cataloging the revitalization of historic YE Smith

The Principal’s House dates back to ~ 1919 and is located adjacent to the historic YE Smith School, which was built in phases from 1910 through the 1920s. Self-Help will soon renovate the historic YE Smith School, and the renovation requires that we remove the house from the property.

The house is in good condition, and Self-Help is offering the home for free to anyone who has the ability to move it to another location. For more information about the home, please see the property brochure linked below.

“The Principal’s House” Property Brochure


The Historic YE Smith project team recently produced some site plans that we’d like to share. A little while back we held a community meeting at which we shared preliminary plans for the site and building. The link below provides a walk-through of our current building and site design plans.

Historic YE Smith / Maureen Joy Design and Concept

For a more historic perspective of the Historic YE Smith School, please see the recent OpenDurham page on the property. The site catalogs the historic property’s  life from its earliest days as the East Durham grade school through today.

 On September 6th, the historic YE Smith project partners will be holding a community meeting to present the current architectural plans to revitalize the historic YE Smith building and site. All interested community members are encouraged to join Belk Architecture, Maureen Joy and Self-Help on September 6th, 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. at Joe’s Diner to learn more about this exciting project and the current architectural plans!

In addition to attending the August meeting of the Northeast Central Durham (NECD) Leadership Council, the project partners will also be attending the upcoming council meeting on Thursday, September 8th in order to further discuss the historic YE Smith revitalization project. The meeting will be held in the Main Conference Room of the Department of Neighborhood Improvement Services,807 E. Main Street, Golden Belt Complex, 3rd floor.

On Saturday, July 16th, Self-Help representatives Paul Brown and Napoleon Wallace attended the PAC-1 meeting at the Holton Center in order to discuss plans to revitalize the historic YE Smith building. We believe that this project will breathe new life into this currently dilapidated building while also allowing Maureen Joy to better serve its students. PAC-1 members engaged Self-Help staff in an interesting conversation about the project and we appreciate all of their questions and comments.

Most questions posed at the meeting related to the re-zoning underway, as well as sites plans and community impact. Self-Help is currently requesting that the zoning be changed from its current medium-high density residential zoning to lower density residential zoning, which means the new zoning will mirror the zoning of the surrounding community. This re-zoning will allow Self-Help to apply for a minor Special Use Permit with site plan, which would allow for a school to occupy the historic YE Smith school building. Self-Help, Maureen Joy and our professional design team will be scheduling another community meeting in August to further discuss the renovation project and to give community members a chance to comment on details of the proposed site plan while it is in progress.

Also discussed was Maureen Joy’s current consideration of adding a designated community seat to their Board of Directors in order to help ensure a strong relationship between Maureen Joy and the surrounding community. The Maureen Joy Board has a community member on it now but that seat is not reserved for community members. Maureen Joy’s principal, Alex Quigley, has expressed his interest in working closely with the East Durham community, including tying service to and collaboration with East Durham into the curriculum.

PAC-1 members or others in the community with questions about the project are encouraged to visit or contact Napoleon Wallace of the Self-Help project team at napoleon.wallace at

Project partners will discuss the prospective project and solicit feedback / input at the Partners Against Crime District 1 (PAC1) Meeting. Saturday, July 16th at 9:30 a.m. at the Holton Career & Resource Center, 401 N Driver Street.

Project partners will discuss the prospective project and solicit feedback / input from the Northeast Central Durham (NECD) Leadership Council. Thursday, August 11th at 4:45 p.m. in the Main Conference Room of the Department of Neighborhood Improvement Services, 807 E. Main Street, Golden Belt Complex, 3rd floor.

On June 14th, the Planning Commission voted unanimously (12-0) to recommend a zoning map change for the historic YE Smith property. If this map change is approved by City Council on August 15th, the site’s current zoning of RU-M(D) that allows construction of multifamily apartments will change back to its original RU-5(2) designation. RU-5(2) is the zoning of the surrounding residential neighborhood and allows low density housing by right; with a minor Special Use Permit (mSUP), the designation allows a school. It seems odd that a school building needs to be re-zoned to allow use as a school, but that is the process in place due to a past re-zoning during an attempt to develop the historic building as apartments.

Self-Help and design team at Belk Architecture are just beginning the process of pursuing a mSUP to allow the historic YE Smith building to once again be used as a school. The mSUP process involves a public meeting, creation of a site plan that is reviewed by multiple City departments, and a formal hearing by the Board of Adjustment to consider the request. The site plan will address issues such as storm water management, parking, and landscape buffers to adjacent properties. We’ll post more information on the mSUP timeline as it becomes available.

To view the full Planning Commission discussion of the rezoning map change, visit this website and select the “Watch meeting video online” link under June 14th; the relevant hearing starts at the 5:27:30 mark.

East Durham community members, representatives from Self-Help and Preservation NC, and Maureen Joy staff and students gathered on Saturday, June 11 at Joe’s Diner to discuss plans for the YE Smith building renovation. Attendees learned about Self-Help’s role in the project, received an overview of the culture and educational philosophy at Maureen Joy, heard about preliminary plans for the building, and discussed zoning and other logistical issues. Community members then had a forum in which to ask questions and offer comments on project progress made so far. Everyone also had the chance to enjoy one of Joe’s famous hot dogs! Pictures from the meeting are posted below.