1111 N. Duke – Willis and Emily Aldridge House

The Willis and Emily Aldridge House was erected in 1927 by University Home Builders. The first residents were listed in city directories in 1928, however the house was operated as a rental house until 1934.

The earliest residents were W. Avery Sorrell and John V. Barnhardt, president and vice-president of Sorrell Hardware. As the Great Depression wore on the house continued to be inhabited by two separate families. By 1932, the Sorrells and Barnhardts had moved out and another set of co-workers had moved in, Clifford W. Tilson and H. Connor Kennett, managers of the Durham Farmers Mutual Exchange.

In 1934, property was sold to Willis Aldridge and his wife Emily Dowdee Aldridge. Willis worked for Carolina Auto Service and later formed the Montgomery & Aldridge Company, which provided automobile-related service and supplies as well as appliances and televisions. The Montgomery & Aldridge Company remained in business until at least 1951, during which time Aldridge was also listed with the Durham Transportation Corporation (1944-45) and Hotel Gas & Storage Company (1944-51). Emily Aldridge worked at the Thomas Book Store.

Living with Willis and Emily Adridge were Emily’s parents, Leon and Catherine Dowdee. By the time Willis and Emily Aldridge purchased the house on North Duke Street in 1934, her parents were aging (Leon was 59 and Catherine was 54). While living on North Duke Street, Leon was listed as a tobacco worker and Catherine was listed alternately as both a department manager and seamstress at Baldwins. Leon passed away in 1945 and Willis and Emily Aldridge sold the house in 1952, moving to a large home on Devon Road in the Hope Valley neighborhood.

In 1952, the Aldridge’s sold the house to Emily’s sister Catherine and her husband, Garland Frank Penny. The elder Catherine Dowdee remained in the house with her older daughter until her death in 1958, after which the Penny’s sold the house.