The Fascinating History of Bishop’s House–Future Home for Lilly Library Staff Offices

Exterior View of Bishop’s House, Duke University Archives Photograph Collection

During Lilly Library’s closure for renovations, staff will operate out of Bishop’s House on 201 East Campus Union Drive. Starting in August, patrons will be able to pick up and return books and meet with relevant subject librarians. In addition to limited hours, space for studying and use of technology will be limited. Though hours will be reduced, patrons will be able to pick up and return books and meet with relevant subject librarians. More details will be coming soon and can be found at:  https://blogs.library.duke.edu/lilly-project/.

Used as a residence, a woman’s dormitory, a men’s dormitory, a faculty club house, and an infirmary, Bishop’s House was completed in the spring of 1911, when central heating was considered more of a luxury rather than a necessity. The historic house served as the residence of former Trinity College president, John C. Kilgo, who lived there from July 1911 to June 1915. After stepping down as president in 1910, he was elected Bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.

Woman’s College Infirmary, Durham Herald, 1938

From the fall of 1915 until the fall of 1918, Bishop’s House was used as a women’s dormitory. Afterwards it was occupied by single faculty men until the fall of 1920. Dr. Bert Cunningham and family resided on the first floor and law students lived on the second floor, between 1920-1921. The building was then turned over to the Faculty Club for use as a club house and residence for men in the spring of 1922 until the spring of 1935, when it was extensively remodeled and reopened as the Woman’s College Infirmary. In 1962, the Duke University Press moved into the building, remaining there until 1983. In the twenty-first century, Duke Continuing Studies relocated their administrative offices to Bishop’s House. Duke Continuing Studies offered courses from yoga and improv comedy to history and wine tasting, and were open to both Duke students and the Durham public. During Covid 19, Duke Continuing Studies left Bishop’s House to work remotely and later decided to permanently work remotely and not return to their old offices.

The interior of Bishop’s house still displays many of the charming original features from when it was first built in 1911, such as the wraparound porch and fireplaces throughout the building.

One thought on “The Fascinating History of Bishop’s House–Future Home for Lilly Library Staff Offices”

  1. I was Class of ‘63 and can remember at least one short stay in the Infirmary when I felt ‘sick as a dog.’ Before too long I was well enough to enjoy the company of fellow sickees in a communal room. Also remember the building of a new infirmary.

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