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7 Things You May Not Know About the Rich History of Raleigh


Did you know that there are more than 40 historic attractions and museums in Raleigh? This just goes to show how influential Raleigh has been since its creation in 1792. When it comes to the history of Raleigh, there are all sorts of hidden nuggets you may not know about. Here are seven of them.


1. Raleigh Was Founded in a Bar

Raleigh’s founders had their priorities straight! In 1788, the Constitutional Convention met in Isaac Hunter’s Tavern to decide where the new state capital should be constructed. Instead of choosing a location based on topography or climate, the men drafted a resolution declaring that the capital city must always be within ten miles of their beloved tavern. Strategically located next to a major travel artery through the state, Isaac Hunter’s Tavern had earned a reputation for quality food, fine spirits and clean beds, which made it popular with both weary travelers and locals.


2. The City’s Namesake Was Beheaded

If you’re familiar with any of the well-known history of Raleigh, you probably know that the City of Oaks is named after Sir Walter Raleigh. The English adventurer and writer was favored by Queen Elizabeth and funded the first expeditions to the coast of modern-day North Carolina. But did you know that he was beheaded in 1618 for being involved in the main plot against King James I?


3. The First Civil War Bloodshed Occurred Here

The first bloodshed in North Carolina during the war very well may have occurred in Raleigh. As soon as state legislators signed the Ordinance of Secession in the House of Commons Chamber, a great celebration began on the building’s Union Square. The revelry included a 100-round artillery salute and music from a military band.  Legend has it that a bulldog, startled by the commotion, severely bit one of the cannoneers of Manly’s Battery in the seat of his pants. Ouch!


4. Raleigh is Home to the First Black University

Shaw University, a monument to the rich history of Raleigh, NC and the city’s educational values


Founded in 1865, Shaw University is the first historically black university in the Southern United States. The private liberal arts institution is affiliated with the Baptist Church. It was the first institution of higher learning established for freedmen after the Civil War, and the first historically Black College in the nation to open its doors to women. The university was also the first college in North Carolina to offer a four-year medical school. That’s a lot of educational firsts to be proud of when looking at the history of Raleigh!


5. Raleigh Opened the First State Art Museum in the Country

Raleigh has always been a pioneer of the arts so it’s no wonder that the city’s home to one of the leading art museums in the American South. The North Carolina Museum of Art opened in 1956 as the first major museum in the country to be formed by State legislation and funding. The museum continued to expand and, in 2000, the state legislature granted the museum an adjacent site to build a park and trail system. It is now the largest museum art park in the country, spanning 164 acres and boasting over a dozen works of art and two miles of trails!


6. Andrew Johnson Was Born Here

Andrew Johnson, the nation’s 17th President, was born at Casso’s Inn in Raleigh. He remained in the city through most of his adolescence, working as an apprentice to a local tailor. He grew up poor and lacked a formal education, but he nurtured an interest in politics that led him down the path to becoming president. You can visit his birthplace in Mordecai Historic Park, where the house was moved and stands as an exhibit on the early history of Raleigh.


7. The First Railroad in North Carolina Ran Through Raleigh

In 1833, the first railroad in the state was completed in Raleigh. But this experimental railroad didn’t run on steam power at first; horse-drawn cars hauled quarried granite to the construction site of the new Capitol. Riding the train quickly became a popular means of entertainment for Raleigh society.


Raleigh celebrated its bicentennial on December 31, 1992 with a parade and the burying of a time capsule in the center of Nash Square. What do you think people will think when they open the time capsule in 2092? What additional happenings will be added to the rich history of Raleigh? If you’re looking for a new home in the Midtown District of North Hills, we hope you’ll stop by and tell us your predictions! While you’re here, we’d love to take you on a tour of our high-rise apartment community. Visit Park Central online at to schedule a tour or call us directly at (888) 267-9483.


Hope to see you soon!



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