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

Raleigh’s Old State Bank: A Memory Set on a Firm Foundation [updated]

Squeezed onto a narrow lot between the monolithic Baker Sunday school wing of Christ Church and the five story Capital Apartments on New Bern Avenue is Raleigh’s oldest surviving brick building — the State Bank of North Carolina.  When erected in 1813, it was the only structure on this block. In order to save it from demolition when the Baker wing was built, the venerable old building was moved 100 feet to its current location in 1968.


The top photo shows the State Bank in 1966 on its original, solid granite block foundation. The bottom photo shows the building in 2009 at its current site.

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Exile on Wilmington Street

300 block of S. Wilmington St., 1926. The four storefronts seen left to right are the same ones seen in the photo below. They were built in the late 1870s. (Image courtesy N.C. Division of Archives and History)

I have long appreciated the back street charm of the first three blocks of S. Wilmington St. The east side of the street features a virtually intact collection of 19th century 2-story brick storefronts. Rather than the banks, hotels, high-end department stores, office and government buildings found on Raleigh’s main street, these sturdy brick buildings originally housed cotton and tobacco brokers, seed stores and harness shops, saloons and lunch counters.

300 block of S. Wilmington St., 2009. (Image credit: John Morris)

Nowadays the first two blocks of Wilmington St. are undegoing a resurgence and rehabilitation, while the 300 block remains gloomy and virtually deserted.
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Time Traveling to the Thrifty Food Market

Mr. and Mrs. Thomas stand in front of their grocery store, The Thrifty Food Market, in 1972.

A few weeks ago I attended a First Friday event at Rebus Works, a small art gallery in Boylan Heights. As I walked through the crowded room inspecting the artwork, glass of wine in hand, my footsteps across the creaky, worn wood floors started to echo in my ears. The chit-chat of the crowd seemed to fade away, and my mind began to drift back to a time that existed more than 35 years ago when the gallery space was occupied by a neighborhood grocery called The Thrifty Food Market. It was a simpler, different sort of time.

Mr. and Mrs. Thomas had owned and operated the little grocery store at the western terminus of the Martin St. viaduct since 1937. I lived in Boylan Heights for several years in the early 1970s and got to know the Thomases well. They were a kindly older couple whom I always thought of back then as the grandparents of Boylan Heights. In those days I lived with a group of friends in a house that many of our neighbors regarded with disdain as a “hippie house.” But not the Thomases. They took a liking to us, — well, actually, there was no one they didn’t like — and we certainly liked them.
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