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Needham Broughton High School, Raleigh, N.C.

Broughton High School_web

With the school year winding down to a close, Flashback Friday drops in this week on Raleigh’s oldest high school still in use — Needham B. Broughton. The monumental building has stood prominently at the corner of Peace and Saint Mary’s Streets since 1929.

Broughton High School_back_web

Constructed in 1930. One of Raleigh’s two new and modern high schools. The enrollment at each is over one thousand.

The card was postmarked June 28, just in time to be received by ‘Margo’ before the July 4th holiday.

Dear Margo
Can’t you come up Sat & stay thru Wed or Thurs? I just found out I get off on the 4th. Call me if you can at 32045. If you can’t, don’t call.
(Can’t you come  by yourself just once on the bus. Maybe Fran can come to see [illegible].)

I wonder if Margo ever did take that bus to Raleigh all by herself?

A Young Architect’s First Major Commission

During the 1920s Raleigh’s center of population was shifting away from downtown to the new middle class suburbs sprouting up in the northwest precincts of the city.

Although a magnificent new high school (Hugh Morson High School) had been erected near Moore Square in 1924, within just a few years the school system found itself grappling with the steep rise in high school aged students and the migration away from the city center. Thus, the board opened a design competition for a new high school to be built in the northwest part of town.

William Henley Deitrick opened his architectural practice in 1927, the same year he entered the design competition. Deitrick had worked for the school board since 1925 as supervisor of construction of the half dozen or so school buildings built in Raleigh in the mid-1920s.

The young architect’s bold proposal was unlike any other seen heretofore in North Carolina school design. Although a dozen well-seasoned architects vied for the commission, Deitrick was awarded the contract — despite the fact that “some architects complained about the selection of a young ‘newcomer’…” (Elizabeth Waugh, “Firm In an Ivied Tower”)

The high school design received an award from the American Institute of Architects in 1930 and catapulted Deitrick’s career as a successful and respected architect.

Deitrick embraced the modernist aesthetic in the mid-1930s, and his firm became known for many of Raleigh’s finest modernist buildings, including the Nehi Building (1937), the Rex Hospital Nurses Home (1938), Carolina Country Club (1948, demolished), NC State Student Union (1950), and Dorton Arena (1951).

Broughton High School and …

The design of Raleigh’s new high school has been characterized as “Italian Lombard Gothic with Romanesque motifs.” The original building (many additions have been made over the years) is 414 feet long and 236 feet deep. It is built of steel and reinforced concrete, and is faced with Wake County granite.

The broad, symmetrical facade is punctuated by a 95-foot clock tower, which is flanked by an H-shaped classroom core, with auditorium and gymnasium wings extending beyond. It sits at the center of a 10-acre site. Architectural details include an orange clay tile roof, cast stone embellishments and massive wrought iron entry gates.

State Archives of North Carolina photo

State Archives of North Carolina photo

This 1950s photo shows the massive granite walls and many of the building’s architectural details.

Known as Raleigh’s “New High School” for several years, it was later named in honor of Needham Bryant Broughton (1848-1914), a Baptist church leader, Raleigh businessman, member of the Raleigh School Board, and supporter of public schools.


This linen-finish postcard from the 1930s depicts Raleigh’s two (white) high schools as they appeared at the time. Hugh Morson was built downtown in 1924 and is characteristic of the design of public schools built in Raleigh from the 1910s into the 1920s. Broughton High School clearly shows the design break with the earlier mode.

… Its Legacy

For many decades Broughton has enjoyed a reputation as Raleigh’s premier public education facility. Many of its alumni have been recognized later in life as among the city’s prominent businessmen, politicians, developers and social leaders.

Even so, Broughton High School experienced a bit of national exposure during the early years of the civil rights movement when Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “Non-Violence and Racial Justice” speech there on February 10, 1958. King had been invited to Raleigh by the United Church, then located on Hillsborough St. The building was too small to accommodate the expected crowd, so arrangements were made to use the auditorium at Broughton.

State Archives of North Carolina photo

State Archives of North Carolina photo

Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “Non-Violence and Racial Justice” speech to a packed crowd in Broughton’s auditorium on February 10, 1958.

Long a significant player in Raleigh’s history, Broughton High School has been designated a Raleigh Historic Landmark.


Of particular interest this week is that the talented and prolific North Carolina photographer Bayard Wootten took the photo of Broughton High School reproduced here on our featured postcard.

Wootten was a major regional photographer and perhaps North Carolina’s most significant photographer during the first half of the twentieth century. Her photographic collection is housed in the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, University of North Carolina Library at Chapel Hill.


Our Flashback Friday ‘white border’ halftone postcard this week was published locally by long-time Raleigh stationer and office outfitter Alfred Williams & Co. It was printed by Gray and Thompson Advertising of Chapel Hill.

“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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