The banner is a low-tech simulation of my place through time: the first photograph is intended to invoke the tundra of the PaleoIndian period, 12,500-10,000 BCE; the second, the swamps and woodlands of c. 1630, of the contact period between the Massachusett and the first European settlers. The third photograph is of my front yard when I moved in (the yard was used as a doggie playground), c. 2007; the fourth, a photograph of my garden, c. 2010.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

guest blogger Katie Cavanaugh, on Durham, NC

Durham, North Carolina

Katie Cavanaugh

            Durham, North Carolina is a medium-sized city situated in the middle of the state. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of just fewer than 230,000 people. Not only is Durham famously the home of Duke University, it is also an important vertex of the Research Triangle (which also consists of Raleigh and Chapel Hill), demonstrating the high level of academics and intellect in the city. The Durham that I knew when I was growing up has changed significantly even in just the last decade. What were tobacco factories when I was five years old have now been converted into popular restaurants and stores. Going back even further, the change from the grasslands and mountains of the Piedmont region is astronomical. We think of cities of being unchanging; maps prove this perception wrong. People tend to assume what they see is what was always there. This essay attempts to illustrate how Durham is a “lost ecology” through this change, based on “the fundamental premise that human culture is connected to the physical world, affecting it and affected by it” (Glotfelty). Moreover, in re-discovering this reformation, one “cannot do the reforming, of course, but…can help with the understanding” (Glotfelty). Looking back over time, you can get to the point to what was there before the city even existed.
            Looking back over time, we try to recover what was lost: to picture it in our minds, to understand life before us. We go back to the earliest point we can find, like this hand drawn map of Durham in 1863. The simplicity of this map alludes to the simplicity of the time and the little development of the city at the time. The amount of blank space of this map encourages the imagination. What was there? Yes, there are roads and rivers, but what about the people? The houses? The office buildings? The real part of what Durham looked like then is lost and up to the reader to decide. 

Figure 1. Before Durham. We cannot recover this, and it has not been documented in ways that we recognize today. Everything else is left to the imagination.

Figure 2. Lewis Blount. This Map of Durham as I Remember in 1867-1868. Drawn from Memory Entirely and No Attempt Made at Correct Angles or Measurements.
It’s amazing, frankly, at how drastic the change is from then to now. Obviously Durham has developed, but simply wrap your brain around the difference between the map in Figure 2 and Figure 3, what we have today. In the map in Figure 2, Durham seems almost like a fairy tale. No one today really knows what it was like back then. It’s based on imagination. Now, with the technology used in Figure 3, you can find your own street, your own house, and recognize that place where you walk your dog or where you went to high school. Trace it back and really understand the change. We go from this satellite picture of Durham back to European settlers, and then back to the photograph of the tree in the Piedmont. Every time there was development, some of the natural landscape was lost.

Figure 3. Google map.

Works Cited

Figure 1. Pardue, Donald L. Fields of Gold. 2009. Photograph. NCPedia, Chatham County, NC.
Figure 2. Blount, Lewis. "This Map of Durham as I Remember in 1867-1868. Drawn from Memory Entirely and No Attempt Made at Correct Angles or Measurements." 1923. Photograph. Digital Durham, Durham, NC.
Figure 3. "Google Map Maker." Google Map Maker. Google, 25 Oct. 2012. Web. 25 Oct. 2012. <,-78.865356>.
Glotfelty, Cheryll. "What Is Ecocriticism?" The Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment. The Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment, n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2012. <>.


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