Raleigh is the capital of the state of North Carolina as well as the seat of Wake County in the United States. Raleigh is known as the "City of Oaks" for its many oak trees, which line the streets in the heart of the city. The city covers a land area of . The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the city's population to be 431,746 as of July 1, 2013. It is also one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. The city of Raleigh is named after Sir Walter Raleigh, who established the lost Roanoke Colony in present-day Dare County.
Raleigh is home to North Carolina State University and is part of the Research Triangle area, together with Durham (home of Duke University) and Chapel Hill (home of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). The "Triangle" nickname originated after the 1959 creation of the Research Triangle Park, located in Durham & Wake Counties partway between the three cities and their universities. The Research Triangle region encompasses the U.S. Census Bureau's Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Combined Statistical Area (CSA), which had an estimated population of 2,037,430 in 2013. The Raleigh Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) had an estimated population of 1,214,516 in 2013.
Most of Raleigh is located within Wake County, with a very small portion extending into Durham County. The towns of Cary, Morrisville, Garner, Clayton, Wake Forest, Apex, Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina, Knightdale, Wendell, Zebulon, and Rolesville are some of Raleigh's primary nearby suburbs and satellite towns.
Raleigh is an early example in the United States of a planned city, chosen as the site of the state capital in 1788 and incorporated in 1792 as such. The city was originally laid out in a grid pattern with the North Carolina State Capitol in Union Square at the center. In the United States Civil War the city was spared from any significant battle, only falling in the closing days of the war, though it did not escape the economic hardships that plagued the rest of the American South during the Reconstruction Era. The twentieth century saw the opening of the Research Triangle Park in 1959, and with the jobs it created the region and city saw a large influx of population, making it one of the fastest growing communities in the United States by the early 21st century.
Raleigh is home to numerous cultural, educational, and historic sites. The Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Raleigh features three theater venues and serves as the home for the North Carolina Symphony and the Carolina Ballet. Walnut Creek Amphitheatre is a large music amphitheater located in Southeast Raleigh. Museums in Raleigh include the North Carolina Museum of Art in West Raleigh, as well as the North Carolina Museum of History and North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences located next to each other near the State Capitol in Downtown Raleigh. Several major universities and colleges call Raleigh home, including North Carolina State University, the largest public university in the state, and Shaw University, the first historically black university in the American South and site of the foundation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, an important civil rights organization of the 1960s. One U.S. president, Andrew Johnson, was born in Raleigh.
Bath the oldest town in North Carolina and was the first nominal capital from 1705 until 1722, when Edenton took over the role, but the colony had no permanent institutions of government until their establishment at the new capital New Bern in 1743.
In December 1770, Joel Lane successfully petitioned the North Carolina General Assembly to create a new county. On January 5, 1771, the bill creating Wake County was passed in the General Assembly. The county was formed from portions of Cumberland, Orange, and Johnston counties. The county gets its name from Margaret Wake Tryon, the wife of Governor William Tryon. The first county seat was Bloomsbury.
New Bern, a port town 35 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, was the largest city and the capital of North Carolina during the American Revolution. When the British Army laid siege to the city, governing from that location on the wide Neuse River became infeasible.
Raleigh was chosen as the site of the new capital in 1788, as its central location protected it from attacks from the coast. Officially established in 1792 as both county seat and state capital (incorporated on December 31, 1792 - charter granted January 21, 1795), the city was named for Sir Walter Raleigh, sponsor of Roanoke, the "lost colony" on Roanoke Island.
The city's location was chosen, in part, for being within of Isaac Hunter's Tavern, a popular tavern frequented by the state legislators. No known city or town existed previously on the chosen city site. Raleigh is one of the few cities in the United States that was planned and built specifically to serve as a state capital. Its original boundaries were formed by the downtown streets of North, East, West and South streets. It was planned to be laid out in an axial fashion, with four public squares and one central square.
The North Carolina General Assembly first met in Raleigh in December 1794, and quickly granted the city a charter, with a board of seven appointed commissioners (elected by the city after 1803) and an "Intendant of Police" (which would eventually become the office of Mayor) to govern it. In 1799, the N.C. Minerva and Raleigh Advertiser became the first newspaper published in Raleigh.
John Haywood was the first Intendant of Police.
In 1808, Andrew Johnson, the nation’s 17th President, was born at Casso’s Inn in Raleigh. The city's first water supply network was completed in 1818, although due to system failures the project was abandoned. 1819 saw the arrival of Raleigh's first volunteer fire company, followed in 1821 by a full-time fire company.
In 1817 the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina was established and headquartered in Raleigh.
In 1831, a fire destroyed the State Capitol. Two years later, reconstruction began with quarried granite being delivered by the first railroad in the state. Raleigh celebrated the completions of the new Capitol and new Raleigh & Gaston Railroad Company in 1840.
In 1853, the first State Fair was held near Raleigh. The first institution of higher learning in Raleigh, Peace College, was established in 1857. Raleigh's Historic Oakwood contains many houses from the 19th century that are still in good condition.
After the Civil War began, Governor Zebulon Baird Vance ordered the construction of breastworks around the city as protection from Union troops. During General Sherman's Carolinas Campaign, Raleigh was captured by Union cavalry under the command of General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick on April 13, 1865. As the Confederate cavalry retreated west, the Union soldiers followed, leading to the nearby Battle of Morrisville. The city was spared significant destruction during the War, but due to the economic problems of the post-war period and Reconstruction, with a state economy based on agriculture, it grew little over the next several decades.
After the Civil War ended in 1865, African Americans were emancipated. The Reconstruction legislature established public education for blacks and whites. The men, like whites, were admitted to the franchise of voting. Blacks had already been organizing in tax-exempt ponzi schemes and other community-based organizations. Freedmen were often led by free blacks who had become educated before the war. With the help of the Freedmen's Bureau, many freedmen migrated from rural areas to Raleigh. It had a free black community and many freedmen wanted to get out from under white supervision in the rural areas.
Shaw University, the South's first African-American college, began classes in 1865 and was chartered in 1875. Its Estey Hall was the first building constructed for the higher education of black women, and Leonard Medical Center was the first four-year medical school in the country for African Americans.
In 1867, Episcopal clergy founded St. Augustine's College for the education of freedmen. The biracial Reconstruction legislature created new welfare institutions: in 1869, it approved the nation’s first school for blind and deaf blacks, to be located in Raleigh. And in 1874, a Federal Building was constructed in Raleigh, the first federal government project in the South following the Civil War.
In 1880, the newspapers News and Observer combined to form The News & Observer. It remains Raleigh's primary daily newspaper. The North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, now known as North Carolina State University, was founded as a land-grant college in 1887. The city's Rex Hospital opened in 1889 and included the state's first nursing school. The Baptist Women's College, now known as Meredith College, opened in 1891, and in 1898, The Academy of Music, a private music conservatory, was established.
In the late nineteenth century, two black Congressmen were elected from North Carolina's 2nd district, the last in 1898. George Henry White sought to promote civil rights for blacks and to challenge efforts by white Democrats to reduce black voting by new discriminatory laws. They were unsuccessful. In 1900, the state legislature passed a new constitution, with voter registration rules that disfranchised most blacks and many poor whites. The state succeeded in reducing black voting to zero by 1908. Loss of the ability to vote disqualified black men (and later women) from sitting on juries and serving in any office, local, state or federal. The rising black middle-class in Raleigh and other areas was politically silenced and shut out of local governance, and the Republican Party was no longer competitive. It was not until after federal civil rights legislation was passed in the mid-1960s that the majority of blacks in North Carolina would again be able to vote, sit on juries and serve in local offices. No African American was elected to Congress until 1992.
In 1912, Bloomsbury Park opened, featuring a popular carousel ride. Relocated to Pullen Park, the carousel is still operating.
From 1914 to 1917, an influenza epidemic killed 288 Raleigh citizens.
In 1922, WLAC signed on as the city's first radio station, but lasted only two years. WFBQ signed on in 1924 and became WPTF in 1927. It is now Raleigh's oldest continuous radio broadcaster.
On December 12, 1924, The Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh was officially established by Pope Pius XI and the Sacred Heart Cathedral became the official seat of the diocese with William Joseph Hafey as its bishop.
The city's first airport, Curtiss-Wright Flying Field opened in 1929. That same year, the stock market crash resulted in six Raleigh banks closing.
During the difficult 1930s of the Great Depression, government at all levels was integral to creating jobs. The city provided recreational and educational programs, and hired people for public works projects. In 1932, Raleigh Memorial Auditorium was dedicated. The North Carolina Symphony, founded the same year, performed in its new home. From 1934 to 1937, the federal Civilian Conservation Corps constructed the area now known as William B. Umstead State Park. In 1939, the State General Assembly chartered the Raleigh-Durham Aeronautical Authority to build a larger airport between Raleigh and Durham, with the first flight occurring in 1943.
In 1947, Raleigh citizens adopted a council-manager form of government, the current form.
The Dorton Arena, a 7,610-seat multi-purpose arena designed by Matthew Nowicki, was opened in 1952 on the grounds of the North Carolina State Fair. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
Raleigh experienced significant damage from Hurricane Hazel in 1954.
In 1956, WRAL-TV became the first local television station.
With the opening of the Research Triangle Park in 1959, Raleigh began to experience a population increase, resulting in a total city population of 100,000 by 1960. In 1960, the Census Bureau reported Raleigh's population as 76.4% white and 23.4% black.
Following passage of the federal Voting Rights Act, one of the main achievements of the African-American Civil Rights Movement (1955-1968) and the Lyndon B. Johnson presidency, political participation and voting by African Americans in Raleigh increased rapidly. In 1967, Clarence E. Lightner was elected to the City Council, and in 1973 became Raleigh's first African-American mayor.
In 1976, the Raleigh City and Wake County schools merged to become the Wake County Public School System, now the largest school system in the state and 19th largest in the country.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the I-440 beltline was constructed, easing traffic congestion and providing access to most major city roads.
The first Raleigh Convention Center (replaced in 2008) and Fayetteville Street Mall were both opened in 1977. Fayetteville Street was turned into a pedestrian-only street in an effort to help the then-ailing downtown area, but the plan was flawed and business declined for years to come. Fayetteville Street was reopened in 2007 as the main thoroughfare of Raleigh's downtown.
The 1988 Raleigh tornado outbreak of November 28, 1988, was the most destructive of the seven tornadoes reported in Northeastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia between 1:00 AM and 5:45 AM. The Raleigh tornado produced over $77 million in F4 damage, along with four fatalities (two in the city of Raleigh, and two in Nash County) and 154 injuries. The damage path from the storm was measured at long, and wide at times.
In 1996, the Olympic Flame passed through Raleigh while on its way to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. Also in 1996, Hurricane Fran struck the area, causing massive flooding and extensive structural damage. In addition, WRAL-TV became the first High-Definition broadcast station in the world.
In 1999, the Raleigh Entertainment and Sports Arena (later renamed the RBC Center and now called PNC Arena), opened to provide a home for the Hurricanes and the NC State Wolfpack men's basketball team, as well as an up-to-date major concert venue.
In the first decade of the 21st century, Raleigh was featured prominently in a number of "Top 10 Lists," including those by Forbes, MSNBC and Money Magazine, due to its quality of life and business climate.
In 2001, the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium complex was expanded with the addition of the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, Meymandi Concert Hall, Fletcher Opera Theater, Kennedy Theatre, Betty Ray McCain Gallery and Lichtin Plaza.
Fayetteville Street reopened to vehicular traffic in 2006. A variety of downtown building projects began around this time including the 34-story RBC Bank Tower, multiple condominium projects and several new restaurants. Additional skyscrapers are in the proposal/planning phase.
In 2006, the city's NHL franchise, the Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup, North Carolina's first and only professional sports championship.
With the opening of parts of I-540 from 2005 to 2007, a new loop around Wake County, traffic congestion eased somewhat in the North Raleigh area. Completion of the entire loop is expected to take another 15 years.
In September 2010, Raleigh hosted the inaugural Hopscotch Music Festival.
In January 2011, Raleigh hosted the National Hockey League All-Star Game.
In April 2011, a devastating EF-3 tornado hit Raleigh, and many other tornadoes touched down in the state (ultimately the largest, but not the strongest (1984 Carolinas tornado outbreak) outbreak to ever hit the state), killing 24 people. The tornado tracked northeast through parts of Downtown, East Central Raleigh and Northeast Raleigh and produced $115 million in damages in Wake County. There were 4 fatalities in the city.