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

New W.N.A.O. — Radio and Television Center


This week for Flashback Friday we feature another classic 1950s-era photochrome postcard. It depicts the studio building of Raleigh’s first television station — WNAO-TV. We will also explore the building’s previous life as a swank 1940s-era night club.

WNAO TV_back_web

New W.N.A.O — Radio and Television Center
Housing the Carolina’s Largest T.V. Studios
Located at 2128 Western Blvd.
Raleigh, North Carolina
It is bordered by N.C. State College — The N.C. State School for the Blind — and Beautiful Pullen Park

No message on our card this week, so let’s get right to it!

On July 13, 1953, Raleigh’s first television station, WNAO-TV, went on the air. The station moved into the repurposed former Club Bon Air at 2128 Western Blvd. The dedication of the new station was attended by various local dignitaries, including the mayor of Raleigh, Durham’s mayor pro-tem, and Sir Walter Television Co. and station executives.  The N&O reported that:

WNAO-TV may be seen over Channel 28, and regular programs, including some of the nation’s top shows, will be telecast from 5 p.m. until midnight seven days a week. — The News & Observer, July 13, 1953

WNAO-TV was owned by The News & Observer, which also owned WNAO Radio (1949). Durham’s WTVD television station began broadcasting in September 1954, and Raleigh’s second TV station, WRAL, aired its first programs December 15, 1956.

WNAO-TV used UHF transmission. In those days UHF broadcasts were unviewable without a special antenna adaptor. Even with one, the picture was frequently indistinct. Now whether this issue was a factor, coupled with air-time competition from the area’s other two local stations, I don’t know, but WNAO folded at the end of 1957; The News & Observer sold WNAO Radio the following year, and the newspaper opted to abandon broadcasting all together.

Before It Was WNAO-TV Studios

Nick Bougades and his business partner Gus Matinos, recent Greek immigrants to Raleigh in the 1940s, bought a small triangle of land on Western Blvd. at the juncture of  Ashe Ave., Bilyeu St. and (old) Avent Ferry Rd. in 1946. That year the pair opened Raleigh’s first night club — Club Bon Air. To house this post-WW II concept in adult entertainment, Bougades and Matinos erected a stylish Art Moderne building on the site. It featured many of the hallmarks of the style, including a curved entryway, ‘streamlined’ architectural detailing and lots of glass-block windows .

State Archives of North Carolina photo

State Archives of North Carolina photo

This is how the stylish Club Bon Air appeared in 1946. 

Included among the amenities of the Club Bon Air were a restaurant, private meeting rooms, a well-stocked bar, a dance floor and a small parking lot. Big Band, swing and jazz bands often played the Club Bon Air.

State Archives of North Carolina photo

State Archives of North Carolina photo

This photo shows a view of the (unstocked) art moderne-styled bar of the Club Bon Air in 1946.

By 1950, the hey-day of the Club Bon Air had passed, as Nick Bougades (without partner Gus Matinos) was billing the former night spot as simply the “Bon Air Restaurant.” Within a year, Bougades left Raleigh.

The former Bon Air again saw action in 1951 as the Club Carlyle, but the revival was brief, and by 1952 that night club had also closed.

Following its occupancy by WNAO-TV 1953-1957, the building lay vacant.  In 1959 the Town and Country Furniture store took possession of 2128 Western Blvd.

On an early Sunday morning in February 1964, flames were reported issuing from Town and Country Furniture. Within just a few hours, the iconic building had burned to the ground. In its news account of the fire, the N&O reported that “the two-story cinder block building [had been] constructed some 15 years ago and was opened as the Club Bon Air, a plush supper club.” (The News & Observer, Feb. 24, 1964)

Thus, was the end of an era.


Our Flashback Friday ‘Lusterchrome’ postcard this week was published by the Raleigh News Agency, and was printed by Tichnor Brothers, Inc. of Boston, MA.

Tichnor Brothers, Inc.   (1912-1987) 160 N. Washington Street, Boston and Cambridge, MA

A major publisher and printer of a wide variety of postcards types. Their view-cards were produced on a national level.

Their photochomes went under the trade name Lusterchrome. They also produced an early Tichnor Gloss series in offset lithography that was so heavily retouched they floated somewhere between being artist drawn and being a photograph. The company was sold in 1987 to Paper Majic.

Tichnor Bros logo


“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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