The Raleigh Building

Downtown Raleigh NC

History of The Raleigh Building

The history of our building began as the South emerged from the civil war and Raleigh’s citizens began the task of rebuilding the city and its economy. The reestablishment of banks served as a catalyst for the opening of other businesses in the City.  The Raleigh National Bank was founded in 1865 in an “Italianate design” building located at the corner of Fayetteville and Hargett Streets.  Known as the “Round Step Bank” because of the design of it’s front steps, it operated at this location until 1912 when it was razed to allow construction of a new building which opened in 1913. 

As the desire to erect taller and taller buildings increased, builders in Raleigh began employing technology that would allow them to rise above five stories. In the past building height in dense urban areas was limited by the fact that the taller the building the thicker the exterior walls had to be. When masonry was used to build tall buildings, they required massive amounts of stone at the first level, and as a result there was little usable interior space remaining. In the 1880s, Chicago architects had developed steel-skeleton construction wherein a steel frame supported a building that was then encased in stone or some other attractive exterior cladding. Steel-frame construction became popular in Chicago and New York in the 1890s and then spread to other cities—large and small—in the following decades. 

The start of what would ultimately be an eleven-story bank building was erected in 1913 as a three-story Neoclassical bank designed by architect Philip Thornton Mayre, an architect active in Raleigh during the 1920’s. The three-story structure was erected by the Raleigh Bank and Trust Company thereby replacing the earlier Italianate building.  In 1928-1929, the bank added eight stories at a cost of $265,000 onto the original three stories serving as offices for the expanding bank.   Both the original three stories as well as the additional eight stories employed the “Chicago” steel-skeleton construction technique.

In 1932 the bank failed as a result of the Great Depression and Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company purchased the property and began to remodel the building to accommodate ground-floor retail space. Since then, the building has continued to house retail at the ground level and offices in the ten stories above. 

For many years, the Raleigh Building’s 11 stories dominated the downtown Raleigh skyline.

The Raleigh Building is a good example of the Chicago-Style skyscrapers built in the early twentieth century.  The significance of the Raleigh Building is as an example of a high-rise building constructed in two distinct phases.  First being the construction of the initial three floors in 1913 and second the 1928 addition of the top eight floors.  The eleven-story, masonry-clad skyscraper features large windows framed by buff-colored brick spandrels in stretcher bond and continuous pilasters emphasizing the building’s verticality. The Raleigh Building carries classical elements on its cap where medallions and rosettes, egg and dart molding, modillion blocks, and anthemion cresting are executed in terra cotta.


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