American Tobacco Factory 

Category
Tobacco Factory
Address
The corner of Blackwell St. and Pettigrew St.
Years Active
1874-1987
Source
Bull Durham Business Bonanza, 1866-1940 by B.W.C. Roberts and Snow L. Roberts; Endangered Durham
Current Use
The American Tobacco Company factory became a national historic landmark in 1977. After the factory closed, it underwent a restoration and is currently a mixed-use building.
Tags
American Tobacco Company, W.T. Blackwell and Company, Working in tobacco

Completed in 1874, the American Tobacco Company factory was initially known as the W.T. Blackwell and Company Tobacco Factory. It was also referred to as the Bull Durham Tobacco Factory, and eventually earned the nickname "Old Bull,"  because the whistle actually sounded like a bull. The ell-shaped building of Italianate design is a brick factory trimmed with marble, and features a Bull Durham ad right on the front of the building. The Bull Durham advertising campaign even offered a cash prize for baseball players to try and hit the sign from nearby stadiums.



American Tobacco Company factory, circa 1926 (Source: Durham County Library)


The factory was really part of a campus of buildings related to the tobacco industry including other factories and warehouse, and the famous Lucky Strike smokestack.

The W.T. Blackwell and Company and W. Duke, Sons and Company were fierce competitors in the 1880s. However, W.T. Blackwell was not able to keep up with the Dukes, and was purchased by Union Tobacco Company in 1898, who sold Blackwell to American Tobacco, which was now part of the vast Duke tobacco empire. Blackwell was now part of the trust, along with the old Duke factory down the railroad track and the other companies the Dukes had taken over along the way.

The American Tobacco factory endured many changes in the tobacco industry in the 20th century, including the rise of pre-rolled cigarettes. In 1957, the factory switched over exclusively to cigarette manufacture, and smoking tobacco production went to the factory in Richmond, VA. The factory was finally shut down in 1987. The American Tobacco campus, however, underwent major renovations in the early 2000's, and is currently an award-winning mixed-use development.



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Google street view of American Tobacco Company factory in 2010