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Sir Walter Raleigh Hotel
Photo by Michael Zirkle Photography, courtesy of Raleigh Historic Development Commission
The Sir Walter Raleigh Hotel is downtown Raleigh’s oldest surviving hotel building. Constructed between 1923 and 1924, the hotel was for three decades justly termed North Carolina’s “third house of government,” serving as a focal point for state political activity. In 1923, the Capital Construction Company was formed for the express purpose of building, in Raleigh, a large, convention-oriented hotel that would attract to the capital city the convention traffic that had been going to Greensboro and Durham. The following January, the Sir Walter Raleigh Hotel opened to immediate financial success. The hotel was constructed on a corner of Fayetteville Street, Raleigh’s broad main street. At the time, the Sir Walter was the most massive building in the south portion of the business district. Architecturally, the Sir Walter is typical of hotels of the 1920s--a 10-story imposing, functional, L-shaped building primarily of brick, with classical ornamentation executed in stone at the street and roof levels.

In 1934, the Depression forced the building’s lessees into bankruptcy, and the hotel was leased to the North State Hotel Company. The following year, North State fully renovated the building, and in 1938, the company added 50 rooms to make the hotel a 400-room facility, at that time the largest in the state. These additions solidified the Sir Walter’s reputation as one of North Carolina’s top convention hotels. Of greater significance, however, was the hotel’s emergence as the unofficial headquarters of the state’s Democratic Party, North Carolina’s dominant political force. One source estimates that by 1925, 80 percent of the state’s legislators had moved into the Sir Walter. From the 1930s through the 1950s, the hotel continued in this role, as legislators, lobbyists, aides, jurors, newspapermen, businessmen and other influential individuals called the Sir Walter their Raleigh home.

[photo] Historic view of the Sir Walter Raleigh Hotel, once the unofficial political capital of North Carolina
Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Division of Archives and History

The hotel’s importance began to fade in the 1960s. Suburban motel development, the completion of the new state Legislative Building (1963), and general downtown decline all contributed to its ebbing status. More recently, the building has become a successful example of adaptive reuse. The building was converted into apartments for seniors in the late 1970s, about the time Fayetteville Street was transformed into a downtown pedestrian mall. The building continues to serve as apartments today. The Sir Walter Raleigh Hotel is a designated Raleigh Historic Landmark.


The Sir Walter Raleigh Hotel building is located at 400-412 Fayetteville Street Mall. The facility is privately owned and not open to the public.


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