Built Heritage

Interested in Raleigh’s built heritage? Established in 1961, the Raleigh Historic Development Commission (RHDC) has endeavored to identify, protect, preserve, and promote our city’s unique historic resources. As part of their mission, RHDC has employed consultants to survey significant local structures. Such reports have identified many of Raleigh’s architectural gems and provided a more complete understanding of our city’s development. Today the reports remain important tools for historians and preservationists.

Courtesy of RHDC, listed below is a selection of some of the commission’s work. For more information or to see the complete documentation files, contact RHDC or the State Historic Preservation Office.

Comprehensive Architectural Survey

Over a two-year period in the early 1990s, consultant Helen Ross evaluated more than 3,100 local properties. The links below are summaries of her work: an essay on our city’s architecture from 1880-1970 and a study of buildings by property type (residential, commercial, industrial, etc.).

For more information on Raleigh’s current historic landmarks and historic overlay districts, visit RHDC’s web page.

Raleigh’s African American Communities

The survey of Raleigh’s African American communities included fifty-six oral histories and resulted in the documentation of eight distinct areas: College Park, East Raleigh-South Park, Fourth Ward, Idlewild, Method, Nazareth, Oberlin, and Smoky Hollow. More than 1,300 buildings were recorded, and the East Raleigh-South Park neighborhoods were placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Culture Town: Life in Raleigh’s African American Communities by Linda Simmons-Henry and Linda H. Edmisten was published by RHDC in 1993 to describe the project and share its findings. Featuring over 160 black and white photos, it is available in our museum store.

Modernism and Post-WWII Architecture

Home to N.C. State University’s School of Design, Raleigh played an important role in the development of modernist architecture in the state. The school, established in 1948 and headed by Dean Henry Kamphoefner, helped usher in a new period of creativity and thought. Several famous modernist architects lived and worked in Raleigh, including G. Milton Small, George Matsumoto, William Deitrick, Eduardo Catalano, and Leif Valand.

Raleigh’s post-World War II growth was also remarkable. The city welcomed new industries and technological research facilities, including Research Triangle Park. As job opportunities grew, so did the need for new structures and housing–between 1945 and 1965 over 18,000 buildings were constructed in Raleigh.

Written by architectural historians David R. Black and Ruth Little respectively, each of these topics was explored in a National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form. These reports provide historical context and list specific mid-century resources in Raleigh.

Wake County Survey

Between 1988 and 1991, the Wake County Planning Department surveyed the areas of the county outside the city’s 1998 boundaries. The survey became a book, The Historic Architecture of Wake County, North Carolina, published in 1994. It too is available in our gift shop or from Capital Area Preservation.