Our Visit to the American Tobacco Campus

The old Lucky Strike water tower at the American Tobacco Campus.

When I made our Fort Bragg Bucket List 3 years ago, I immediately added a visit to the old Lucky Strike factory to it.

I had seen some pretty cool pictures of it on Instagram and knew that it was something I wanted to see during our time here in North Carolina.

Selfie taken in round mirror at the American Tobacco Campus.
(So glad my husband was home to go on this adventure with me!)

However, life happened and we didn’t make time to travel to Durham until this month. We weren’t able to do some of the things or see some of the places that are now located at the American Tobacco Campus due to Covid restrictions. Also, all of the water features were turned off and dry (disappointing as they make really cool pictures).

We still had a good time walking around, taking pictures, and getting lunch.

American Tobacco Campus is Durham, North Carolina

What is the American Tobacco Campus?

The American Tobacco Campus is an complex of old tobacco factory buildings and warehouses and a national historic district in Durham, North Carolina.

The American Tobacco Company was once the largest manufacturers of cigarettes in the United States. After it closed down, the buildings sat empty for years.

As a plan to redevelop downtown Durham, another company bought the buildings and turned them into commercial properties fit for stores, restaurants, and offices.

Now, the American Tobacco Campus is bustling with residents, businesses, and shoppers.

The water tower at the old Lucky Strike factory in Durham, NC.

What to Do at the American Tobacco Campus

Our first stop was to get some lunch. There are several restaurants to choose from:

  • Boricua Soul
  • Mellow Mushroom
  • Moe’s
  • Nanasteak
  • Only Burger
  • Saladelia Cafe
  • Tobacco Road Sports Cafe
  • WXYZ Bar

We opted for some pizza at Mellow Mushroom before exploring the rest of the campus.

There are also numerous stores and office buildings, but we did our share of shopping at the Raleigh Market that day.

As we walked from the restaurant to the next place we wanted to visit, we took plenty of pictures. The old Lucky Strike water tower and smokestack still stand in a courtyard sandwiched between the buildings. And they make excellent pictures!

The old Lucky Strike smokestack at the American Tobacco Campus.
(The old Lucky Strike factory smokestack.)
The old Lucky Strike water tower at the American Tobacco Campus.
(The old Lucky Strike water tower.)

There was also a cool little area underneath some stairs that was apparently a lunch spot, “Lunch Downstairs”, when the Lucky Strike Factory was still in operation. You can still see the name and menu painted on the wall.

Burt’s Bees Headquarters

One of the things I was excited about seeing at the American Tobacco Campus was But’s Bees headquarters. (I love Burt’s Bees products, especially their chapsticks and lotions.)

Unfortunately, due to Covid, we couldn’t go inside the building, but we did get to see Burt’s cabin and a real beehive!

Burt's cabin that was once a turkey coop.
(Burt’s Maine cabin that was once a turkey coop.)

We also learned the history of the Burt’s Bees company from the plaque outside of the cabin and it was fascinating!

Burt left New York City and his fancy job as a photojournalist to enjoy a quiet life in a turkey-coop-turned-cabin in the woods of Maine.

He became the local ‘bee man’ after finding a stray hive and earning a living selling honey. One fateful day, he picked up a hitchhiker who taught him how to make candles and lip balm out of the wax and Burt’s Bees was born.

That hitchhiker (Roxanne Quimby) later sold her stake in the company and bought 87,000 acres of Maine woodlands, which she donated to the National Park Service.

After his passing, the company moved Burt’s cabin to Durham to be at the headquarters. They also retain Burt & Roxanne’s values of being environmentally conscious and using all natural ingredients.

My mind is blown that a company this size was founded because one man found a beehive and then later a hitchhiker that taught him how to make something with it. Talk about fate!

It just goes to show that you never know where this life is going to take you.

(It was so hot that day that my hair was wet with sweat!)

The day of our visit (almost 100 degrees), so we didn’t do much else or walk to the other parts of this district. But I’m so glad that we went and that we were able to see part of the American Tobacco Campus.

It’s such a cool part of North Carolina’s history and I’m glad that it’s still around for us to enjoy!

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