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

Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, Raleigh, N.C., Seating Capacity 3,800

This week’s Flashback Friday postcard features Raleigh’s iconic Memorial Auditorium. The monumental building was erected in 1932 as a memorial to the soldiers who died during “The Great War” (WWI). Architecturally, it is a beautiful complement to our Greek Revival-styled State Capitol.

Having a fine trip. Will tell you all about it when we get home.
Love, Beatrice

Now, of course I wouldn’t know the itinerary of Beatrice and her husband’s ‘fine trip’, but judging from the recipient’s New York address, and the March 1936 postmark, I’d bet a dollar their end destination was probably Florida.

Raleigh Memorial Auditorium

The North Carolina architectural firm Atwood and Weeks designed Memorial Auditorium as the replacement for Raleigh’s City Auditorium, which had been destroyed by fire in 1930. The Neo-Classical Revival Fayetteville St. landmark was completed in 1932 with federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) funding. Raleigh builder and developer C.V. York was the contractor.

Courtesy NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center

Raleigh Memorial Auditorium as it appeared in 1940.

Following various improvements and updates in 1963 and 1977, the auditorium underwent a major renovation in 1990 which featured an extension of the massive Doric portico, the addition of three performance halls and an external glass-enclosed concourse and lobby. Today the complex is home to the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts . It includes the Fletcher Opera Theater, the Kennedy Theater, and Meymandi Concert Hall, home of the North Carolina Symphony.

The Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts is located at the foot of Fayetteville St. The statue of Sir Walter Raleigh has since been moved to the plaza in front of Raleigh’s Convention Center.

Raleigh Memorial Auditorium is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Historic Predecessors

Before the erection of Memorial Auditorium, its site at the foot of Fayetteville St. had been occupied by two earlier Raleigh landmarks — the ‘Governor’s Palace’ (1815) and the Centennial School (1876 and 1885).

NC State Archives photo

The Governor’s Palace (above) was designed by  James Calder of Washington, NC. The residence was remodeled in 1825 with a classical-styled portico added by William Nichols. Abandoned after the Civil War, the city acquired the property and established the Centennial School in the building in 1876.

NC State Archives photo

In 1883 the aging palace building was demolished and a new Centennial School, designed by Samuel Sloan and  A.G. Bauer, replaced it in 1885.

This week’s ‘white border’ postcard was published by long-time Raleigh stationer James Thiem, and was produced by the renowned Chicago postcard company Curt Teich Co.

Curt Teich Co.   1893-1974
Chicago, IL

A major publisher and printer. Their U.S. factories turned out more cards in quantity than any other printer. They published a wide range of national view-cards of America and Canada. Many consider them one of the finest producers of White Border Cards. The Linen Type postcard came about through their innovations as they pioneered the use of offset lithography. They were purchased by Regensteiner Publishers in 1974 which continued to print cards at the Chicago plant until 1978.

“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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