Mausoleum? Bomb shelter? What is it?

For the past several weeks, I’ve watched as the Green Wall at Main and Corcoran streets has fallen, as a forgotten piano has succumbed to the excavator and as construction workers have removed brick from building facades, literally one by one, in an effort to save what’s salvageable.

And now, lo and behold, guess what else was inside these crumbling buildings? An empty bank vault, according to Greg Hills of Austin Lawrence Partners, which is restoring three buildings along Main Street and Parrish Streets and building a 26-story skyscraper on this slab of clay. ALP is also renovating the old Jack Tar motel.

That a bank vault has been uncovered isn’t entirely surprising, considering the history of this corner, so well-documented by Open Durham. The Geer Building used to sit on this lot on the northeast corner of the intersection; it was the original home of Fidelity Bank, and later Wachovia.

Wachovia later moved to the southwest corner, where the INDY and American Underground are now. (Our publisher’s office has an old bank vault in it—complete with air holes—and in the basement of the AU is a gathering place called “The Vault.”)

Special thanks to the kind folks at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, who invited me to shoot a photo from their seventh-floor perch.