Stepping Into the Park’s History

By Karalyn Colopy

If you’re new to Trinity Park you might not know the story behind our neighborhood park.  If you have lived here a while, you might have contributed to its construction!  Our little park has a long and interesting history.  It is located on the site of the former Warren-Farthing House, built in 1906 for James B. Warren, a local tobacconist and real estate magnate. The large house was converted into apartments in the late 1930s and razed in 1952; all that remains of it is the granite curbing surrounding the site and two sets of granite steps that led to the home’s entrances – one on Watts St. and the other on W. Trinity Ave. 

In the early 1970s, twenty years after the home was razed, neighbor Lelia Proctor, an architect and mother who had recently moved across the street from the lot, saw the opportunity to make the lot into a public park. She tracked down the lot’s owner (the Teer family), made drawings of her proposed park, and presented her idea to the City. The City agreed that if she was able to get the Teers to agree to her plan, they would purchase and install the playground equipment and maintain the park. The Teers were delighted with the idea and leased the land to the City for $1 a year. These were the years of the “Tot Lot.”  The park did not have the gazebo at this time.  There were benches, a sand box, spring riders, several climbers, a slide, swings, and the large grassy play areas that remain today.

In 1980 a small group of neighbors formed the 501(c)3 Trinity Park Foundation to receive donations and then purchased the park lot from the Teer family. The Foundation leased the land back to the City of Durham in 1983, the land continuing to be used as a public park. The gazebo was dedicated in 1989.  The park underwent a major renovation in 2001 when the City added new play equipment, new benches and picnic tables, and new walkways.  The Foundation added the gardens in 2005 and continues to work with the City to make improvements to the park.

For many years, the set of original granite steps along W. Trinity has been in need of restoration. The lower step was much too high, and two of the treads were tipping inward, while the tread on top was tipping downward! This created an accessibility issue, which was bound to become a safety issue in time.  The granite columns on either side of the steps, buckled from settling over the years, needed to be repointed as well.

Park steps before restoration work

Restoration of the steps promised to be an expensive project, involving heavy equipment and custom-made granite slabs. The project has been on the Foundation’s “to-do” list for several years but was not feasible due to the high cost.  

Park steps during restoration work

Last fall, however, with the possibility of a $5,000 grant from Duke Doing Good in the Neighborhood, the project began to take shape.  The Foundation was awarded the Duke Doing Good grant in February 2023 and also received money from the TPNA 2022 Home Tour.  After difficulty finding a serious and able contractor, we were delighted to find that Sundial Landscaping could secure the granite and do the work. They completed the project in August.  

We are so thankful to Duke Doing Good for their strong support.  Thank you also to all who made the 2022 Home Tour a success.  These beautiful restored steps are available to all now thanks to you!

The restored granite steps
Health and safety, Stewardship and beautification, Trinity Park Foundation