Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Family Cemeteries

I can remember nearly 20 years ago, how obvious Durham’s unique sense of place was when I first visited Durham to be interviewed to be the CEO at the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau.

One of the things that stood out were the large number of family cemeteries along roadsides or tucked away in the woods. It reminded me of the Ora cemetery on our ranch in Eastern Idaho. I used to play there as a boy and imagine the lives of people buried there, many named Bowman and spanning 100 years of history.

There are more than 285 cemeteries in Durham according to the cemetery census the majority tucked away in tree groves throughout the community. There is an alphabetical index of the people buried in these cemeteries and photographs of the location. Great help to families doing genealogy. This map probably demonstrates how prevalent they are to Durham’s sense of place.

The cemeteries give a sense of history, a temporal sense of the people who have called this land home over the years. It ties in as well with other elements of sense of place that revealed Durham’s potential to me as a visitor destination. Things like the small town, walkable feel of Downtown, the incredibly distinct brickwork in the old tobacco factories and warehouses, the historic neighborhoods, the eclectic architecture but true to each district. The older buildings adapted for restaurants, shops, offices, and markets and of course the people, diverse, unpretentious, community spirited, activist.

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