Brightleaf Square is a unique walkable shopping district located at 905 West Main Street in downtown Durham. Its tenants include service providers, gift shops, home goods stores and even a music store, but the core of what makes it special is its symbolism and history.
The two parallel buildings that enclose the brick courtyard were originally constructed in the early 1900s as part of the American Tobacco Company. They were used as warehouses for storing, fermenting and aging tobacco that would be turned into Durham’s signature cigarettes. In 1911, the buildings were sold to Liggett & Myers, who continued to use them for tobacco curing and storage until the 1970s.
In 1980, the warehouses were sold, and development began in 1981. Brightleaf Square then evolved from an industrial corner of town to a thriving community gathering space. Hungry? Don’t miss Clouds Brewing if you’re a craft beer fan, Mount Fuji for Asian fusion, The Little Dipper for full-service fondue, and El Rodeo for Mexican-American cuisine. Be sure to finish your meal at Pine Cone for fresh ice cream from Maple View Farms. If you’re looking for gifts, don’t miss Hamilton Hill for fine jewelry, Details for a selection of locally and internationally crafted goods, Wentworth & Leggett for rare and unique books, and Bull City Olive Oil for the chef in your life. Those looking for something special for their home will have no trouble finding it at Indio, James Kennedy Antiques or Bull City Art and Frame.
Today, visitors can enjoy the brick walkways and charming buildings that, both inside an out, have been preserved in their industrial-era beauty. The most recent renovation in 2004 ensured that the original, locally-sourced bricks and pine wood remained visible inside and out, symbolic of its past use. The central courtyard now regularly hosts concerts and events. With its array of retailers and restaurants, a prime downtown Durham location, and planned condos nearby, Brightleaf Square evokes both nostalgia and modernity.