Free Walking Tours
2nd, 3rd & 4th Saturdays: April-November
starts at 10:00 am
from the Durham Farmers’ Market
Preservation Durham presents free walking tours at 10:00am on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Saturday of each month, April through November. No reservations are required, simply meet your guide on Saturday morning at Preservation Durham’s sign at the Durham Farmers Market in Central Park, on Foster Street just north of Downtown. Tours last about 90 minutes and return to the start point at the Farmers’ Market. Tours can also be arranged at other times by appointment.
We feature tours about Durham’s Tobacco Heritage, Civil Rights Legacy, and Architecture and Urban Landscape, and our virtual tours of Durham’s Tobacco Trail and Historic Hayti Neighborhood are available year-round!
Interested in becoming a tour guide? Further details can be found at our volunteer page.
Walking tours may be cancelled on short notice due to extreme heat or inclement weather. Walking Tours will be completed in one hour on days when the temperature is above 90° or below 50°. Please take the weather into account when planning to join a tour. In hot weather, wear a hat and sunscreen and bring a bottle of water. In cold weather, bundle up and bring a cup of hot coffee! Always wear comfortable shoes.
Tour of Durham’s Tobacco Heritage
April 13th, May 12th, June 8th, July 13th,
August 10th, September 14th, October 12th, November 9th
Preservation Durham’s enthusiastic and well-informed volunteer tour guides will lead you through the history of the tobacco industry as they tell many tales from Durham’s past, using oral histories and photographs to illustrate the history of tobacco and the people who supplied tobacco products known throughout the world. The tour includes descriptions of life in the factories and at home for the thousands of workers who made the Bull City one of the biggest industrial cities in the South as well as those who, like guitarist John Dee Holeman, trekked to Durham’s tobacco auctions to play the blues.
“The tour touches on life in the work force, market days in Durham’s auction warehouses, the development of the cigarette and how that brought Durham into the global arena, and transformation of Durham’s identity from a city of tobacco to a city of medicine.”
- Cynthia Satterfield, one of several researchers who prepared the program
Durham’s Civil Rights Legacy Tour
April 2oth, May 18th, June 15th, July 20th,
August 17th, September 21st, October 19th, November 16th
Explore Durham’s Civil Rights Legacy with PD’s walking tour. This exciting tour focuses on many of the sites in downtown Durham that were important during the 1950s and 60s Civil Rights movement, including the Durham County Courthouse, the Arts Center (originally Durham High School and later City Hall), and the Kress and Woolworth buildings, sites of sit-in protests. Learn about the contributions of ordinary Durham residents to the struggle for equality as well as local leaders like Floyd McKissick and national figures like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who brought America’s attention to the campaign for civil rights in the Bull City.
“We need not be historians to understand the struggle for equality in Durham and how it played out as the nation confronted the same problems, although on a much larger scale.”
- Dr. John Hope Franklin, Honorary Chairman of the tour organizing committee
Tour of Architecture and the Urban Landscape
April 27th, May 25th, June 22nd, July 27th,
August 24th, September 28th, October 27th, November 23rd
Explore Downtown Durham and learn how it has transformed itself from an industrial center to the City of Medicine. Docents describe the history of many of the landmark buildings that make up the Downtown Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1977. Featured on the tour are the 1915 First National Bank, the 1921 Mechanics and Farmers Bank Building, and Preservation Durham’s one-time home, the Snow Building, built in 1933.
Built by the successful entrepreneurs of early 20th Durham, buildings Downtown were designed by nationally known architects like Milburn and Heister, Bertrand E. Taylor, Edward F. Sibbert, and Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon as well as by local companies Rose and Rose, George Watts Carr, Hill C. Linthicum, and Atwood and Weeks. There are fine examples of many architectural styles popular in the 20th century, including Art Deco, Italianate, and Neo-Classical, and post World War II Modern. Many of downtown’s older building have recently changed their functions, turning from tobacco factories and textile mills into hip urban lofts, stores, and offices.