Duke Endowment gets a new space on Morehead Street

It’s always crazy when you move into a new house. Board Chair Minor Shaw admitted she got lost just trying to find the place Tuesday, as the staff at The Duke Endowment gets used to its new building.

It’s $40 million worth of limestone, marble, fountains and meeting rooms at Morehead Street and Myrtle Avenue, just 2.5 miles from the Duke Mansion on The Hermitage. That’s where James B. Duke was living in 1924 when he signed the papers to set up a $40 million endowment to support four causes: child care, health care, higher education and rural churches.

Today, the endowment is worth $3.5 billion, and last year it passed the $3 billion mark on what it has given away in the last 90 years.

Since 1993, the endowment has been housed on the 34th floor of the Bank of America Corporate Center. But the endowment’s work now involves lots of meetings with many groups it supports – and uptown’s parking, traffic and security all have issues.

The new building includes offices for the 40 employees and lots of meeting space, plus it will be easier to reach for people coming from out of town. The building is also LEED-certified, with cisterns to recycle water for irrigation and a “green roof” planted with grasses.

Endowment President Gene Cochrane likes the new fountains. The one in the front, on Morehead Street, is already a spot where runners from the Dowd YMCA stop to rest, and a long, flat water feature in the back creates a soothing place to take breaks during long meetings.

All that water is deliberate: Duke, who turned a small electric company into Duke Power, which eventually became Duke Energy, was a supporter of hydroelectrics.

“He had an affinity for using water,” says Cochrane.