General Raleigh History

This recent N&O article offers what I consider to be a fitting tribute to Karl Larson aka “Raleigh Boy”, a regular poster and overseer of the history blog Goodnight Raleigh. As a regular visitor to this site I often enjoyed his writings.

Perhaps Mr. Larson was active on this site posting under a different name? In any event he certainly walks among us in spirit when it comes to enthusiasm shared for Raleigh’s past, present and future.


A very interesting man and a great read!
Thank you Stew :+1:

I didn’t know Raleigh once had a NASCAR speedway!

This article brings back such vivid memories. As a young kid growing up in the 60’s my best friend’s father used to pile all of us kids into his Buick Skylark Sports Wagon for a trip to the Golden Gate Speedway in Tampa. The noise … the smoke … the speed … it was terrifying. We were all secretly hoping for a pile-up and our wishes were often fulfilled.

Why is it that so much of Raleigh’s interesting history has faded away to time?

The article isn’t specific where along Atlantic the racetrack actually stood but I believe it was just North of the current beltline along Tarheel Drive.


There was a recent post on Reddit showing the location of the speedway that I found pretty interesting:

(The first comment has a link to some other versions of the image)


Apparently it’s been replaced by the larger 440 speedway.


Which is the 440 speedway? I’ve never heard of it . . .

Thanks for the link @Jack. Very interesting indeed. Looking at the post I came across a video of the speedway.


Very interesting. Thanks for posting. I agree that a lot of Raleigh’s interesting history has been lost/forgotten. Stuff like this gives a city more sense of place.


If you think Raleigh has lost most of its history, you should visit Charlotte. They’ve destroyed even more of their historically significant places.


It’s the Beltline: I-440

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Wow, I missed that one big time! :roll_eyes:

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If even a central tiny core of Smokey Hollow had survived you could give it the historic brushing up treatment, add a welcoming arch with the name and then you’ve established visual context. Really, Glenwood South and Power House square are commercial components to the greater smokey hollow area. The Google/518 west building was a back-in Southern Railway passenger (later freight only) terminal. From there to the roundhouse was the district proper. The Company Store for Southern is the building Raleigh Wine is in. The powerhouse is located where it is for dumping coal easily. Some of Smokey Hollow’s smoke came from up in this area. Maybe that could be Smokey Hollow Hill.


A gentle correction:

The Raleigh and Eastern North Carolina Railroad was organized in 1903 and renamed the Raleigh and Pamlico Sound Railroad in 1905. In 1906, it built a line from the end of the N&S at Washington south to Bridgeton, as well as a completely separated line from Raleigh east to Zebulon.

On November 24, 1906, the Norfolk and Southern Railway was formed as a consolidation of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad with the Raleigh and Pamlico Sound Railroad and several other companies. Eventually, the line was continued south of Raleigh, terminating in Charlotte by 1911.

Norfolk and Southern’s Raleigh operations were centered around the still standing (Google Fiber) structure at the corner of Jones Street and Glenwood Ave (then called Saunders Street) with the main office at the time being at Norfolk Terminal Station. Freight tracks and structures extended northward from Jones Street, with the bulk of the switching and turntable activity occurring at Glenwood Yard.

Once complete, passenger operations were two-fold. There was daily service between Raleigh and Norfolk which called at the 1890 Raleigh Union Depot on Dawson Street. And, there was daily service to Varina and Fayetteville which called at Jones Street. The original Norfolk and Southern never ran competing passenger service to Charlotte.

The Richmond & Danville Railroad (later the Southern Railway after 1894) had the operating lease over the North Carolina Rail Road. Passenger operations called at Dawson Street until 1949, moving to their own (now-demolished) depot adjacent to the freight yard operations and turntable located on Cabarrus Street.

The structure at 126 Glenwood was built by the Garland C Norris & Co. as a wholesale grocer. Originally started in Apex, the business moved to Raleigh in 1921 opposite the NS terminal station with a freight siding on the back. They later expanded to Florida to can and distribute citrus products, eventually moving back to Apex. They are still in existence with the third and fourth generation still owning and managing the company.

But, when Garland Norris & Co moved back to Apex, Percy Daniel (‘P. D.’) Snipes set up grocery operations in the same building, giving employees of the railroad signature based accounts. Known affectionately as ‘The Grab.’ Of note, ‘P. D.’ was mayor of Raleigh from 1947-1951.

According to my references at the Norfolk and Southern Historical Society, it had business contracts with the railroad and it’s employees as well as the neighboring business community as well.


(Image from Sanborn, 1950)


Awesome. I’ve never read any railroad history so only ‘know’ what I’ve gleaned from an article or two here and there. I appreciate the detailed reply. It filled in a big knowledge gap for me (I actually have a spreadsheet going to trying to follow the station history for Raleigh).
As an aside, is it known, or safe to say Ulysses Grant came to Raleigh through the Seaboard terminal that was on Halifax St (now on Salisbury?) He was coming from Petersburg or Richmond I imagine. Anyway, I think historic markers for things that big should be placed around town.

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True, though the 120 foot tall smoke stacks were meant to head that off to a degree. 4 total mills were around this area, three still standing. Pilot, Raleigh, Melrose still here and Morris (Morris was at Johnson and Salisbury where the super ugly State Parking deck 64 now is). I think Melrose and Morris operated off the electric grid but the other two had stacks and presumably had to generate their own massive electric needs. Obviously @dbearhugnc knows way more than I do so should weigh in with any corrections.

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Yup. Railroad infrastructure as part of municipal history and development has been one of my geek things for awhile.


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General Ulysses S. Grant came to Raleigh on April 23, 1865 after President Lincoln’s funeral to inform General William T. Sherman that the original terms of surrender initially hammered out at Bennett’s Place farm in Durham had to be revised.

As General Joseph E. Johnston had earlier lead the retreat of the 21,000 member Army of the South to Greensboro, he ordered the burning of Raleigh’s original Union Depot and surrounding storehouses containing large supplies of shoes and blankets at Cabarrus Street. This occurred prior to Sherman’s arrival coming up the road from Clayton on April 13th.

So, General Grant could have arrived on the Raleigh & Gaston Railroad from Petersburg by way of Weldon. (Using the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad to Goldsboro, and coming to Raleigh by way of the North Carolina Rail Road would likely have been difficult as Sherman had already directed the Goldsboro station to be burned after the Battle of Bentonville as part of the larger Campaign of the Carolinas.)

With the Union Depot in ruins, it’s difficult to say which of the Raleigh & Gaston structures (situated up the hill and across the tracks from Zimmer’s proposed tower) would have received his detail.

But, the freight operations at the corner of Jones and Salisbury Streets, where the present General Assembly Building stands, would have been the most likely arrival point.

That being said, General Sherman had established his headquarters in the Governor’s Palace after receiving the surrender of Raleigh from then-mayor William H Harrison. (Governor Zebulon Baird Vance had already left Raleigh after securing what state records he could. He was in Hillsborough and later Charlotte to meet with Jefferson Davis, but declined to join him on his escape from Richmond; thus returning on his own back to Greensboro.) It was there that Grant and Sherman conducted their meetings without Johnston’s knowledge of Grant’s arrival.

After securing the city and confiscating all available weapons (sparing it the fate which befell Columbia SC), the bulk of the almost 60,000 Union troops set up garrison on Dix Hill. There was the foraging for supplies around the city with some damage incurred (including the theft of North Carolina’s copy of The Bill of Rights which was eventually returned in 2005.) One member of General Joseph Wheeler’s 11th Texas Cavalry by the name of Lieutenant Robert Walsh, staying behind from Johnston’s retreat, fired on members of Sherman’s troops near the Market House on Fayetteville Street. He was eventually captured and hanged on April 13th, and he is now buried at Oakwood Cemetery.

Meanwhile, General Sherman was taking the train back and forth to Durham’s Station and going on to Bennett’s Place by horseback. Once Grant was satisfied that the proper terms of surrender were in place, he left Raleigh for Washington (by way of Goldsboro) on April 27th letting Sherman finish the negotiations with Johnston. Sherman and his army departed Raleigh on April 29th for Richmond, and then on to Washington for their Grand Review on May 24th.

Thereafter, the state declared the mansion “unfit” to serve North Carolina’s governors. From 1865 until 1891, the state’s chief executive was responsible for securing his own accommodations while in Raleigh. Most governors rented private homes or stayed at the Yarborough House hotel on Fayetteville Street. Construction of the present Governor’s Mansion occurred from 1883 to 1891.

The city acquired the abandoned property in 1876 and re-purposed it as the Centennial School. The aging structure was demolished in 1883 and replaced by a building more suitable for use as a public school. That building itself was demolished and replaced by the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in 1930, now home to the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.

Yes @Mark , there is such a marker.


I appreciate the interesting historical tidbits you share from time to time. Thanks.

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The Cotton Mill, you know the thing that created all that smoke, is alive and well.

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Thanks. There’s a concurrence of historical happenings that have piqued my interest, and I’ll dive in to do some research from time to time.