During my five short years as a Raleigh resident, I feel that I have witnessed this city undergo massive change. High-rise condos are springing up like weeds downtown. It has become a perpetual annoyance to have to cross to another sidewalk to avoid a construction zone, not to mention the sting of losing a favorite haunt like Kings to make way for a parking deck.
But to talk with someone who has grown up in Raleigh is a totally different picture. The downtown has gone from bustling capital, to industrialized no-man’s land, and only now is reemerging as a destination for food, entertainment and shopping.
I am curious, though, about the people who lived in Raleigh before me. Before all of us really. People who are long dead. Which brings me to my point: I aim to find out about those people, and discuss them here in this column.
Initially, my plan is to discuss events that happened this week in history, however many years ago, right here in Raleigh. This could be a challenging format to follow, but I would enjoy feedback from anyone with questions about Raleigh history.
To bid farewell to 2008, and as an apropos beginning to the Historical Record, a brief tale about the City of Oaks:
North Carolina spent sixteen years without a capital city after the Revolutionary War. The General Assembly met in places like Fayetteville, Hillsborough, New Bern, and at the Wake County courthouse near Joel Lane’s home at the corner of Hargett St. and Boylan Ave.
In 1779, the General Assembly appointed a commission to review possible locations for the new capital in what we now call “the Triangle.” Bills to establish a new location for the capital were introduced and defeated in 1779, 1783, and 1784. The General Assembly could only agree that they would have to decide on the new capital’s location on a “later day”.
Much later, in 1788, the General Assembly put the responsibility to the Constitutional Convention, but even they could only agree upon a general location. James Iredell of Edenton nominated a spot within ten miles of Isaac Hunter’s plantation and well-known tavern to be that general location.
Three bills defeated and four years later, the General Assembly finally ratified the Constitutional Convention’s bill to establish the new capital, and named it Raleigh on December 31, 1792. Happy 216th Birthday, Raleigh!