Chesterfield Building  

Category
Tobacco Factory
Address
701 West Main Street
Years Active
1948-2000
Source
Bull City Rising, Endangered Durham, and Preservation Durham
Current Use
Empty but slated for re-development
Tags
Working in tobacco, Durham Factory Skyline, Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company
The iconic Liggett & Myers factory (sometimes referred to as the Chesterfield building) at the corner of Duke St and West Main is six stories tall and was built in 1948-1949.  The factory offered tours of its facility in its heyday and even gave away free cigarettes as part of the tour according to one Durham resident. Aside from a site specific art installation in 2006 (http://www.rousseprojectdurham.com/) however, the building has stood empty since Liggett & Myers left Durham in 2000.  As of 2010, there are new plans to turn the former factory into apartments and retail space.  



Life in Durham when tobacco production was at its peak was almost defined by the tobacco industry and the factories.  Tobacco buildings shaped the geography of Durham and their whistles defined the hours of the day.  Working conditions in factories like Liggett & Myers' were not ideal.  The environment was dangerous due to the amount of tobacco dust in the air.  Additionally, ventilation systems were poor and the work itself was dirty and tedious.   In addition to health hazards, the workers had to endure racism and sexism.  It was also common for children as young as 11 or 12 to work in the factories in the early part of the 20th century.   To cope with factory life, workers did whatever they could to make their shifts more pleasant, including singing or playing jokes as they packed the cigarrettes.    

In the oral histories linked below, you can learn first hand what it was like for the men, women and children that worked in tobacco.  




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