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Olivia Raney Library, Raleigh, NC

Our Flashback Friday postcard this week features the Olivia Raney Library, once known as Raleigh’s “Taj Mahal.” The beautifully detailed Italian Renaissance building was erected in 1899, but sadly, this Hillsboro St. landmark is now long gone.

Olivia Raney Library. The splendid Raney Library building, on the corner of Hillsboro and Salisbury Streets (opposite the Confederate Monument), and its contents, were the free gift of one of Raleigh’s citizens, Mr. R.B. Raney. The building and a well selected library of 9,000 volumes cost $50,000.

The Olivia Raney Library opened in 1901, and was Raleigh’s first public library. Construction was funded by Richard Beverly Raney, proprietor of Raleigh’s famed Yarborough House hotel. Raney had erected a neoclassical mansion for his beautiful young wife, Olivia Cowper, on Hillsboro St. shortly after their marriage. Heartbroken by Olivia’s untimely death in 1896, Raney offered to the city the library as a memorial to his beloved spouse. It was built directly across the street from their home.

The yellow brick, red-tiled ‘Italian palazzo’ was designed by Nicholas Ittner of Atlanta. The three-story building featured street level retail space on Salisbury St. and an apartment for the resident librarian around the corner on Hillsboro. An elegant entrance led to the library itself on the second floor. An auditorium, or “music hall,” occupied the third. This large room was used for public gatherings, lectures, and often, as a dance hall.

As with most of the structures once encircling Raleigh’s Capitol Square, the Olivia Raney Library was demolished by the state of North Carolina in 1966 and replaced by an annex to the state revenue building. A state parking lot now occupies the site of the Raney mansion.

Incredibly, I recently discovered this photo in the the state archives which shows the Olivia Raney Library as it appeared soon after it was built. This photo is obviously the basis for the tinted halftone image seen in the postcard — down to the hitching post, newly planted trees, and even the trashcan sitting on the curb!

Another archival photo I found shows the library, the Confederate Monument, and the Raney mansion on the right.

Happily, although the original building is long lost, Raleigh’s historic first library lives on as a facility of the Wake County Public Library System as the Olivia Raney Local History Library.

Archival photos courtesy NC State Archives

Our Flashback Friday postcard this week was published by the renowned Raphael Tuck & Sons, of London and New York.

Raphael Tuck & Sons   1866-1960’s
London, England and 122 Fifth Ave, New York, NY

Tuck & Sons was founded in 1866 by Raphael Tuck. Tuck’s three sons joined the firm in 1871, and they began publishing their first Christmas cards. When Raphael retired in 1881, the company opened offices in New York in 1882 and Paris in 1885 to facilitate orders and distribution. By 1894, a year after they were appointed official printers to Queen Victoria, they printed their first Souvenir Card.

Postal regulations were changed after much lobbying by Tuck and others, providing better opportunities to enter the postcard market. Tuck immediately began the printing of postcards in chromolithography. By 1899, Tuck became the first publisher to print postcards in a larger size that we now call standard. While most of Tuck’s cards were printed in Prussia, Saxony, and Holland until the First World War, the images usually came from artists local to the subject at hand working through their international branches.

In 1904 Tuck began producing a postcard series specifically for the American market, all printed in Holland. The Raphotype view-cards, printed in tinted halftone are consecutively numbered 5000-6100. Some of these were issued in monotone. In the early 1960s the firm was purchased by Purnell & Sons.

“Flashback Friday” is a weekly feature of , Goodnight Raleigh! in which we showcase vintage postcards depicting our historic capital city. We hope you enjoy this week end treat!


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