Raleigh Business Districts

Fayetteville Street is the historical heart of this city. It has seen iconic events like the march of Union troops to the Capitol in the waning days of the Civil War. It has seen welcome-home parades at the close of other wars and protests that helped end segregation. More prosaically, Fayetteville and surrounding streets have been Raleigh’s central business district since the nineteenth century.

A few rudimentary frame shops first lined the street. The late 1800s brought refinement. The 1872 Briggs Hardware Building has a fanciful cast-iron facade with decorative corner quoins and window hoods topped with lion heads. Prefabricated facades could enhance otherwise plain brick structures like the ca. 1865 building of A.D. Royster & Bros. Confectionary. By the 1870s, density spread to nearby streets. Black merchants and property owners occupied smaller, simpler shops on South Wilmington and East Hargett streets. In 1891, a black fraternal organization purchased a ca. 1880 warehouse on East Hargett Street and remodeled it. Their Grand United Order of Odd Fellows Building had an assembly room as well as office and retail space.

The emergence of a professional class in the twentieth century brought rising rooflines, like that of the seven-story Old Masonic Temple Building of 1907. A 1920s boom added the Professional Building, the Odd Fellows Building, the Capital Club, and the Sir Walter Raleigh Hotel. The three-story, 1913 Raleigh Banking and Trust Company got eight more floors in 1928, courtesy of the roaring economy. Restaurants like The Mecca moved off Fayetteville Street and onto side streets.

Raleigh was segregated in this period. By 1915, rental spaces in the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows Building were all occupied by black professionals and merchants who couldn’t get space on Fayetteville Street. East Hargett Street evolved into “Main Street” for Raleigh’s black community. The 1921 Lightner Arcade that once stood at 122 East Hargett Street included a hotel and social club and became a center of black culture in Raleigh. The 1914 Raleigh Furniture Building and the 1926 Delany Building also offered retail and office space.

Post-Depression, the 1940s brought a move from classicism to modernism with the fifteen-story Art Deco Durham Life Insurance Company Building. The Modernist idiom arrived with mid-1960s bank buildings, including the BB&T Building. A mid-1960s Modernist commercial building houses the black-owned Hamlin Drug Store, a century-old business on East Hargett Street.

The late twentieth century brought an extended downturn to the central business district as retail moved to enclosed shopping malls and offices shifted to suburban locations. The conversion of Fayetteville Street into a pedestrian mall failed to save downtown and was eventually reversed but a twenty-first-century resurgence in interest in the area has brought a welcome renaissance.

Old Masonic Temple Building

Charles McMillan designed the Masonic Temple building, Raleigh's oldest surviving steel-reinforced concrete structure, in the Sullivanesque-style. In addition to its design and construction, the building is significant as a major landmark in the…

Odd Fellows Building (Commerce Building)

One of downtown Raleigh's few remaining early twentieth-century skyscrapers, this ten-story building designed by the Atlanta architectural firm of G. Lloyd Preacher and Company is Raleigh's first 1920s tall office building. It is…

Professional Building

This eight-story brick-veneered commercial building with classical detailing is an example of early twentieth century high-rise design. The building's shaft rises from a rusticated base and is crowned by a cornice comprising the entire top…

Briggs Hardware Building

The red brick Briggs Hardware Building is Raleigh's only late-nineteenth-century commercial building to survive essentially unaltered since its construction. Decorative lion heads distinguish the facade of Raleigh's first skyscraper, as do…

Lumsden-Boone Building

Built for tin and hardware dealer J. C. S. Lumsden, this three-story commercial building is the only surviving metal-front building on Fayetteville Street. It has a long history of serving as a commercial enterprise, including Kirby's Five &…

Carolina Trust/Mahler Buildings

The 1876 Romanesque Revival Mahler Building originally housed a jewelry store and offices. The Carolina Trust Building is a 1902 Colonial Revival bank. McLellan's Five & Dime Store purchased first the Carolina Trust, then the Mahler…

Capital Club Building

Architect Frank B. Simpson designed this skyscraper for the Capital Club, one of the oldest prominent men's organizations in the South. The building juxtaposes Art Deco motifs with a classically derived building form, and the twelfth-floor…

Federal Building (Century Post Office)

The office of Alfred B. Mullet, supervising architect of the United States Treasury Department, designed what was to be the first federal project in North Carolina following the Civil War. The building, which contains federal offices in addition to…

Sir Walter Hotel

Once known as the "third house of state government" because so many legislators gathered there, the ten-story Neoclassical Revival building was long a center of Raleigh's social scene. The hotel was renovated as apartments for the…

(former) Branch Banking and Trust Building

When Wilson-based BB&T moved to Raleigh, it needed an architectural statement to underscore its ambition. Emery Roth & Sons, New York architects famous for the Pan Am Building in New York City, delivered a Manhattan-caliber skyscraper…

The Mecca

The Mecca is a Raleigh institution. Greek immigrant Nick Dombalis and his wife Helen opened The Mecca Luncheonette on Fayetteville Street in 1930. They bought this building in 1937 and moved the restaurant. Like the Sir Walter Raleigh Hotel, The…

Grand United Order of Odd Fellows Building

An early commercial building, this utilitarian, three-story painted brick structure was originally a clothing warehouse and manufacturing facility. The Grand United Order of Odd Fellows (GUOOF), an African American fraternal organization, purchased…

Raleigh Furniture Building

A three-story brick building in the late Romanesque Revival style with Italianate elements, the Raleigh Furniture Building operated as a furniture retailer for much of the 20th century. Its façade showcases a high degree of architectural detail,…

Delany Building

The Delany Building is one of only two remaining commercial structures built on Raleigh's "Black Main Street" before World War II. Builder Dr. Lemuel T. Delany, the first black surgeon practicing at Saint Agnes Hospital and son of the…