When I arrived in Durham nine years ago, two downtown buildings caught my eye: The Oprah Building, aka, the Jack Tar Motel, and the former Home Savings/ Mutual Savings Bank. Against all the early 20th century brick buildings, these mid-century oddities, well, I didn’t know whether to fall in love or feel aghast.
Eventually I warmed to both buildings, especially the MSB’s gold dentils that dangled like a vampire’s fangs over its entrance. For the past year, I’ve been watching the transformation of the old bank into The Durham Hotel, a swanky boutique on East Chapel Hill Street. I recently toured the new digs, which has honored the original building’s mid-century modern design. (The red, geometrically hypnotizing carpet is one-of-a-kind, made in California specifically for the hotel.)
The floor-to-ceiling windows, hand-painted Moroccan tile, the mezzanine/balcony and the outdoor patio with cream and red tables and chairs are sumptuous, but the detail I love the most? The banks safe, which you can see in the top photo, has been well, saved, and sits behind the downstairs bar. Although it doesn’t open any more, the safe has a classic dial and brushed-steel hinges the size of a suitcase.Yes, I caressed the hinges. And the dial. I couldn’t help myself.
Guests are staying at the hotel, but the soft opening of the rooftop bar and chef Andrea Reusing’s restaurant hasn’t been announced. On a clear day, from the roof you can see the Dallas Phallus, aka, the Green Pickle, on the horizon, and on a really clear day, nearly to Chapel Hill.