Our History

The essence of the Community Family Life and Recreation Center at Lyon Park is deeply intertwined with the historical legacy of both the building and the surrounding community.

Originally erected as the Lyon Park School during a period of racial segregation in Durham’s educational system, the school commenced its operations for the 1922-1923 academic year. Its primary purpose was to provide education to children from African-American and predominantly blue-collar families residing in Durham’s West End. The local community played a pivotal role in the school’s establishment, contributing their financial resources and actively participating in fundraising efforts to construct the school on a two-acre plot at the intersection of Kent and Halley Streets.

Under the leadership of Pastor Davis, WECF approached the City of Durham to convince the citizens of Durham that partnering to restore the building would be worthwhile financially and more broadly. In 1996, the citizens of the City of Durham agreed, approving a $6.4 million bond to pay for extensive renovations. Six years later, the beautifully transformed building reopened, renamed as the Community Family Life and Recreation Center at Lyon Park.

Since opening in 2002, the center has helped to spark a revitalization of the West End community.  Its education, community development, health care and human enrichment activities have served thousands of local residents. Children have received free tutoring, mature adults have attended social programs, families have received health care, sports teams have competed in the gym and much more.

Simultaneously, the center has celebrated its special history and championed the community’s ongoing struggle for social justice. WECF believes in preserving the African-American culture and heritage of the Lyon Park School and its surrounding community so they are not forgotten. Proud of its origins and committed to serving the people of Durham, the Community Family Life and Recreation Center at Lyon Park is not just located in its community; it is of its community. It welcomes you to get involved in its activities.