Thursday, September 16, 2010

An encyclopedia of Durham


Adriana (Rian) Farley, the untiring chronicler of Durham, has compiled what might be called a Durham encyclopedia: "Durham Locations, Landmarks, Lads & Ladies" ($30, spiral bound, available from the author at 1384 Durham Dayton Hwy, Durham, CA 95938; please include $3.50 for postage and handling). Though Farley first thought to put together just a listing of Durham street names, the book now includes groups and organizations and festivals and even "Prof England's Desk."

Farley is scheduled to be interviewed this Friday at 10:00 a.m. on Nancy's Bookshelf on KCHO (Northstate Public Radio, 91.7 FM); an archive including this and previous interviews is available at And the book will be available at this Sunday's Durham Harvest Festival at Durham Community Park.

There are over 200 maps, diagrams, illustrations and black-and-white photographs complementing the entries which range from Ackerman Avenue ("west off Lott Road," name origin unknown) to Zorka McDonald Tree (a memorial planted by the Durham Women's Club). Farley's sources include historical records, books and periodicals as well as personal correspondence, and each source is documented.

Farley's book also resolves several mysteries. "Why is there a cleaver and steel embedded in the sidewalk just north of the Empire Club along the Midway? Just a few steps further along the sidewalk are a cleaver and knife. The location marks the spot where in 1917 the Johnson and Openshaw Meat Market was opened for business." Durham was also home to "Death Curve" when in 1920 Highway 99E forced an almost 90-degree turn "over an elevated rail line."

There's an entry for the Durham fire station and the grange hall but also one for the group of quilters known as the Awesome Blossoms (who have made "patriotic wall hangings that we've presented to local military families").

Now to Ewin G. "Prof" England's desk. England was teaching principal at Durham Grammar school from 1929 until he retired in 1963. The desk then was used by second and third grade teacher Nancy Druley "who loved its nooks and crannies." Later it found a home in the elementary school library and now resides in the Drylie Reading Room (named for James Nesbit Drylie) of the Durham branch of the Butte County Library.

Farley's book is essential reading for residents and a delightful guide for visitors.

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