otis been making elevators? Where was the vault made? Do they still use the vault for money? Are the logo colors of the bank the reason the ceiling of the lobby was painted sky blue? Do the people at Duke mind that the ceiling is Carolina blue?"

My second favorite tour-go-er was the last one. I had sent the other two volunteers off on their way, and was basically holding down the fort until I was officially relieved. A young man in faded black jeans and a studded leather jacket grasping a tour booklet wandered by and I asked him if he wanted to tour the building? He came in and as we were talking, he told me that he lives in a condo in downtown in a Deco building called the Snow building. He looked like he was about my age. I was charmed by the idea of a guy my age who still clings firmly to the old-school punk rock, and lives in a condo downtown, which he likes because it's totally quiet in the evenings and weekends. My kinda guy.

Posted by lisa at May 07, 2005 06:40 PM | TrackBack


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