Raleigh is a member of a very exclusive club: American cities that were founded and planned specifically to serve as a state capital. At the State Convention in 1788 the legislators dismissed the pleas of established towns and instead set out to find a central location for an “unalterable seat of government.” The commissioners headed out to find that perfect location with only one directive - make sure the site is within 16 kilometers of Isaac Hunter’s Tavern, a popular stopping point for the state politicos. Hunter’s land was among 17 tracts inspected but in the end it was 1,000 acres of Joel Lane’s land that was purchased for 1,378 pounds. Tradition holds that Lane’s excellent punch played a part in the transaction.
The new town picked up its name from Sir Walter Raleigh sponsor of the ill-fated “Lost Colony” on Roanoke Island 200 years before. At the same time Raleigh was made the county seat of the newly formed Wake County so there was going to be a lot of governing going on here. In 1792 William Christmas laid out the town grid with a central square that would contain the statehouse and four quadrants anchored by squares named for the firs three North Carolina governors and Attorney General Alfred Moore. By 1794 the brick statehouse was ready and the new government town was off and running. For most of its early existence there was not much more to Raleigh than government. The population in 1840 was actually less than in 1820. That year the railroad arrived which provided a small bump to the economy but there was no boom. The Civil War had little impact on the town and Reconstruction kept industry stagnant another decade. It would not be until 1890 that the population of Raleigh would reach 10,000.
By that time another industry had taken hold in Raleigh: education. The Raleigh Academy had been founded back in 1801 on Burke Square and the first college, Peace Institute had been founded in 1857 but both institutions sputtered. Peace Institute, for instance, would not open until 1872. Three years later, Shaw University, the South’s first African-American college which began classes in 1865, was chartered. In 1887 the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, now known as North Carolina State University, was founded as a land-grant college. And in 1891 the Baptist Women’s College, now known as Meredith College, opened its doors. By the turn of the 20th century, the students were out-populating the legislators.
One hundred years further on, the government for which Raleigh was founded is almost incidental. Raleigh is one of the fastest growing cities in the country with a population over 400,000; it is the tenth largest state capital in America. Its industrial base includes banking/financial services; electrical, medical, electronic and telecommunications equipment; clothing and apparel; food processing; paper products; and pharmaceuticals.The city is a major retail shipping point for eastern North Carolina and a wholesale distributing point for the grocery industry.
On our walking tour we’ll see a handful of government buildings early but after that you will probably forget that you are exploring a city whose only reason for being was to be a capital...
State Capitol Building
After the original state house was damaged by fire in 1831 the General Assembly ordered up a new Capitol building with the proviso that it retain the cross-shaped form of the original and feature a central, domed rotunda. New York architect Ithiel Towne, a champion of the emerging Greek Revival architectural style, was hired to provide a design. Scottish native David Paton was retained to oversee construction and he imported fellow countrymen to lay the stone. The cornerstone was laid in 1833 and seven years later work was completed with a price tag of $532,682.34 - more than three times the yearly general income of the state at that time. The Capitol stands today as one America’s finest civic buildings rendered in the Greek Revival style.
There are 14 monuments scattered around the Capitol Building. The first was a bronze of George Washington, unveiled on July 4, 1857. Prominently placed is a statue of the three native-born North Caolinians who became President - Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, and Andrew Johnson. Ironically all were elected while residents of Tennessee. There are several remembrances to war sacrifices and the Confederate States of America - almost one if four Confederate deaths during the Civil War were from North Carolina. The two governors memorialized are Zebulon Baird Vance of Buncombe County and Charles Brantley Aycock who began the public school system in North Carolina during his term from 1901 to 1905.
WALK OVER TO THE NORTH SIDE OF UNION SQUARE (THE CONFEDERATE MONUMENT IS ON YOUR LEEFT AND THE THREE PRESIDENTS ARE ON YOUR RIGHT. ACROSS EDENTON STREET, ON THE LEFT CORNER IS...
4 West Edenton Street
Other than the Capitol, this is the only state government building remaining with a toe in the 19th century. A.G. Bauer designed the four-story corner building as a repository for the State and Supreme Court libraries. Convicts made the bricks by hand and executed the decorative brick work for the building that was completed in 1888. Look up to see a remnant of that Victorian age in the form of a French Second Empire belvedere.
WALK OVER TO THE CORNER ON YOUR RIGHT, EDENTON AND WILMINGTON STREETS.
2 West Edenton Street
Raleigh architects Murray Nelson and Thomas W. Cooper tapped the then-popular Neoclassical style for the new home of the State Department of Agriculture in 1923. The nicely balanced facades are highlighted by a colonnade of fluted Ionic columns. Look up to see the roof that is marked by a stone balustrade.
Christ Episcopal Church
120 East Edenton Street
Richard Upjohn, the leading cheerleader for the Gothic Revival style in ecclesiastical architecture and designer of New York’s fabled Trinity Church, was recruited in 1843 by Bishop Levi S. Ives to design “a neat Gothic church” for his parish. Christ Church Parish had formed in 1821 and worshiped in a large frame church building. New England-born Bishop Ives came to North Carolina in 1831 and set his mind to bringing a new style of English parish-styled church architecture to the South, which is why he reached out to Upjohn. He laid the cornerstone on December 28, 1848 and the building, constructed of granite carted from a nearby quarry, was completed in 1852. The bell tower came along in 1861. The new church won raves and indeed influenced the spread of the English Gothic style going forward.
TURN RIGHT AND WALK DOWN EDENTON STREET.
Richard B. Haywood House
127 East Edenton Street
This is one of the few antebellum houses remaining in Raleigh, standing steadfastly on its corner amidst open parking lots. It stands not because it was special architecturally, although the Greek Revival brick house does feature an outstanding portico of fluted Doric columns. It stands not because it it special historically, although its 1854 builder Richard B. Haywood was a friend and classmate at the University of North Carolina of General Francis P. Blair who used the house as headquarters during Federal occupation during the Civil War. It stands because the house still remains in the Haywood family after more than 150 years and the family refused to buckle to the state’s plans to remove the house like all of its neighbors. And so it stands.
TURN LEFT ON NORTH BLOUNT STREET.
200 North Blount Street
This rambling Queen Anne mansion awash in pointed gables, patterned roofs, and lathe-turned porches has served North Carolina governors since 1891. Before that chief executives were making do in private homes or even hotels since the original Governor’s Residence was damaged during the Civil War. Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan of Philadelphia and his assistant Adolphus Bauer drew up plans for the house that was constructed largely with prison labor.
310 North Blount Street
While visiting Raleigh from Florida in 1881 Alexander Hawkins purchased this lot with an aging frame house that his wife had taken a fancy to. According to family lore, the Hawkinses then returned to Florida, asking Alexander’s brother William to have the frame house renovated and look after the property until they could return permanently. Instead, William shipped the original house across town and designed an imposing Italianate-flavored brick house forhis brother and sister-in-law. Surprise! Apparently Mrs. Hawkins was not completely thrilled and had the dramatic 92-foot Eastlake-style verandah installed to downplay the stark brick facade.In 1969 the house was purchased by the State and now serves as the offices of the Lieutenant Governor.
309 North Blount Street
Jonathan McGee Heck was a Confederate officer who was captured early in the Civil War. He was paroled and began manufacturing arms for the Confederacy, an enterprise that springboarded him to a successful career in real estate after the war. This grand French Second Empire mansion, designed by G.S.H. Appleget, appeared on the Raleigh streetscape in 1869 and set the standard for the coming development of North Blount Street as the residential street of choice in Raleigh. Its mansard roof and dramatic central tower mark it as one of Raleigh’s most distinctive Victorian houses.
424 North Blount Street
Ohio-born Adolphus G. Bauer came to Raleigh as the apprentice to Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan to work on the Executive Mansion. When Sloan died suddenly of sunstroke, Bauer finished the job and set up a busy practice in Raleigh. He fell in love with an Indian woman and used his newly-earned clout in the government to change North Carolina law banning marriage between whites and Indians. The couple’s bliss was short-lived, unfortunately. Rachel Bauer fell ill and died and Bauer was crippled when a carriage he was riding in was struck by a train. He eventually shot himself in the head in the Park Hotel in 1898. This splendid Queen Anne was one of his final projects, drawn up for Lucy Catherine Capehart and her second husband, B. A. “Baldy” Capehart. Lucy had amassed a fortune as the daughter of State Attorney General Bartholomew Moore and the widow of Peyton Henry. The house of pressed tan brick was constructed one block over on Wilmington Street but when that neighborhood was razed in the 1970s to make way for the new Government Mall it was hauled to this location in 1979.
515 North Blount Street
Major Augustus M. Lewis, a legislator from Louisburg, constructed this grand Greek Revival mansion over on Wilmington Street in 1855. The house was moved here in 1974 after being in the Smith family for the previous 62 years. It stands today as one of the few antebellum houses in Raleigh and its grand double porticowith Ionic columns on the second floor and Doric columns on the first is a rare capital sight indeed.
Leonidas L. Polk House
537 North Blount Street
Leonidas LaFayette Polk was orphaned in 1851 at the age of 14 and inherited a 350-acre share of his father’s estate. Polk evolved into a politically aware farmer and in 1877 was appointed the first commissioner of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture by Governor Zebulon B. Vance. He resigned after three years and in 1886 launched the influential weekly paper for farmers, The Progressive Farmer. Polk used the paper to promote the creation of a “practical” state university, separate from the University of North Carolina which led to the founding of North Carolina College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts in 1889 (now North Carolina State University). He also helped found Meredith College. Polk constructed this three-story Victorian Gothic home in 1881. It originally stood on North Person Street and this is its second stop on North Blount Street.
Dr. Hubert Benbury Haywood House
634 North Blount Street
This brick house from 1916 interprets the Prairie style of architecture developed by Frank Lloyd Wright, characterized by horizontal lines, minimal detailing, low-pitched roofs, wide overhangs, large porches, and earth-toned building materials. This is one of only two examples of the Prairie style found in Raleigh. Hubert Benbury Haywood practiced medicine in Raleigh for nearly fifty years.
WALK ACROSS THE STREET ONTO THE CAMPUS OF PEACE COLLEGE AND WALK STRAIGHT TO THE GREEN.
Peace College Main Building
15 East Peace Street
William Peace, a prosperous local merchant, donated eight acres of land and $10,000 to set up a Presbyterian school for girls, Peace Institute was chartered in 1858 and the next year construction commenced on four-story brick building behind a massive central portico supported by four masonry Doric columns. When the Civil War erupted the hull of the massive unfinished building was converted into a hospital. When the war ended the district headquarters of the Freedmen’s Bureau, the government agency established to help newly freed slaves find education and employment, set up shop here. By 1872 a stock corporation was created to reclaim the land for use as a girls’ school and in 1914 Peace became the first accredited junior college in the South. Today it offers four-year baccalaureate degrees.
WITH YOUR BACK TO THE MAIN BUILDING WALK OUT TO EAST PEACE STREET AND TURN RIGHT. AT THE LIGHT, TURN LEFT TO RETURN TO THE GOVERNMENT COMPLEX. BEAR RIGHT ON SALISBURY STREET.
Raleigh and Gaston/Seaboard Coast Line Railroad Building
413 North Salisbury Street
The Raleigh and Gaston Railroad was North Carolina’s second railroad, going to service in 1840 only a month after the pioneering Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad. It ran between Raleigh and the town of Gaston, North Carolina on the Roanoke River. The arrival of the railroad was met with a three-day celebration complete with parades and lengthy orations. The Raleigh and Gaston Railroad merged with the Seaboard Air Line Railroad in 1900, eventually becoming part of CSX Transportation.This red brick Italianate-style building was the road’s headquarters for over 100 years beginning in the early 1860s.One of the city’s earliest surviving office buildings, the building was moved by the state from North Halifax Street to its present location in 1977.
First Baptist Church
99 North Salisbury Street at Wilmington Street
The Baptist church in Raleigh was organized in 1812 on the second floor of the original state Capitol building with 23 charter members―9 white and 14 black. This meetinghouse, created in the Gothic Revival style by English architect William Percival, dates to 1859. Nine years later the congregation would split amicably along racial lines. The brick church is stuccoed and scored to resemble more expensive ashlar stone.
TURN RIGHT ON EDENTON STREET. AFTER ONE BLOCK TURN LEFT ON MCDOWELL STREET. WALK ONE BLOCK TO THE CORNER OF HILLSBOROUGH STREET WHERE YOU WILL FIND TWO CHURCHES...
Sacred Heart Cathedral
200 Hillsborough Street
The first Roman Catholics in Raleigh were ministered to only by a circuit-riding priest until 1839. After that, the small band of Catholics found meeting places in abandoned churches and for a time atop the Briggs Hardware store. In 1879 there was enough money to purchase the Pulaski-Cowper mansion and it was reconfigured to serve the church; masses were held in the former ballroom. By the 1920s North Carolina was still the only state in the Union without a Catholic diocese. After investigating possible candidates Vatican officials tabbed Raleigh as headquarters for the Catholic church in December, 1924 and the small granite Gothic Revival church recently completed became one of the country’s smallest cathedrals.
Free Church of the Good Shepherd
125 Hillsborough Street
A disagreement over the selling of pews caused a rift in Raleigh’s only Episcopal church and in 1874 the break-away group landed here. All Saints Chapel began as a one-story board-and-batten Carpenter Gothic building in 1875; it was moved from the complex in 2006. The current gray stone sanctuary appeared in the late 1890s.
WALK ONE MORE BLOCK AND TURN LEFT ON MORGAN STREET.
Raleigh Water Tower
115 West Morgan Street
The octagonal brick and stone structure was erected in 1887 to initiate municipal water service in Raleigh. The 85-foot tower supported a 100,000 gallon water tank that provided the city pressure-pumped water until 1924. The structure dodged the wrecking ball until 1938 when the property was purchased by Raleigh architect William Henley Deitrick. Deitrick converted the tower into his offices, creating four interior floors. It was Raleigh’s first adaptive use of a historic property. In 1963, Deitrick deeded the water tower to the North Carolina chapter of the American Institute of Architects which still uses it as its headquarters.
First Presbyterian Church
112 South Salisbury Street
Raleigh Presbyterians have been meeting here for nearly 200 years since two score congregants worshiped behind Reverend William McPheeters on January 21, 1816. A proper meetinghouse was raised on this spot by 1818 and it served the congregation for the next 80 years. The current brick church is a rare surviving example of the Romanesque Revival style in Raleigh.
CROSS SALISBURY STREET AND TURN RIGHT ON FAYETTEVILLE STREET, OPPOSITE THE SOUTH SITH OF THE CAPITOL BUILDING.
Wachovia Capitol Center
150 Fayetteville Street
This is Raleigh’s third highest building, completed for First Union Bank in 1991. When it was sold in 2007, the price tag for the 400-foot skyscraper was $153.4 million - the biggest tab in the history of Raleigh real estate.
CONTINUE TO THE CORNER OF HARGETT STREET. TO YOUR LEFT IS...
133 Fayetteville Street Mall
This low-rise building was the first skyscraper in North Carolina to be erected with reinforced concrete, built between 1907 and 1909 for the Masons. South Carolina architect Charles McMillan followed the convention of the day in designing towers in the form of a classic Greek column with a decorative base (Indiana limestone-sheathed lower floors), shaft (unadorned middle floors) and capital (ornamental cornice).
ACROSS HARGETT STREET, TO YOUR RIGHT IS...
Raleigh Banking and Trust Company Building
5 West Hargett Street
The first three floors of this building, now on the National Register of Historic Places, were constructed in a Neoclassical style in 1913. Eight more floors were added in 1928-1929 in the stripped down classicism of the Art Deco style. Six years later the architects were back at work transforming the original three floors into an Art Deco style as well.
AND NEXT TO IT IS...
Odd Fellows Building
19 West Hargett Street
This eleven-story high-rise was built in 1923-24 by the Grand Lodge of the International Order of Odd Fellows. Although restrained the building typifies the original Chicago style of designing high-rises to resemble classical Greek columns with a ornate base (the limestone-sheathed lower floors), a plain shaft (the unadorned brick-faced middle floors) and a capital (the decorative cornice).
CONTINUE WALKING DOWN FAYETTEVILLE STREET.
Briggs Hardware Building/Raleigh City Museum
220 Fayetteville Street
This is the only building on Fayetteville Street Mall that 19th century shoppers would recognize were they to be strolling downtown Raleigh today. The highly decorative Italianate four-story building was completed in 1874, replacing the first store built by Thomas H. Briggs and James Dodd nine years earlier. Legend maintains that Briggs was able to pay for his share of the enterprise with gold and silver coins he had buried during the Civil War. Briggs family members sold hardware here until 1995 and the first floor today houses the Raleigh City Museum.
301 Fayetteville Street and East Martin Street
Raleigh’s tallest building - and the tallest building in the state outside Charlotte - came on line in 2008 for the American banking arm of the Royal Bank of Canada. A spire added to the crown brings the total height of 538 feet.
314 Fayetteville Street
When the cornerstone for this building was laid in 1874 it marked the first monies the Federal government had spent on a building project in the South since the Civil War. When it was finished in 1878 the building housed all federal agencies including the post office and various courthouses. The building you see today is twice the size of the original with the doubling in 1913 with care taken to remain true to the original French Second Empire design of Alfred Mullet, supervising architect of the U.S. Treasury Department.
Wake County Courthouse
316 Fayetteville Street
The latest in a string of courthouses to serve Wake County from this site, this modern building rose in 1970.
Wake County Office Building
336 Fayetteville Street
The craze for the stripped down classicism of the Art Deco style in the 1930s failed to invade Raleigh but this Deco skyscraper showed up in 1942 for the Durham Life Insurance Building. With its emphasis on verticality and featuring stepbacks at the top of its 15 stories, this tower reigned over the Raleigh skyline until 1965 when it was dethroned as Raleigh’s tallest building. It has since been purchased by the county for office space.
Sir Walter Hotel
400 Fayetteville Street
In the 1920s business leaders in every small city in America hankered for a “big city” hotel. In Raleigh, it was the Sir Walter Raleigh in 1924. Its Colonial Revival appearance would have been familiar to business travelers. Almost immediately after it opened the hotel became the unofficial headquarters of the Democratic party, the dominant force in North Carolina politics at the time. Over 80% of the legislators had rooms in the “Second State House.” The Sir Walter’s owners were forced into bankruptcy by the Great Depression in 1934 but rather than disappear the hotel was renovated by new owners with an additional 50 rooms to make it the largest in the state. The hotel did close in the 1970s and was redeveloped into housing for seniors.
TURN LEFT ON DAVIE STREET. CROSS WILMINGTON AND BLOUNT STREETS AND TURN LEFT ON BLAKE STREET, ONE-HALF BLOCK PAST BLOUNT.
200 Block East Martin
By 1914 it had become necessary to replace the current city market due to sanitation concerns and Jesse G. Abrams won the contract to build a new market with a bid of $23,386.06. James Matthew Kennedy contributed a Spanish mission style design to the low-slung building which thrived into the 1940s when suburbanization and supermarkets drained the customers for the farmers and their produce and baked goods. The City Market survived the downcycle, got listed on the National Register of Historic Places and today anchors a new wave of retailers.
CROSS MARTIN STREET INTO MOORE SQUARE.
bounded by Martin, Hargett, Person and Blount streets
Moore Square is one of two surviving four-acre parks that city planner Senator William Christmas designated for each quadrant of the city, equidistant from the Capitol. That the square indeed has lasted over 200 years is attributable in part to its odd history of ownership by the government. After occupying Federal troops damaged the square during the Civil War the state authorized the city to beautify the state-owned parcel. Years later when the state wanted to build a new Executive Mansion here the city cited that former authorization to block the development. A bill finally passed to make this a city property. At the southern edge of the park is the permanent home of the giant copper acorn that serves as a symbol of the city.
WALK THROUGH THE SQUARE TO THE NORTHEAST CORNER AT HARGETT AND PERSON STREETS (TO YOUR RIGHT).
Tabernacle Baptist Church
219 East Hargett Street
The church organized on November 15, 1874 when ten congregants of the the First Baptist Church established a new church. By 1881 the Second Baptist Church was ready to move into a new church on this site in 1881. The building went through six remodelings over the next 30 years with its current Gothic appearance being mostly the work of Raleigh architect James Matthew Kennedy in 1909. At that time the church changed its name to “Tabernacle” on its way to becoming the largest Baptist church in North Carolina. The building sustained the congregation until 2001.
TURN LEFT AND WALK TO THE NORTHWEST CORNER OF THE SQUARE AT HARGETT AND BLOUNT STREETS.
128 East Hargett Street
The Italian Renaissance-styled Montague Building, was the first building of import to be constructed on Moore Square. Attorney B.F. Montague constructed the building in 1912 and quickly found a renter in the United States government that used the space as a temporary post office. The feds departed three years later and the building seemed to be in prime location for success as Hargett Street in front of it evolved into Raleigh’s “Black Main Street.” But word was that Montague refused to rent space to black professionals and the building spent most of its life largely vacant. By the 1970s it had been condemned by the city and had an appointment with the wrecking ball. It managed to slither off the death list and picked up a renovation and is now on the verge of celebrating its centennial anniversary.
TURN RIGHT ON BLOUNT STREET.
11 South Blount Street
If this picturesque one-story wood-frame building looks a bit adrift in the Raleigh streetscape it is because it was hauled here and restored for office use by the Historic Preservation Fund of North Carolina, Inc. The elaborate Eastlake-style wood trim was all the rage in 1890 when this house was constructed.
TURN RIGHT ON NEW BERN PLACE.
211 New Bern Avenue
his is Raleigh’s oldest house in its original location, built in 1799 for John Haywood. Haywood returned from service in the Revolutionary War and served as a clerk for several North Carolina sessions of congress. In 1787 he was appointed State Treasurer, a post he held for 40 years until his death in 1827 at the age of 72. It never occupied all his time; Haywood served as the first Mayor of Raleigh and helped found the University of North Carolina. The house remained in the Haywood family until 1977 and operates today as a house museum.
TURN AND RETRACE YOUR STEPS ON NEW BERN PLACE AND CONTINUE ACROSS BLOUNT STREET.
State Bank of North Carolina
123 New Bern Avenue
This is the oldest commercial building in Raleigh, built in 1813 to house the State Bank that had been chartered three years earlier. The brick building is a mash-up of the Federal style and the emerging Greek Revival style. It hasn’t always served as a bank, nor always been in this location. The building was purchased by neighboring Christ Church in 1873 which used it for nearly 100 years. In 1968 it was acquired by North Carolina National Bank, moved 100 feet southeast to its present location and put back into service as a bank.
CONTINUE A FEW MORE STEPS TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT AT THE CAPITOL IN UNION SQUARE.