DHA History: 1990-1999

The story of Durham's Golden Belt Manufacturing tells much of the city's history with the rise and fall of the tobacco business. At its height, the site employed more than a thousand Durham residents. 

The company built about 50 mill houses nearby for its workers.

At the dawn of the 20th century, more than 700 people, predominanty women, worked in textile manufacturing at Golden Belt. They made the large bags in which tobacco leaves (and salt) were stored. The bags were strung by hand and many residents of Durham, primarily women and children, would work from home to string and tag bags. By 1912, the company had automated the operation.

Brown & Williamson turned out plastics & textiles, usually related to tobacco products. Cigarette production continued into the 1990s.

In 1996 Brown and Williamson Tobacco Co., the owner, could not attract a buyer for the buildings and donated the facility to the Durham Housing Authority. One building was renovated by the housing authority as the Golden Belt business incubator.

Photo by Chamber of Commerce - 1961The complete story of Golden Belt is told in fascinating detail by our friends at Preservation Durham, whose site provided the photos shown here. Click here for those details.

In October 2006 the property was sold to Andy Rothschild of Scientific Properties and it was subsequently redeveloped to provide artist studios, apartments, retail, and office space.