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Raleigh’s Last Remaining Castle

On Caswell Square (one of the five original public spaces on the 1792 plan for Raleigh) and adjacent to the Oral Hygiene Building lies an overlooked gem of late Victorian Raleigh architecture; the NC School for the Blind and Deaf. With the destruction of ‘Raleigh’s Own Castle‘ in 1967 and later the Park Hotel in 1975, this structure stands with the former Leonard Medical School building as one of the last two remaining examples of turreted public buildings in the area.

This Romanesque Revival structure on the corner of Dawson and Jones Streets is all that remains of the North Carolina  Institute for Blind, Dumb, and Deaf. Designed by Frank Milburn, the building originally housed the boys dormitory and auditorium that were a part of the complex.

The cornerstone of the building is somewhat enigmatic, as three seperate dates are given: 1845, 1898, and 1928.

1845 represents the date in which the first institution for the blind and deaf opened, which was on Hillsborough Street.

1848 saw construction on Caswell Square for the state institution, and 1898 was the date in which the building featured here saw the beginning of construction.

This structure remained in use for its original intent until 1927, when it was rennovated and put into use as the State Health Building.

To be sure, there are other turreted structures in Raleigh. There are a few historic private residences, several obscene McMansions, the Haunted Mansion on the Hill, and a few churches. But only two late 19th century public structures remain, and this is one of them.

Image credit: North Carolina State Archives

In the photo above you can make out the several of the buildings that formerly occupied Caswell Square. Only the former dormitory/auditorium remain.

Today, this magnificent structure lies in one of the most quiet parts of downtown, in a stretch of structures occupied by state government. The view above is seen from the top of the crane currently used in the construction of the 12 story SECU tower.

African American School for Blind and Deaf on Bloodworth St. Image credit: Lee Wilson

This building had a twin at one time, an annex to the the African American School for the Blind and Deaf on Bloodworth Street. It was built in the same year (1898) and designed by the same architect. Sadly, it burned in the mid 1990s. The photo above shows it after the destruction. It has since been razed.

Today this imposing structure continues to serve as a ward of the state. It marked the first occurence of a state instutition to function outside of the immediate area of Capitol Square, and remains now in relative obscurity – soon to be in the shadow of a new mid-rise tower across the street.

Thanks to Lee Wilson for the image of the burned African American School for the Blind and Deaf on Bloodworth Street.


Discuss Raleigh

  • Recent Comments:

    • Lawrence Cheek Lindsey, Jr.: L. M. Cheek or Lawrence M. Cheek is incorrectly referred to as J. Cheek in this article....
    • Raleigh Boy: Yes, The Cameron House was located on Hillsboro Street across from St. Mary’s School. It was...
    • Sandra: It is my understanding that the Cameron House was across Hillsborough in front of St Mary’s. Not...
    • Anna Ball Hodge: Also wondering why the Cameron House was demolished, where was it?
    • Anna Ball Hodge: I am teaching an art class at the Cardinal during that time. HATE to miss it. Hope it will be...
    • Elizabeth: Hey guys I am so dying to hear more! I am writing a book about RDU and want to make the book as personal...
    • Donna Harrison: While conducting research on my family tree, I found that a distant uncle was educated at Leonard and...
    • scott t: i think that big mirrored clock tower got drizzled with pigeon poop.


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