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

Administration Bldg., Shaw University, Raleigh, N.C.

Shaw Admin Bldg_web

Shaw University has been a prominent institution of higher learning in Raleigh since 1865. The historic downtown campus has occupied its South St. location since 1870. Flashback Friday takes a look this week at an early campus landmark that, sadly, few people nowadays remember.

Shaw Admin Bldg_back_web

This week’s card was postmarked in Winston-Salem on June 4, 1908.

Sorry you have had sickness in your home / we too have not been well for a month, but we all are better now / will write a letter soon. Cora

Now, I don’t know why this postcard depicting a Raleigh landmark was postmarked from Winston-Salem, but I sure do hope everybody got well soon.

This week’s ‘undivided back’ postcard features a cancellation mark known as a ‘killer cancel’ — a dense ink imprint intended to prevent reuse of the stamp. In this case, we have a ‘triplex cancel’ — post office, date stamp and ‘shoe-print killer.’

Shaw University’s ‘Mansion House’

The three-and-a-half story brick building depicted in this week’s postcard was built in 1896. It replaced the Greek Revival residence of North Carolina lawyer and congressman, Daniel Barringer, whose estate Shaw University had acquired for its campus in 1870.

Known at the time as ‘Mansion House,’ probably on account of its size, the building was occupied by Shaw’s president and his family, and his administrative offices. The third flood served as a residence for unmarried faculty. The monumental structure was later named Meserve Hall in honor of Charles F. Meserve, Shaw’s second president (1894-1919).


This postcard view of the Shaw University Campus dates from the same era as our featured card. Left to right are Estey Hall, Meserve Hall and Shaw Hall. Only Estey survives today.

An Historic Preservation Opportunity Lost

When Shaw Hall (1871), the first, and most prominent historic building on campus, was demolished in 1965, preservationists hoped that Estey (1874) and Meserve (1896) could be restored as a focus for the historic core of the original campus. Sadly, this was not to be.

In the late afternoon of January 23, 1991 fire broke out in the upper floors of the unoccupied Meserve Hall. The four alarm fire brought dozens of Raleigh firefighters to battle the conflagration. Despite their efforts, the historic landmark was a total loss.

Photo courtesy Raleigh News & Observer

Photo courtesy Raleigh News & Observer

Smoke and flames engulf historic Meserve Hall on January 23, 1991.

Photo courtesy Raleigh News & Observer

Photo courtesy Raleigh News & Observer

Today Meserve Hall is gone; its site is now but a grassy lawn. However, just a short distance away, Estey Hall has been restored, and stands as a lonesome sentinel of successful historic preservation on the Shaw University campus.


Our Flashback Friday ‘black and white halftone’ postcard was published by the Rotograph Co. of New York City.

The Rotograph Co.   1904-1911  New York, NY

A major printer and publisher of postcards. Founded by Ludwig Knackstedt of Knackstedt & Nather in partnership with Arthur Schwarz of Neue Photographische Gesellschaft. They also took over the National Art Views Co. in 1904 to gain quick access to American views. A wide variety of card types were also issued in 19 letter series, but they are best known for their view-cards in color rotogravure. Rotograph produced about 60,000 postcards that were printed in Hamburg, Germany and Nancy, France.

Rotograph 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!