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Raleigh’s Old State Bank: A Memory Set on a Firm Foundation [updated]

Squeezed onto a narrow lot between the monolithic Baker Sunday school wing of Christ Church and the five story Capital Apartments on New Bern Avenue is Raleigh’s oldest surviving brick building — the State Bank of North Carolina.  When erected in 1813, it was the only structure on this block. In order to save it from demolition when the Baker wing was built, the venerable old building was moved 100 feet to its current location in 1968.

 

The top photo shows the State Bank in 1966 on its original, solid granite block foundation. The bottom photo shows the building in 2009 at its current site.

The State Bank building was constructed in 1813 as the central office for the first state-sponsored banking institution in North Carolina, which had been founded in 1810. It was modeled in the Federal architectural style with imposing matching neo-classical porticos attached to the east and west facades. Access to the banking rooms was gained through  an entryway on the street-side of the building.  It continued to function as a banking facility until the Civil War.

Christ Church, Raleigh’s definitive Gothic Revival masterpiece, was built adjacent to the bank building in 1853. Twenty years later, in 1873, the church acquired the old bank for use as its rectory. Over the course of the next 50 years, additions were made to Christ Church, including a parish house and chapel in 1913, and a Sunday school wing in the 1930s. This created a small enclosed courtyard, of sorts,  on the small lawn that separated the bank, the church parish house and the church itself. Narrow brick walkways crisscrossed the verdant and quiet spot.

The courtyard as it appeared in 1965.

When my family attended Christ Church in the 1960s, the building was being used as a Sunday school classroom facility. It was during these years that I became enamored with the old State Bank. My best friend in Sunday school and I loved to explore spaces one was not supposed to go into, and the bank building was no exception. We climbed the creaky wooden spiral staircase to the attic once and poked around, but scampered out when we heard voices coming from the floor below. [Note: I have added a photo of the attic stair at the end of this post.] We went back one other time time but found the door had been locked. On another occasion we ventured into the dark and dank, stone-walled basement — there was an old steam-heat boiler furnace down there — but we got spooked in the darkness and fled back up the stairs, unfortunately cutting short our exploratory foray.

The east portico in 1965.

Then, in the late ’60s, the church decided it needed to expand its physical plant in order to accomodate a growing congregation. In order to do this, the old 1930s Sunday school addition and my beloved State Bank had to go. The plan created an uproar among many in the congregation, and the debate dragged on for months. Ultimately, the pro-expansion faction prevailed and site preparation for construction began. The building committee worked hard to find a buyer for the State Bank building so that its demolition might avoided. North Carolina National Bank acquired the building and moved it 100 feet to its present location in 1968. Although their adaptive restoration would probably not meet the standards of preservationists today, at least the noble structure had been spared. The State Employees Credit Union now occupiis the building.

These are some of the photos I took with my trusty Kodak Instamatic of the State Bank before and after its move.

After the move in 1968, State Bank being stabilized at its new site. Capital Apartments building in the background.

Demolition of the old (Haywood) Sunday school wing. The original site of the State Bank was in the extreme right foreground of this view. The house in the background, itself, was eventually moved to a new site in the 200 block of New Bern Ave., across from Haywood Hall.

Another 1968 view of stabilzation.

This is the New Bern Ave. facade, showing the street-side doorway which had been bricked up since 1873. The lunette windows in the pedimented gable are characteristic of the Federal style.

Same view in 2009, with the doorway restored.

The north facade after the move.

North facade today. The shortened window resulted from the installation of a drive-through bank window (since bricked up) by NCNB in 1968.

The Baker wing as it looked when new. The State Bank originally stood exactly in this spot

The Baker wing today, with the relocated State Bank to the right.

The east portico as seen from a balcony of the Capital Apartments.

The west portico. At the far left can be seen the bricked-up former drive-through bank window.

This is the spiral staircase I climbed to the attic from the second floor. The photo was taken in the early 1960s, when the State Bank was being used for Sunday school classes. The door on the left leads to the upper level of the east portico. (photo credit: HABS)


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