The Hidden Historic Charms of Downtown Raleigh

Five treasured sites in the City of Oaks you may not know about.

As North Carolina’s state capital, Raleigh claims many designated historic properties, including listings in the National Register of Historic Places, with hundreds of well-known landmarks and historic sites such as the North Carolina State Capitol, the North Carolina Executive Mansion and Mordecai Historic Park. Downtown Raleigh is also home to several lesser known sights and attractions that have equally interesting stories to tell. Here are a few hidden historic charms in downtown Raleigh you may not know about.


All Saints Chapel

Built in 1875, All Saints Chapel was originally part of the Church of the Good Shepherd on Hillsborough Street. With a growing congregation, the church needed to be bigger, so the chapel was moved to nearby Morgan Street in the 1900s. In 2005, the chapel was scheduled for demolition. However, it was saved by Raleigh redeveloper Greg Hatem and on June 18, 2006, the chapel made its second move to its current location. Since that time, the chapel has been restored.

“The chapel’s storied history, as well as its historic architecture as one of the last remaining Carpenter Gothic structures left of its kind, makes it one of Raleigh’s greatest treasures,” says Hatem, managing partner of Empire Properties. “When we moved it in 2006, we took great care and went to great lengths to make sure it was restored to the way it looked when it was first built for the Church of the Good Shepherd in 1875. We hope people in Raleigh will continue to enjoy it for another 130 years.”

The chapel is open for tours on Tuesdays from 4:30 to 630 p.m. 110 S. E. St., Raleigh. 919-459-3212.

All Saints Chapel was saved by Raleigh redeveloper Greg Hatem and moved to its current location in 2006.


This re-created 1920s drugstore exhibit features original fixtures from the former J.C. Brantley Drugstore in downtown Raleigh.

1920s Drugstore Exhibit

Within the North Carolina Museum of History, you’ll find a re-created 1920s drugstore with original fixtures from the former J.C. Brantley Drugstore, which was located on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh (originally known as the O.G. King Drugstore). The exhibit features a marble counter, soda fountain, large ornate mirrors and mahogany cabinets.

In the drugstore workroom, visitors can see where the pharmacist would fill prescriptions by grinding medicinal herbs and drugs with a mortar and pestle. Visitors will also be amused by the home-remedy products such as St. Joseph’s Worm Syrup, and kids’ eyes will light up at the sight of the candy counter offering jelly beans, candy corn, peppermint sticks and other treats. They’ll also enjoy seeing games, wooden train sets, doll furniture, books and other toys.

“The North Carolina Museum of History’s 1920s Drugstore is a national treasure,” said Sandy Webbere, exhibit curator. “I know of no other drugstore in America that served a community from the late 1890s to 1988—complete with its original cabinetry and magnificent marble soda fountain.”

Admission is free. 5 E. Edenton St., Raleigh. 919-807-7900.

Award-winning artist Susan Brabeau painted this 1920's scene of the J.C. Brantley Drugstore located in downtown Raleigh.


Raleigh Rose Garden

Raleigh Little Theater’s Rose Garden is a 6.5-acre oasis with 60 flower beds featuring 56 varieties of roses. The first roses were planted there in 1948, and the garden was formally dedicated in May 1951.

Something is always blooming in the garden—from March until the first frost in fall—making it the perfect spot for picnics, relaxation, photography and simply enjoying the gorgeous colors. There’s also an amphitheater for outdoor concerts and productions, which kids can play in after exploring the garden. The Raleigh Rose Garden is also available for party and wedding rentals. 301 Pogue St., Raleigh. 919-821-4579

Raleigh Little Theater’s Rose Garden is a 6.5-acre oasis with 60 flower beds featuring 56 varieties of roses.


Pullen Park Carousel

Pullen Park is a joyous spot for an afternoon of leisure offering a picnic area, train and pedal boats. But the 66-acre park's centerpiece is Pullen Park Carousel, which dates to 1911 and is one of the earliest carousels still in operation designed by the Dentzel Carousel Company, founded in Pennsylvania by Gustav A. Dentzel.

The carousel features 52 hand-carved wooden animals—horses, ostriches, cats, rabbits, pigs, lion, a tiger and a goat—and has been designated not only as a Raleigh Historic Landmark, but was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. The park is operated by the City of Raleigh and the carousel is open seasonally. Ride tickets are $1. 408 Ashe Ave., Raleigh. 
919-996-6468.

This 1911 Dentzel Carousel at Pullen Park is one of the earliest still in operation designed by the Dentzel Carousel Company.


Pope House Museum

Pope House Museum is the only African-American house museum in North Carolina. Visitors will learn about Dr. Manassa Thomas Pope, the only African-American man to run for mayor of a Southern capital during the Jim Crow era, in addition to the Pope family, politics, race relations, voting rights and more. Visitors will gain an understanding of how those issues played a role in shaping Pope and his family.

The museum, which exhibits many of the home’s original furnishings and artifacts from when it was built in 1901, is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It's open every Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm for free tours, which start at the top of each hour. 511 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh. 919-996-2220.

The Pope House Museum is the only African-American house museum in North Carolina.
Myra Wright is a North Carolina-based travel writer. She loves exploring the state with her husband and three kids.