Copyright notice

This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

Is anything in this article factually incorrect? Please submit a comment.

Printer-friendly page

Durham Academy

by Jean B. Anderson, 2006

(Click for more images and information) First Durham Academy building, South Duke Street, built in 1880. Image courtesy of Open Durham. Durham Academy, a private, independent day school in Durham, was begun in 1933 by Mrs. George Watts Hill for the education of her children and the children of her friends. The school initially included only a kindergarten and a few lower grades, but it gradually grew until all 12 grades were offered in 1972. In its early years the school used the method of instruction devised by the successful Calvert School of Baltimore, Md., and was called the Calvert Method School. The first headmistress was Margaret McGary, previously principal of the public Morehead School in Durham. Initially, classes were held in the Forest Hills neighborhood clubhouse, but with the addition of grades and students, more space was required. The Hills provided the former John Sprunt Hill residence on Duke Street, where the school remained until 1965.

In 1957 the school broke its ties with the Calvert School, and two years later its name was changed to Durham Academy. In 1965 it moved into new buildings on a larger tract of land, and in 1972 it moved the high school grades to an even larger campus in a semirural setting. The first high school class graduated in 1975. George Watts Hill and Frank Kenan made generous donations for endowment and other needs, including a program for children with learning disabilities, open to all schoolchildren. By the early 2000s Durham Academy enrolled approximately 1,100 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 on three campuses and operated the Hill Center for children with learning disabilities.


Jean B. Anderson, Durham County: A History of Durham County, North Carolina (1990).

Additional Resources:

Durham Academy:

Durham County: A History of Durham County, North Carolina

Image Credit:

(Click for more images and information) First Durham Academy building, South Duke Street, built in 1880. Image courtesy of Open Durham. Available from (accessed November 5, 2012).

Origin - location: 



The original source for the image of the Watts House should be attributed to the Handbook of Durham /Digital Durham not "Duke Archives." This image comes from the Digital Durham website:
Digital Durham provides full DublinCore metadata for this image.
The Digital Durham website has 1000+ digital objects--letters, photographs, maps, print items, and census data--that relate to Durham's history, particularly from 1865-1920s (maps cover the city's growth through 2001).



Thank you for commenting. I have notified NCpedia staff. 

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library

Add a comment

PLEASE NOTE: NCpedia provides the comments feature as a way for viewers to engage with the resources. Comments are not published until reviewed by NCpedia editors at the State Library of NC, and the editors reserve the right to not publish any comment submitted that is considered inappropriate for this resource. NCpedia will not publish personal contact information in comments, questions, or responses. If you would like a reply by email, note that some email servers, such as public school accounts, are blocked from accepting messages from outside email servers or domains. If you prefer not to leave an email address, check back at your NCpedia comment for a reply. Please allow one business day for replies from NCpedia. Complete guidelines are available at