FK Watkins house, late 1970s.
Frederick K. Watkins constructed the house at 1208 Fayetteville St. around 1915. Watkins either dubbed himself, or found himself dubbed (P.I.) 'The Movie King' for his ownership of, first, the Electric Theater, which became the Rex Theater and moved to 522 East Pettigrew St., and then the Wonderland Theater - it appears that he may have also developed the Booker T Theater on East Pettigrew St.
Watkins was evidently an exuberant figure, staging pageants and parades in which he would ride a horse, wearing a fez and tassel and other regalia.
Watkins evidently came to Durham from Mississippi, where he had run a nickelodeon. He opened the Electric in 1913, making it the second African-American movie theater in North Carolina.
Watkins had already started to spread his business again prior to the 1920s
Prior to the construction of the Wonderland Theatre, Watkins opened The Dunbar in Winston-Salem. By 1917, Watkins had established himself as the most prolific theater owner in the state of North Carolina, having opened theatres in Chapel Hill, Goldsboro, Raleigh, Reidsville and Wilson, as well as the Palace Theatre in Apex and the Dixie Theatre in High Point.
Watkins continued to expand his theatre operations by opening theaters in other states on the east coast, including South Carolina and Virginia. Watkins opened the Majestic Theatre in Martinsville, Virginia and theatres in Columbia and Spartanburg, South Carolina along with a theatre in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (I speculate that this was the Alan Theater)
Watkins first wife died in 1924, her funeral attended by a large crowd at St. Joseph's AME. He later married Parepa Bland who served as the Supervisor of Elementary School Teachers in the Durham City Schools, and evidently taught at the East End School.
In 1926 with a capital of US$100,000, Watkins organized the First National Theater Corporation to finance theater and vaudeville operation as well as film production.
Watkins lived here until death in 1955. The house is now owned by an LLC and noted as a commercial structure on the tax roll.
Looking west, 11.15.08
But it still bears the strong imprint of Watkins.
Find this spot on a Google Map.