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

Raleigh, Then and Now: Nehi Bottling Company


Bottom photo courtesy North Carolina State Archives.

This week we revisit Nehi Bottling Company. A great deal has changed in the short time since our last Then and Now post  featuring this building, so we decided to give it another go. Since then, the building was purchased by James A. Goodnight who is becoming known for his extensive and detailed building restorations in Raleigh.

The Nehi Building is a Raleigh Historic Landmark, and for good reason. Built in 1937, it was designed by acclaimed Raleigh architect William Henley Deitrick, and is an early-and rare-example of International Style. This style of modernist architecture suggests volume rather than mass, and function rather than form. Its lines, scant ornamentation and general aesthetic suggest strength, industry and production. Several ideas that remain very beautiful to Americans.

Over the past year the exterior of the building has received quite a makeover.  Local artists Luke Miller Buchanan and Ollie Wagner painstakingly recreated the original red and yellow sign on the western wall. Perched upon scaffolding during an especially cold winter, the two artists slowly and skillfully brought back a sight most hadn’t even a memory of.

Photo courtesy North Carolina State Archives.

Photo courtesy North Carolina State Archives.

While the giant hand-painted sign is the most noticeable, other details such as replacing the broken black glass tiles flanking the main entrance and re-pointing every mortar joint were equally important.

Sourcing replacement black glass tiles proved to be a daunting task for James. Since the tiles hadn’t been manufactured since the 1930’s, it wasn’t as easy as driving down to the local builder’s supply store. Luckily, a man in St. Louis who specializes in vintage materials had a close match and drove all the way to Raleigh to personally install the tiles.

The awning has been rebuilt and the aluminum letters on the front of the building have been replaced. Thanks to James’ keen eye for detail, his army of carefully chosen contractors, and his healthy respect for Raleigh’s past, the building looks now almost exactly as it did more than 70 years ago.

“Now, drink your Nehi and eat your Coney Island!”

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