Registration has closed for the 2016 Durham VAF conference

Check out the program, browse the papers session for an overview of the new and exciting research. Visit the lodging page to secure hotel or campus accommodations.For more background information on the Durham area please visit our page of historical resources. Remember to use the hashtag #VAFDurham on social media to share your conference experiences.



Diversityhuman, agricultural, industrial, religious, and educationalcharacterizes North Carolina’s Piedmont region. The legacy of slavery, transformation of the agricultural landscape following the Civil War, industrialization based on tobacco and textiles, a variety of Protestant denominations, African American business leadership, and the development by both races of elementary and higher education have all left their imprint on the landscapes and communities of the region. The theme of the 2016 conference, “From Farm to Factory: Piedmont Stories in Black and White,” will be expressed through tours of plantation housing for blacks and whites; diversified farms of the late 19th and early 20th centuries; turn-of-the-20th-century textile and tobacco factories and their associated villages; Quaker communities and churches built by Germans, Scotch-Irish, and African Americans; rural schools and urban universities; rural courthouse and crossroads communities; and urban neighborhoods. With a population that has ranged from 34% to 40% African American since the 1890s and a remarkable number of historic rehabilitation projects, Durham provides a unique opportunity to consider the impacts of a prosperous black middle-class, Jim Crow segregation, the Civil Rights movement, and an impressive number of incredibly successful industrialists on a place that has transformed itself from a city wreathed in cotton lint and the aroma of processed tobacco to today’s “City of Medicine” with an economy based primarily on health care.

Please check back here periodically for new postings right up until the week of the conference. If you are interested in contacting us about helping or have questions, you can reach us at

Message from VAF President Gretchen Buggeln:

As many VAF members know, on March 23, 2016, North Carolina’s General Assembly passed into law legislation known as House Bill 2 (HB2).  The leadership and members of the Vernacular Architecture Forum are troubled by this discriminatory bill. This law overrides local LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinances and bans transgender people from using certain restrooms.

HB2 is highly controversial within the state of North Carolina and many citizens are fighting the law. The ACLU of North Carolina has filed a federal lawsuit and the state attorney general is a vocal opponent. Moreover, the city council of Durham, the site of our June 2016 conference, unanimously condemned the legislation.

Please read this message from Durham City Council Member Steve Schewel:

"The City of Durham and its people offer a warm welcome to the Vernacular Architecture Forum when you hold your conference here in June--and that welcome extends to everyone including especially members of the LGBTQ community. Our city council and our county commission have both unanimously passed resolutions condemning HB2 for its discriminatory intention and effect. Durham welcomes with open arms all people and recognizes their rights and liberties regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. While our state legislature passes laws that endorse discrimination, Durham stands tall for diversity and equality. We embrace difference in Durham, and we welcome all of you to our city."

Best wishes,
Steve Schewel

Durham City Council

Councilman Schewel recommends that those wanting to support the opposition to HB2, and the fight for its repeal, can contribute to Equality North Carolina. They do great organizing work statewide.

Claudia Brown, Marvin Brown, and their team have worked long and hard to prepare a marvelous conference for us. I urge you all to come to Durham and to spread the VAF’s message of concern and care for communities—their buildings, landscapes, but most especially their people—and our vision of equality, dignity, and justice for all.

Gretchen T. Buggeln

These are images from fieldwork that took place the summer of 2015 in preparation for the conference. 

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