Goodnight Raleigh - a look at the art, architecture, history, and people of the city at night

The Splendor of Raleigh’s Little Theatre and Rose Garden


Nearly every city, suburb, or rural area has beautiful green spaces that are adored by locals, for various reasons. It may be a public park, a hidden path in a forest, ruins of a long abandoned house, or a garden – but to those who love them, it remains a place of solitude and source of happiness. One such place that maintains this status with me is the Raleigh Municipal Rose Garden and Little Theatre, in the Rosemont community near NC State campus.

Due in no small part to the way finding signs on Hillsborough Street and near one of the only grocery stores in the area, it was one of my early finds after moving here. Being relatively new to photography and discovering an area filled with dozens of beautiful rose bushes was quite a find. It was the proverbial barrel full of fish to shoot at. I was instantly infatuated with this little patch of green speckled with reds, whites, yellows, and many other colors of the spectrum.

Elvis Tribute at the Ampitheatre

A couple of years ago I was treated to a nice surprise here. While setting out on foot for things to photograph for this blog, I heard what sounded like a concert. After traveling a short distance toward the sound, I was quite surprised to discover an Elvis Tribute Concert! It was a wonderful and unexpected surprise for my Friday night.

A short time later it also was the area in which I spent the night and waking hours looking for my lost dog. The people that live in the Rosemont community came together to help me find a scared and lost puppy, and with their help I eventually located her.

Image credit: Raleigh Little Theatre

Image credit: Raleigh Little Theatre

Many people aren’t aware of the rich and colorful history the Raleigh Little Theatre and Rose Garden has. One such example sometimes cited is that a young performer named Andy Griffith performed here in the 1940s.

The Raleigh Little Theatre was born in 1936 after two earlier unsuccessful attempts to bring theatre and arts to Raleigh. The fledgling group first met at the now demolished Hugh Morson High School in 1936, and shortly thereafter performed in several other auditoriums, including the third floor of the Briggs Building, now home to the Raleigh City Museum.

During this time of performing in various locations, the plans were being made to utilize the land formerly used as a race track for the second location of the State Fairgrounds (read comments on a previous post, ‘Horse Track Alley’, for more information).

Money was raised for the new theatre in the form of soliciting donations as well as the sale pasteboard bricks. Perhaps this sale of bricks was similar to the Buy a brick campaign, launched in the 90s and pictured above, but that’s just a guess.

In the early part of 1940, as the facility neared completion, the funds for construction ran out. Shortly thereafter, President Roosevelt personally approved a Works Progress Administration fund of $22,000 to complete the project.  The grassroots effort was finally finished, and Raleigh residents had their theatre.

Image credit: Raleigh Little Theatre

Image credit: Raleigh Little Theatre

History wasn’t just made in the completion of the theatre, but in the building itself. It was designed by William Deitrick, considered the “Father of Historic Preservation” in Raleigh. What is unique is that although he earned this title for efforts such as restoring the old water tower near Capitol Square, he was also one of the area’s first architects to actively promote the international style of modernist architecture.

The theatre is considered by many to be area’s first example of this new style.

It wasn’t until about 8 years later (1948) that the beautifully landscaped rose garden was first planted, consisting of some 3,000 bushes. I’d wager that the Rose Garden is slightly more prominent in the minds of many residents than the Little Theatre is.

According to the Raleigh Little Theatre web site, the site is the display garden for all new roses presented by the All American Rose Society, including 56 different varieties.

It’s quite a popular spot for weddings and other special events. Above is a bridal portrait I took for my friend Jordan.

Beyond the picturesque scenes of the rose garden during the spring and summer months, it’s a lovely place to spend time even when flowers aren’t in bloom.

The rock archways form a semicircle that is surrounded by beautiful foliage. In addition, there are several hidden and serene spots for lovers and friends, young and old.

On days that I walk home from work, I will intentionally take the long route home just so I can cut through the garden. It’s a welcome respite after a long day.

On the night I got a few of the photographs in this post, I sat lying on my back gazing at the stars under the canopy waiting for the long exposure above. There are precious few places near downtown in which one can be in such a place, and see the stars at night.

The Rose Garden and Little Theatre is by far one of my favorite places to be for no particular reason.


Discuss Raleigh

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