John Sprunt Hill
John Sprunt Hill (1869-1961) was a Duplin County native who, upon graduating from the University of North Carolina, went to practice law in New York City and served the Tammany Hall political organization. In 1899, he married Annie Watts, only child of George W. Watts, in a lavish Durham ceremony.
The couple settled in New York but Watts, missing his daughter, persuaded Hill to move south with a promise to set him up in banking in Durham. The Hills moved in 1903 and John Sprunt established the Home Savings Bank. Over the next decades it grew to become the multi-billion dollar Central Carolina Bank that was taken over long after Hill's death by SunTrust Bank of Georgia.
An avid golfer, Hill bought property west of town and built a private golf course and founded the Durham Golf Club there. He and Annie amassed a number of other properties in and around Durham, many of which they donated to the city for public parks. During the Depression, Hill maintained confidence in his bank by passing cash through a back window to associates who then went through the front door to make deposits.
Hill had several downtown landmarks built for his enterprises, including the: Trust Building and Temple Building, facing each other at Main and Market streets; the Old Hill Building at 309 West Main; and the Hill Building (also known as the CCB Building and SunTrust Building) at Main and Corcoran. For the latter, built during the Depression, Hill engaged the New York architects who had designed the Empire State Building.
Upon his death, Hill left his Duke Street mansion in the Morehead Hill neighborhood to be used by women's organizations in Durham. The Hill House still serves as a public meeting space.