History

Discover the Celebrated History of the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club

One of the most prestigious hotels near Duke University, The Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club first opened its doors in 1988 to serve the needs of the University and Durham’s growing business community. The hotel was named for Washington Duke (1820-1905), who from his modest beginnings as an American Civil War soldier in 1865 went onto become an industrialist and philanthropist, as well as a classic example of the American dream.

When Washington Duke returned from the Civil War to three motherless children, his land (Duke Homestead), a tobacco barn, a mule and fifty cents were his sole possessions. Duke, along with his sons James and Benjamin, transformed these meager assets into a family business that would grow to become the multi-national corporation known as the American Tobacco Company.

After attaining financial success, Washington Duke began a life of community service and philanthropy. In 1891, he joined other local businessmen in bringing Trinity College to Durham and became its foremost benefactor. His son, James, created the Duke Endowment in 1924 and Trinity College was renamed Duke University in honor of Washington Duke.

The Duke family continues to uphold a long-standing tradition of community service, philanthropy and loyalty to Duke University, which is evident throughout the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club. Family artifacts and photographs have been donated for display in the hallways, and the family coat of arms has been incorporated in the Inn's logo.

Ambassador Angier Biddle Duke (1915-1995), great-grandson of Washington Duke, followed family tradition and embraced public service at a young age. The Washington Duke Inn's exhibit of Ambassador Duke's memorabilia includes papers, artifacts and gifts he received during his tenures as ambassador to El Salvador, Spain, Morocco and Denmark, and the many decorations he received from presidents and royal families.

Ambassador Duke also drew on the rich history of Durham and the Duke family as he selected names for the public areas and suites at the Inn. The Fairview Dining Room, for example, is named for the residence of Washington Duke built in the 1880s on Durham's Main Street. Today, the Inn remains one of the top-rated Durham, North Carolina hotels and proudly continues the legacy of service and traditional established over a century ago. We look forward to sharing that legacy with you.