Tag Archives: North Carolina State Capitol

A Capital Affair, Pt. IV

To recap on this series, it’s possible that Raleigh was chosen as the state capital of North Carolina for a number of reasons:

  1. Geographic location: the state’s population was gradually moving westward; Raleigh is not far from the geographical center of the state, which meant that it was relatively easy for members of the Assembly, who lived as far west as Burke County and as far east as Hyde County, to attend sessions
  2. Access to higher education: the University of North Carolina was newly chartered in 1789, which was within a day’s ride to Raleigh
  3. Thoroughfare: Raleigh was established near two major roads – an east-west road, “Jonesborough Road,” connected New Bern to Knoxville, TN (mostly follows present-day US Route 70), and a north-south road, “Fall Line Road” (forked off of the King’s Highway), connected Fredericksburg, VA to Augusta, GA
  4. Fresh start: being a brand new city, Raleigh didn’t carry the burden of its predecessors; this also led to more stability, at least in terms of keeping state records in one fixed location

North Carolina State House, painted by Jacob Marling in 1818. Raleigh History Collection, NC Digital Collections

A Capital Affair, Pt. III

Raleigh: 1794-present

The North Carolina General Assembly has been convening exclusively in Raleigh since 1794.

The city of Raleigh was planned and built specifically for the purpose of becoming the state’s capital, which was largely decided on based on it being close to the geographical center of the state. There were several benefits of designating Raleigh as the capital; it was not vulnerable to naval attack, it was located near a major interregional thoroughfare, and it was seen as a blank slate for some. However, many opposed this decision initially.


Historic map from the North Carolina Maps project overlaid with a current satellite image of downtown Raleigh. Original map: “Plan of the city of Raleigh: from Johnson’s map of 1847,” circa 1867. North Carolina Collection call number Cm912c R163 1867.

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A Capital Affair, Pt. II

New Bern, the first colonial capital: 1766-1776

“Perhaps a greater villain than corrupt officials was the absence of a provincial capital or fixed courthouse during the early years” (Jones, 1966).

At its first few meetings in New Bern, the Assembly voted against the town becoming the permanent seat of government, despite Governor Gabriel Johnston’s efforts. Meanwhile, the public records continued to suffer. Continue reading

A Capital Affair

We have a little-known fact to share that may leave some native North Carolinians mystified…

Raleigh was not the original capital of North Carolina.

In fact, it wasn’t the second or third…or even sixth choice. Bath (1710-1722) and Edenton (1722-1743) were considered the first unofficial capitals of North Carolina, later followed by the first official state capital, New Bern (1766-1776). Each of these towns served as the seat of government for a period of time, but there were several other contenders in the early years.

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State Capitol to Host Presidential Signature from the State Archives of NC

[This blog post comes from a Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources press release – you can find other press releases on http://www.ncdcr.gov.]

Thomas Jefferson, Monticello, January 22, 1816, to Nathaniel Macon

Thomas Jefferson, Monticello, January 22, 1816, to Nathaniel Macon [VC.12]. See this item in the NC Digital Collections: http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/ref/collection/p15012coll11/id/172

RALEIGH, N.C. – Visitors to the State Capitol this summer will have a chance to view a signature of Thomas Jefferson! From Thursday, June 22nd through Tuesday, July 11th, the Capitol will host a document that showcases the signature of Jefferson, third president of the United States, Founding Father, and author of the Declaration of Independence.

The document is a letter that Jefferson wrote to Nathanial Macon, a U. S. Senator from North Carolina, in 1816. The two were discussing the creation of a statue to honor George Washington for display in the first NC State House to stand on Capitol Square. Jefferson, writing in response to Macon’s request for sculptor suggestions, states that only Italian sculptor Antonio Canova should create such a statue. North Carolina commissioned the statue from Canova per Jefferson’s recommendation. The original statue was installed in the first State House in 1821. Unfortunately, it was destroyed when the State House burned down in 1831, but a copy now stands in the Capitol’s rotunda. You can view the statue’s copy, as well as pieces of the original Canova statue on display as part of the Capitol’s new exhibit “George Washington is Here: Images of the Founding Father in the North Carolina State Capitol.” The Jefferson document, on loan from the State Archives of NC, is part of the Archives’ vault collection and not often available for public viewing. Join the Capitol for a look at this treasure of the State Archives of NC!

Please call (919) 733-4994 for more information.

The State Capitol’s mission is to preserve and interpret the history, architecture and function of the 1840 building and Union Square. It is within the Division of State Historic Sites within the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, and located at One Edenton Street, Raleigh. For additional information please call, or visit www.nchistoricsites.org/capitol.

The State Archives of North Carolina’s mission is to collect, preserve, and make available for public use historical and evidential materials relating to North Carolina. Its holdings consist of official records of state, county and local governmental units, copies of federal and foreign government materials, and private collections. For additional information please call, or visit http://archives.ncdcr.gov/.

About the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state’s natural and cultural resources to build the social, cultural, educational and economic future of North Carolina. Led by Secretary Susi Hamilton, NCDNCR’s mission is to improve the quality of life in our state by creating opportunities to experience excellence in the arts, history, libraries and nature in North Carolina by stimulating learning, inspiring creativity, preserving the state’s history, conserving the state’s natural heritage, encouraging recreation and cultural tourism, and promoting economic development.

NCDNCR includes 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, two science museums, three aquariums and Jennette’s Pier, 39 state parks and recreation areas, the N.C.  Zoo, the nation’s first state-supported Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, State Preservation Office and the Office of State Archaeology, along with the Division of Land and Water Stewardship. For more information, please call (919) 807-7300 or visit www.ncdcr.gov.


Summer of the Archives Series

Have you ever scrolled through the many items in the North Carolina Digital Collections and discovered a hidden treasure? Each week this summer we will highlight an item from our collection in the hopes of inspiring you to discover new-to-you materials in our digital collections.
PlanOfRaleigh1792On June 13, 2015 the North Carolina State Capitol celebrated its’ 175th anniversary. Did you know that the first State House was burned in 1831 and the present State Capitol was completed in its place in 1840, and Raleigh was specifically planned as a capital city? One of the items in the Raleigh History Collection in the North Carolina Digital Collections is the original plan map for the city of Raleigh. Raleigh is considered among one of the earliest planned cities in the United States. The map was created in 1792 by William Christmas a state senator of Franklin County. The map used a total of 400 acres creating Union Square as the center of the city, where the capital building would be located. After setting aside acreage for the future State House, four public parks and streets, 276 acres were remaining. They were drawn up into one-acre lots which were to be sold at public auction with the money to fund the building of the capital and other public buildings.

The Raleigh History Collection has a wide variety of materials relating to the development of Raleigh: photographs, legislation, artwork, and more maps created over the years for the planning of Raleigh. If you would like to learn more about the history of Raleigh, visit NCPedia or NC Historical Markers. To see more maps about North Carolina in general, visit NCMaps.

State Archives on C-SPAN and Tips for Your Summer Visit

Raleigh will be the focus of C-SPAN programming tomorrow afternoon, including segments on the State Capitol and State Archives. For more information, see their daily schedule at http://www.c-span.org/history/

Also, if you’re planning a research trip to any archives this summer, the American Historical Association has some tips on making the most of your visit.