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North Carolina Travel Guide
Historic Neighborhoods of Raleigh

Among several historic neighborhoods in and immediately surrounding downtown, you'll find some beautiful old homes, some of which are open to the public, most of which are private but make for a nice afternoon sightseeing cruise. Here are the best of the lot

Capitol Area Historic District

State Capital, RaleighThe Capitol Area Historic District is the geographic center of Raleigh. At its center is Capitol Square, at the center of which is the Greek Revival-style Capitol building, which pretty much puts you at the center of Raleigh. A number of monuments can be found interspersed throughout the square, honoring North Carolina soldiers and assorted luminaries. Six government buildings, including the State Supreme Court, face the Capitol and each corner of the square is home to a church, two of which - the First Baptist and Christ Episcopal - date back to the mid-19th century.

Just off the square is Haywood Hall, the oldest house in Raleigh still in its original location, built in 1799 and continuously occupied by descendents of the Haywood family till 1997. The house has beautiful gardens, and, as such, is a popular spot for weddings and other festive occasions.

As the city of Raleigh sprawls about, the area immediately around the Capitol building remains relatively untouched, a peaceful patch of shaded earth where you might comfortably pause for an outdoor lunch, a nap, to read a book, without getting trampled (though you'd be well advised to keep an eye on the cops on horseback).

Capital Area Visitor Services, located in the lobby of the North Carolina Museum of History at 5 East Edenton St., can provide you with more info.

Moore Square Historic District

Moore Square, Raleigh, NCNo houses here, but the Moore Square Historic District is home to one of two parks that are still around from the original city plan mapped out in 1792. Today Moore Square is best known as the site of both the Artsplosure festival and the giant copper acorn. Sure, you can go to Raleigh without visiting the giant copper acorn. Suit yourself. Seems a bit churlish, though. Too good to have your picture taken with a giant copper acorn? Too hoity-toity to rub it for good luck? The giant copper acorn weighs a half ton. The significance of the giant copper acorn is that Raleigh is sometimes called the "City of Giant Copper Oaks." Well, actually it's just the "City of Oaks" that Raleigh is sometimes called. Visit the giant copper acorn.

In the late 1800s, Moore Square developed into one of the city's primary commercial hubs. City Market (see Raleigh Restaurants and Bars) arrived in 1914, and in the 1920s, with post-Civil War segregation now firmly entrenched, the area became known as "Black Main Street."

By the later part of the 20th century, though, suburbanization had taken a toll on the Moore Square area. But revitalization efforts - most significantly the redevelopment of City Market has resulted in a return of activity to the area.

Oakwood Historic District

When Oakwood was initially developed in the post-Civil War years, it was considered to be out in the boonies - dug out of the woods and a hike into town. Today the same turf is effectively downtown. Regardless, many of the Victorian-style homes appear much as they did at the time.

Oakwood saw some lean years through most of the last century, as people moved to the suburbs and many of the homes were neglected. In the early '70s, though, a spruce-up was underway and the neighborhood is today one of the loveliest in the city. In 1974, it became Raleigh's first designated historic district, and was the first to be listed in the National Register. In addition to the homes, there's a Confederate cemetery with some very cool, very elaborate headstones.

The North Carolina Museum of History (see above) is a good source for more on Oakwood.

Boylan Heights Historic District

So around about the first of the 20th century, along come suburbs, and Boylan Heights is one of the state's first, carved out of what had once been plantation land along the outskirts of the city. The neighborhood was bordered by railroad tracks, an insane asylum and the state prison. Pretty swank, eh?

In fact, Boylan Heights is a very nice neighborhood, hilly and wooded and with some lovely old homes. And it's just on the edge of downtown - not at all suburban by today's standards. Over the course of the past 20 years, revitalization efforts have resulted in the restoration of many of these homes into single-family residences.

Five Points Neighborhoods

According to a National Park Service website "The suburban neighborhoods that comprise the Five Points Neighborhoods were part of an extremely important planning movement that had captured the imagination of the Progressive Reformers of Raleigh. In line with their desire for a new, simple, efficient lifestyle that was symbolized by the new bungalow houses which became popular in the 1920s, these suburban neighborhoods were planned communities with services that epitomized efficiency as well as providing escape from unhealthy and hectic urban life."

Life is still pretty simple and efficient in Five Points. Over the years, the neighborhood has attracted a number of young, first-time homeowners. It's a short drive to downtown, reasonably convenient to the interstate, and has a nice block of Restaurants and Bars.

Greater Five Points is comprised of the neighborhoods of Bloomsbury, Hayes Barton, Roanoke Park and Vanguard Park. Hayes Barton was, in the early days, considered the most desirable of these neighborhoods, the work of the landscape architect Earle Sumner Draper, who designed some of the first greenbelt buffers in the country and was also well known for his design of mill villages.

The homes in the Five Points neighborhoods are a hodge-podge of styles and sizes that nonetheless come together as a very pleasant composite.

Other Related Sites: Raleigh Restaurants, Things-to-do, Raleigh History, NC State Fair, Museum of Art, Chapel Hill, Durham

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