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

State Administration Building, Raleigh N.C.

Supreme Court Bldg_web

Back in May we introduced a postcard miniseries featuring the seven state government buildings that encircle Capitol Square. This week’s Flashback Friday postcard is the second in that series — the State Administration Building, built in 1913. It is now known as the Ruffin Building, and houses the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

Supreme Court Bldg_back_web

Long distance automobile travel must have been an arduous feat in the early days, as ‘Fred’ indicates in this message to ‘Mother’ in 1920.

Dec. 5, ’20
Dear Mother
Well we had a little bad luck today. We broke some ballberrings [sic] in the [illegible] wheel. But we got them fixed right away. We got as far as Rockingham, N.C. Tomorrow we will start out for Columbia, S.C. We are all well, and seen a lot of the world all ready. We put near fargot [sic] the day in the week.
(from Fred)

In my own experience, an extended road trip can certainly induce a sense of ‘lost’ time — I wonder where in the world Fred et al. were headed, and if they even finally got there!

An Early 20th Century Architectural Masterpiece

The ‘State Administration Building’ was designed by the talented Atlanta architect P. Thornton Marye. It was built in 1913 to house the NC State Supreme Court, Court Law Library, State Library, the North Carolina Historical Commission, and state administrative offices.

The architectural style blends Beaux-Arts Classicism with Second Renaissance Revival features. The building is of reinforced-steel poured concrete and masonry construction, and is faced with Indiana limestone with granite trim. Frank B. Simpson of Raleigh served as the onsite supervising architect.

State Archives of North Carolina photo

State Archives of North Carolina photo

Above is the new Administration Building as it appeared in 1914. The elegant courtroom occupied the space behind the tall windows seen here on the third floor. Below is a section of granite detailing at street level.

Photo credit: John Morris

Photo credit: John Morris

Marye made several contributions to Raleigh’s architectural integrity of the early 20th century. He also designed Raleigh’s City Hall and Auditorium (1910), Commercial National Bank (1912), and Wake County Courthouse (1915), all of which are now, sadly, lost.

A bronze statue of former Chief Justice Thomas Ruffin (served 1833-1852) was commissioned by the state legislature and placed in a niche in the Morgan Street entry loggia in 1915. It was designed by New York sculptor Francis H. Packer, who had also designed the statue of Spanish American War hero Worth Bagley, erected on Capitol Square in 1907.

Thos Ruffin

Thomas Ruffin, NC State Supreme Court Chief Justice, 1833-1852.

In 1940 the NC State Supreme Court moved to the new Justice Building, located across Fayetteville Street from its former quarters. The former State Administration Building was later renamed the Ruffin Building.

The State Court of Appeals, North Carolina’s second highest court remained behind in the old building. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, the State Art Society, precursor to the North Carolina Museum of Art, used the vast interior spaces as an exhibition hall.

State Archives of North Carolina photo

State Archives of North Carolina photo

An exhibit of Barden photographs and Currier and Ives prints share space in the Ruffin Building in 1949.

An Extensive Renovation and Restoration

Following decades of make-shift alterations and benign neglect, the building underwent an extensive 18-month renovation in 2008 and 2009. Chief Justice John C. Martin noted that the “goal from the beginning was to marry the historical attributes of this beautiful old building with the efficiency and utility of a modern office building.”

Improvements included the modernization of offices with telecommunication and internet connections, installation of energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, ADA accommodations and the installation of elevators.

Although Mayre’s original monumental staircase was removed, it was replaced with a new grand staircase, illuminated by a skylight four stories above the lobby level.

An aesthetic highlight of the renovation was a meticulous restoration of the original third floor courtroom. The plaster ceiling was restored by a specialty subcontractor of international renown, whose experience included restoration work at Buckingham Palace.

The Ruffin Building was rededicated in January 2010.

The photo below shows the beautifully restored third floor courtroom.


Seen in the photos below are details of the intricate workmanship of the courtroom’s painted plaster ceilings.



(Courtroom photos by Raleigh Boy)

The Ruffin Building is open to the public for tours when court is not in session. If you are interested in seeing the restored courtroom and learning more about the building’s renovation, contact Court Marshall Dick Ellis at 919.831.3601

State Archives of North Carolina photo

State Archives of North Carolina photo

This photo shows the new Administrative Building in 1914. I wonder if any GNR readers can identify the stonework construction on Capitol Square seen in the foreground.


Our Flashback Friday ‘white border’ postcard this week was published by long-time Raleigh stationer James E. Thiem Sr., and was printed by the Curt Teich C. of Chicago under the trade name ‘C.T. American Art Colored.’

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.

Curt Teich 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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