Our Mission

The mission of the Raleigh Historic Development Commission is to identify, preserve, protect, and promote Raleigh’s historic resources.

Dix Hill Historic District

Established in 1850, continued in use until the early 21st century

Founded in the mid-nineteenth-century to more humanely care for the state's mentally ill patients in a calm, restorative, and naturalistic environment

Dix Hill has statewide historical significance for its early and continued role in providing humane treatment for North Carolinians suffering from mental illnesses. The much-altered original hospital stands at the top of Dix Hill; the north slope of the hill, known as the Grove, is populated with mature oak and dogwood trees. The Grove's naturalistic landscape and the siting of the hospital on a hill with such remarkably pleasing vistas reflects the treatment ideology behind the hospital's founding: that the provision of clean air, advantageous views, and plenty of sunshine could help restore patients to good health. The evolution of the campus and landscape at Dix Hill reflects the changing treatment philosophies practiced there, including the self-contained nature of the hospital in the early and mid-twentieth century.

What was once a rural spot is now a prime downtown location. Much of the land became North Carolina State University's Centennial Campus in the late twentieth century; another parcel is home to the State Farmer's Market. In 2008 the hospital is moving to an off-site facility and the State of North Carolina's Department of Human Resources is slated to continue operating existing Dix Hospital facilities.


Massachusetts reformer Dorothea Dix persuaded the North Carolina legislature to authorize a hospital for patients with mental illnesses where they would be treated for their illnesses rather than simply locked up. The resulting 1848 legislation required a site with a cheerful view, copious sunshine, and good drainage, providing fresh air and enabling therapeutic farming and gardening. Miss Dix helped select the location, a hilltop southwest of Raleigh that had been Spring Hill, the home of TheophilusHunter. Hunter's house still stands.

Andrew Jackson Davis designed a commanding building, under construction from 1850 to 1856 and made even more impressive by its siting atop the hill. The building featured a center temple-front section topped with a circular belvedere and flanked by long wings housing men on one side and women on the other. Throughout the twentieth century, the building was altered repeatedly and the center section was eventually demolished to accommodate an updated hospital building in the 1950s. Other buildings surrounded Davis's original hospital, forming a self-contained campus in a naturalistic landscape that included active farm fields and pasture land, housing for staff, a small school, and special-use buildings including a chapel and gymnasium.


Dix Hill in the 21st Century

Photo by Michael Zirkle PhotographyPhoto by Michael Zirkle Photography


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