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Wake County Home for the Poor, Near Raleigh, N.C.

County Home_web

Flashback Friday takes a visit this week to the former Wake County Home for the Aged and Infirm, which was built on the outskirts of Raleigh in 1915. The County Home is no more, but the repurposed building itself still stands on Whitaker Mill Rd.

County Home_back_web

There is a message this week, but it has to be one of the most puzzling I have ever encountered on a postcard.

Dear Emmie / we are still on the road / dont worrie / I think every things is all rite / Plea[ase] dont worrie / will rite you a letter just as soon as we [illegible] / I am worried about [illegible]
Yours Alderman[?]

I noticed the postmark is dated August 1918, just three months before the end of WWI. But who is ‘Emmie’? Who is ‘Alderman’? And why is everyone so worried?

Maybe the stamped mark on the back of the card is a clue.

American Red Cross
Richmond, Va. Chapter
Canteen Committee

Any GNR readers care to take a stab at this?

As is common with many postcard correspondents, the message does not relate to the image on the card at all. This image is that of the Wake County ‘Home for the Poor.’ The facility was only three years old when the postcard was mailed.

The Wake County ‘Poor House’

Wake County established the Parish Grove ‘poor house’ and farm to house indigent residents in the 1820s. It was located northwest of the city on 500 acres of depleted, rocky soil, in the area between what is today Leadmine and Six Forks Roads. The site included 200 cultivated acres — the county farm — a public gristmill on Mine Creek, and facilities for the carding, spinning and weaving of cotton from which the inmates produced their own clothing.

By 1892 the poor house comprised nine two-room frame buildings, each 16’x36′, heated by open fireplaces or stoves, and lit by oil lamps. The population included 35 white adults and 40 African-Americans. Under cultivation on the farm were corn, cotton, oats and clover, among other staple crops.

Poor House_Shaffers_Map

A.W. Shaffer’s 1887 map of Wake County details the location of the poor house, also referred to at the time as the county ‘work house.’

The ‘Poor House’ Becomes the County Home

In 1913 Wake County commissioners established the county ‘Home for the Aged and Infirm’ to care for indigents and others who had no means of support. The Parish Grove property was sold, and a 35-acre site for the county home was selected on the former Whitaker family property, located just north of the city limits. They hired Raleigh architect Charles E. Hartge (who had also designed the Church of the Good Shepherd) to erect a modern institutional-style facility.

Hartge designed a two-story brick building composed of three wings with 150 private rooms, steam heat, electric lights, hot and cold running water, reception and recreation areas, modern kitchen facilities, dining rooms, sunrooms in each wing, and an apartment for the superintendent and his family. The new building also included a segregated residential wing and dining room for African-Americans. The new building was completed in October 1915, and 89 county poor were transferred from Parish Grove to their new ‘mansion’ in Raleigh, as some of them called it.

State Archives of North Carolina photo

State Archives of North Carolina photo

This photo of the County Home was taken in 1939.

Life at the County Home

Life at the county home was no picnic for its residents, who included not only the ‘poor,’ but the mentally ill, orphans, and the disabled, as well. Their lives were regulated ‘by the bell,’ and most residents of the home had to work on its farm or perform other duties if they were physically able. Although it was not an easy life, it was a vast improvement over life in the ‘poor house’ of the 19th century. Sadly, though, many residents were often forgotten by their families, or had no family at all.

For more than 60 years the Wake County Home for the Aged and Infirm cared for those who could not care for themselves, or who had no one to care for them. Upon death, an adjacent cemetery became the repository of their mortal remains.

With the advance of more adequate health care systems, the County Home closed in 1979. The building now houses a senior center and county welfare offices.

Courtesy Cemetery Census

Courtesy Cemetery Census

A resident of the County Home poses before a bed of canna lilies about 1930.

A Lasting Legacy

Residents of the home make up the majority of those buried in the cemetery, but the county also apparently used it as a general paupers field. From 1915 to 1976 nearly 300 individuals were buried in unmarked graves on the property. There they rested, forgotten, for thirty years. During that time, members of neighboring Emanuel Baptist Church tended to the burial ground, which was marked by a single broken headstone.

Courtesy Cemetery Census

Courtesy Cemetery Census

In 2008 the lost cemetery came to light during preliminary planning for a new senior citizens center to be built on the grounds. A subsequent series of stories by The News & Observer brought it before the public eye, and a popular campaign ensued to formally recognize and commemorate those buried in the abandoned cemetery.

The Wake County Board of Commissioners agreed, and authorized a monument to be erected on the site. In August 2010 a simple granite marker was dedicated to these long forgotten residents of the County Home. It reads: “In loving memory of those Wake County residents laid to rest near this location from 1915-1976.”


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

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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