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

A Ghost of the Warehouse District [UPDATED]

Capital Coca Cola Bottling Company, 1941. From the Albert Barden Collection, North Carolina State Archives.

Right past the Morgan Street Bridge lies the foundation and structural artifacts of a long gone building. Looking much like the rest of the Warehouse District, the utilitarian building in the photo above was home to the Capital Coca-Cola Bottling Company. The space is now home to Men at Work Care Care Center.

Unfortunately, the only structural remains of this building are the steel support beams in the secret underground lair in the photo above.

A Small and Dark Place

These days, the only use that this hidden space sees is to provide refuge for passing travelers or the homeless.

The only object in the room was a perfectly flat and unrolled sleeping bag. I was surprised to see it in cleaner condition than when I visited it a few years ago. I’m not sure who would have spent the time to clean it up, but I’m glad they did.

The entrance to this underground lair is a small window on a briar-infested hill leading to the rail lines that cut through the Warehouse District.

the tracks that are visible from the hidden lair

Access is easy enough, but exercise caution if exploring for yourself. This is an area out of view and is likely sought out for that very purpose, in addition to its proximity to the tracks.

Coca-cola Bottling Co. on S. Wilmington Street. Date/copyright holder unknown

A Look at Coca-Cola in Raleigh

One early reference to Coca-Cola in Raleigh that I found is the undated photo above of a bottling plant located on 115 South Wilmington Street. This address is now the entrance to a parking garage and is between the Prairie Building and the block with Gravy and Sitti.

A 1916 Raleigh City Directory lists the address of 216 S. West Street for the Raleigh Coca-Cola Bottling Works. It is unknown to me what relation any of these three Coca-Cola affiliates may have had with one another.

Today, you can see a vintage painted Coca-Cola ad on the Berkeley Cafe building on Nash Square.

The area where the bottling plant was once located

So What Happened to the Building?

Raleigh Firefighting historian Mike Legeros lists a fire at this plant in 1948 as one of Raleigh’s largest, and I can’t find any record of activity here after that date. The Capital Coca-Cola Bottling Company has operated out of a location at 2200 South Wilmington Street since 1956. It’s a safe bet that a catastrophic fire spelled the end of this structure, although I’d like to know where the company was operating from in the intervening 8 years.

There are some remnants of the building, including a few brick walls, imprints in the concrete flooring, and electrical boxes such as the one in the photo above.

a medianera

You can see the outline of the building in the form of a medianera on an adjacent building left standing. You can also discern outlines in the concrete that indicate an industrial past.

These days, there is no industrial use of the area and it’s pretty quiet. During the day, you can get your car detailed by the Men at Work guys. At night, you can work out at a secret weightlifting bench next to the small cinderblock building. The large open space is now home to a couple of benches and a bird bath.

Occasionally, passing drifters catch some sleep in the hidden lair underneath this picturesque space.

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UPDATE March 29

Image courtesy News & Observer Publishing Company

The Raleigh Fire Department Historical Society has this breathtaking photo of the Coca-Cola plant fire in 1948. Interestingly, you can see the building where Men at Work Car Care Center is today (lower left).

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