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

Walgreen’s Drug Store, Raleigh, North Carolina


This week for Flashback Friday we present a ‘natural finish’ real photo postcard of the “Leading Drug Store in North Carolina” — Walgreen Drugs. In this post we also explore the beginning of the civil rights sit-in demonstrations of the early 1960s, and how Raleigh’s Walgreen’s entered the history books.


The Walgreen Camera Dept. mailed this postcard notice to a Mr. Bryan Coston of Spray, N.C.

Sept. 4, 1946

Your camera repair is back now, and can be mailed if you like. Charges total $1.90 or 2.00 by mail.

I wonder if Mr. Coston made the trip all the way from Rockingham County to Raleigh to pick up his camera, or just paid the extra dime to have the USPS deliver it?

Following a major renovation of the Raleigh Building in 1936, management leased the modernized street floor to the national drug store chain. Walgreen’s remained a Fayetteville St. landmark for the next 38 years. It was replaced by Revco Discount Drugs in 1974. A CVS Pharmacy has occupied the spot for about 10 years.

State Archives of North Carolina photo

State Archives of North Carolina photo

This photo shows the Raleigh Building and its biggest tenant, Walgreen Drugs, in the mid-1940s. The postcard below shows the interior of the “leading drug store in North Carolina.”

Walgreens interior_1943_web

A Little Walgreen History

Walgreen Drug Store was founded in Chicago by Charles R. Walgreen in 1901. He pioneered a policy of innovative merchandising including storefront window displays, providing customers with personal service, and selecting goods the customer actually wanted. The innovations proved popular with the buying public and his stores thrived. By 1919 Walgreen operated 20 drugstores in Chicago.

The soda fountain had long been the mainstay of 19th century drugstores. In 1922, Walgreen’s introduced the malted milkshake, adding ice cream to the standard soda-drink formula of milk, chocolate syrup and malt powder. The novelty became an instant success and customers lined up to buy the slushy frozen treat.

Walgreen neon

It wasn’t long before Walgreen reasoned that soda fountains, which served cold drinks, were not particularly profitable in cold weather. So, ever the innovator, he kicked it up a notch by adding year-round food service — yet another creative marketing idea which proved successful. The public ate it up, so to speak. Sadly, as a result of increasing competition from the plethora of fast food chains which had prevailed in the U.S. from the 1950s onward, Walgreen’s ended its food service in the 1980s.

By 1929 the number of Walgreen retail outlets had grown to more than 500, with locations in New York City, Florida and most urban markets. The drug store chain weathered the Great Depression and emerged as popular, and profitable as ever. Walgreen died in 1939, and his son Charles Jr assumed operations of his father’s empire. Continuing the innovative spirit of its founder, Walgreen’s introduced the ‘self service’ concept after WWII.

Today there are more than 8,000 Walgreen drug stores throughout the country.

Raleigh’s Walgreen Drug Store Becomes a Page in the History Books

A non-violent civil rights movement protesting whites-only food service in drugstores and department stores was initiated by NCA&T students in Greensboro on Feb.1, 1960. Using the tactic of sitting down at a store’s lunch counter, the African-American students were refused service, refused to leave, and thus ‘occupied’ the lunch counter. The students called it a ‘sit down strike,’ but the tactic quickly became popularly known as a ‘sit in.’ Within a week of the Greensboro protest, the sit ins had spread to Winston-Salem, Durham, Fayetteville, Charlotte, and Raleigh.

On Feb. 10 students from Shaw University and St Augustine’s College began sit in protests at seven of Raleigh’s Fayetteville St. stores. They targeted McLellan’s, Woolworth’s, Hudson Belk, Kress, Eckerd’s Drug Store, Cromley’s Sir Walter Drug Store and Walgreen’s, all of which featured whites-only food service.

Photo courtesy The News & Observer

Photo courtesy The News & Observer

Protesters demonstrate in the 200 block of Fayetteville St. against whites-only lunch counter service.

The Raleigh sit ins began around 10.30 am. In each store the lunch counters “were immediately closed when the Negro [sic] students asked for service.” “Walgreen’s drug store closed its lunch counter shortly after 11 am. ‘We just shut the fountain [down] in the interest of public safety,’ [the store manager said].” (N&O, Feb. 11 and 12, 1960)

Photo courtesy The News & Observer

Photo courtesy The News & Observer

This photo of the student protesters appeared on the front page of the N&O on Feb. 11, 1960. Below, a group of students is confronted by the ‘Closed in the Interest of Public Safety’ placard blocking access to Walgreen’s lunch counter.

Photo courtesy The News & Observer

Photo courtesy The News & Observer

McLellan’s closed its entire store at 2 pm, following a scuffle with a free-lance photographer, McLellan’s management and a handful of jeering whites. Walgreens closed its store shortly afterwards when several students occupied the lunch counter. (N&O, Feb. 11 and 12, 1960)

Photo courtesy The News & Observer

Photo courtesy The News & Observer

A group of white men block the entrance to Eckerd’s Drug Store on Fayetteville St. during the sit in protests.

In the ensuing months the sit-in protests spread throughout the South. Finally, in July, the national drugstore chains agreed to serve all “properly dressed and well behaved people,” regardless of race. (The Sit-Ins of 1960, Civil Rights Movement Veterans) Ultimately, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 eliminated all segregation laws in the U.S.


Our Flashback Friday ‘real photo’ postcard this week was published by Graycraft Card Co., of Danville, VA.

Graycraft Card Co. (mid-20th century)
Danville, VA

Danville, Virginia holds an important place in the production of picture postcards in the 20th century. During the 1940s and ’50s Graycraft Card Co. produced black-and-white images of communities all over the South. The company published so many scenes from Southern communities that the cards today provide the core of many view-card collections.


“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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