The mission of the Raleigh Historic Development Commission is to identify, preserve, protect, and promote Raleigh’s historic resources.
Depot Historic District
The Depot District received and redistributed a daily average of seventy-eight rail cars packed with goods in 1929
The Depot District contains the city's only significant collection of buildings related to the heyday of railroad transportation and shipping in Raleigh. The buildings include freight and passenger depots, warehouses, factories, hotels, cafes, and shops dating from the 1880s through the 1950s. The district also includes Nash Square, one of the two remaining park squares dictated by the first plan of the city, drawn in 1792. Despite the plan, Nash Square was home to a military campground and plant nursery before finally becoming a formal park in the early twentieth century. A WPA-era redesign altered the early Beaux Arts plan, which features a formal, symmetrical landscape. The new design added curvilinear planting beds, improved drainage, provided concrete benches, and resurfaced paths.
While the railroad declined in importance in the middle of the twentieth century, the Depot District emerged in the early twenty-first century as an arts and entertainment district. Fine art galleries, restaurants, and nightclubs have moved into the spacious warehouse, factory, and depot buildings that remain from Raleigh's industrial past.
The railroad came to Raleigh in 1854, bypassing downtown but cutting through the southeast quarter of the city. A frame depot at W. Cabarrus and S. Harrington Streets served the city for a few decades. The depot did not survive; nor did the residential neighborhood that surrounded it and nearby Nash Square.
Raleigh's location made it a wholesale distribution hub in the 1910s and 1920s. By then, three rail lines and a major highway passed through Raleigh, connecting New York with Florida. Warehouses, depots, and hotels replaced nineteenth-century dwellings and housed the transportation-related activities centered on Raleigh's 1890 Romanesque Revival-style Union Station at 224 S. Dawson Street. Delivered by rail, goods came from producers and distributors who filled warehouses with everything from food to building materials to barber supplies. Goods were shipped out again by rail or truck to local markets. The Southern Railway built a separate freight depot at 327 W. Davie Street in 1912.
Nearby hotels and restaurants stayed busy with travelers and salesmen. The only surviving hotel is the slender three-story building at 217 W. Martin Street, built in 1920.
Factories began locating in the emerging industrial quarter of the small state capital. Allen Forge & Welding Company built a blacksmith shop in the 1910s at 409 W. Martin Street. In 1925, Allen built a larger shop at 417 S. Dawson and Brogden Produce bought and enlarged the original shop. The circa-1916 Dunn Bros. Building at 311-313 W. Martin Street housed a wholesale grocery and merchandise brokerage firm.
In 1949, with rail traffic showing no signs of slowing down, the Southern Railway built a Colonial Revival passenger depot at 320 W. Cabarrus Street. Pete & Mike's Grill followed, at the corner of S. Dawson and W. Cabarrus Streets. Before the end of the 1950s, the trucking industry began to dominate rail shipping, lessening the importance of the rail-related buildings in the Depot District.
Depot in the 21st Century
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