Hunting the Wild Linthicum

For the purple castle project, I have been trying to establish who first lived in the house.  The slightly loony man who brokered the sale of the house (let’s call him Mr. Gravy) swore that the house had originally belonged to an architect and his wife.  Mr. Gravy said they owned the entire corner and the house faced the main street, with a wide, circular drive.  After a few years ‘out in the country,’  the missus insisted that they move back into town, and the property was sold.  The new owners wanted to know the truth, so off I go to write a proper house history.

The stair hall of the purple castle

Some grain of truth seemed plausible from all this: the house appeared to be earlier than many in the neighborhood (now Watts-Hillandale, then Club Estates and Hester Heights), which was platted around 1910 but did not get a streetcar nor dense settlement until a decade or so later.  Tax records (always a dubious authority around here) have the house constructed in 1911 – definitely earlier than  everything else nearby.  And I give Mr. Gravy about as much credence as the tax records.  So what’s the real story?

The West End Land Company sold two lots to Hill C. and Josie S. Linthicum on August 14, 1915.  Hill C. Linthicum was a practicing architect for many years, who had settled in Durham by 1904.  The first lot (#75) was where the purple castle now sits, plus the 1950s ranch immediately to its north; the second (#77) was around the corner on Club Boulevard, with an adjoining back yard.  16 months later in December, 1916, they transfer the purple castle’s lot (now subdivided from the original wider parcel) to their son, Henry Colvin Linthicum, and his wife Catherine.

Henry (or Henri) C. Linthicum had moved to Durham about 1912 to work as a draftsman in his father’s firm.  The two of them were listed in a 1916 business directory as ‘specialists in modern schools,’ and he officially joined the firm in 1918.  Both the Linthicums and their wives are listed at 703 Jackson Street (a house lost to the Durham freeway) in the 1915 city directory, when the lots were purchased.

In the 1919 city directory, however, Hill is listed at Club Boulevard near 12th Street, and Henry is at “16th, corner D, Oakland Heights.”  What?  there is no such intersection… unless you extrapolate a little bit.  Before the area was incorporated, the streets in this area were lettered and numbered – a carry over from the mill area south and east of Club Boulevard.  9th and 15th are still around, but the rest were renamed eventually.  That said, this lovely map, off of Old West Durham’s fantastic website, shows the basic grid.

Old West Durham map, c.1920 – with thanks for the OWDNA website

Knowing that the streetcar line went up 7th (now Broad) to E (now Club), 16th and D puts the younger Linthicum at the corner of Alabama and Englewood – tada!

2023 West Club Boulevard

As for where Hill C. and his wife were living through his last days (he passed away in October of 1919), 12th looks to be about the location of Carolina Avenue today… in which case, I might propose this house, if the penchant for brackets and shakes ran in the family.

I’ve still got a few loose threads to tie up, including what popped up in Henry and Catherine’s daughter’s obituary.  It looks like Diana Skipworth Linthicum Coley, born in 1912, tells her stories of growing up in Raleigh – and the Linthicums weren’t there until after 1920 at least.  I wonder if the elder Linthicum’s passing in 1919 helped push the younger family out of town?  Regardless, Henry Linthicum sold the purple castle in 1921 to Ira J. and Lizzie Stoner, who owned the house for 22 years and gave it its name for the national register nomination.  Lizzie sold it to J.W. Wilkinson in 1944 – a name connected with the building trades in Durham.  I’d wager he’s the one who cut up the house and turned it to apartments, classy light pole support system and all.

So there’s definitely some truth to Mr. Gravy’s claims about the history of the purple castle – long circular driveway notwithstanding – and I am looking forward to finding out the last details and giving the new owners the full story.

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