Durham News

March 25, 2014

Durham’s original science museum has a future as art

The original home of Durham’s Museum of Life and science is to be “deconstructed” into a work of art, according to the city Parks and Recreation Department. Flood damage and legal restrictions leave little else that could be done with the 1930s house in Northgate Park.

The original home of the Museum of Life and Science is to become a piece of art.

Plans are to “deconstruct” the white house at 404 W. Lavender Ave., in Northgate Park, but use its distinctive stone chimney, porch and foundation “as a piece of sculpture and as seating during community events,” according to a Parks and Recreation Department statement.

And while deconstruction is going on, plans are for artists to create work relating to the house’s neighborhood and history using the structure, its parts and the site, according to Jessica Moore of the Open Art Society ( openartsociety.org), who lives in the Northgate Park neighborhood.

The stonework will remain after the rest of the house is gone, and “will essentially be the sculpture,” said Beth Timson, assistant parks and recreation director. The porch might become a performance space or something else of use to the surrounding neighborhood, she said.

Moore has invited proposals from “artists and creative people” for the structure and property, with particular interest in participatory activities and documenting changes in the neighborhood.

She expects the site to be available for working on or in April 5 through 12.

Timson said artists and the deconstruction company can decide what material from the house, such as attractive old wood, could be used for park amenities of some kind.

The house stands on city property, across Lavender from Northgate Park. It has been vacant for more than two years, since the parks department removed sports equipment it had stored there, and what to do with it was a topic of discussion between neighbors and the city.

“It’s a shame the house has to go,” Timson said, but repairs and remodeling are is restricted by city, state and federal floodplain rules.

Built sometime in the 1930s, the by 1940 the 1,050-square foot house became the Trailside Museum at Northgate Park. City Recreation Director C.R. Wood stocked it with various stuffed and live animals he thought would appeal to children.

In 1947, the nonprofit Children’s Museum Foundation took over. That subsequently became the Museum of Life and Science, now about a quarter-mile away on Murray Avenue.

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