The Briggs Hardware Building is downtown Raleigh’s only 19th-century commercial building that survives essentially unchanged. Standing four stories atop a full basement, the masonry building was the city’s first “skyscraper,” and is representative of the new era of building which took place in the capital city following the Civil War. The current building is the second Briggs Hardware store at this site, the first completed in 1865. Both buildings were built by partners Thomas H. Briggs and James Dodd, who had been in millwork for about 15 years before opening their hardware store. Family tradition holds that Briggs financed his part of the building with gold and silver coins he had buried during the Civil War.
Construction on the current building began in 1872 and was completed in 1874. Accentuating the building’s red brick facade is extensive pressed metal trim, including quoins, window surrounds and a bold cornice and parapet. The upper story detailing remains unchanged since construction, with the present first floor glass storefront recently reconstructed to represent a 1915 remodeling. Shortly after the building was finished, Dodd retired and Briggs formed a partnership with his two sons, James and Thomas H., Jr. An advertisement in the 1880-1881 City Directory lists the firm as purveyors of “hardware, stoves, tinware, house furnishing goods, also sash, doors and blinds.”
While the lower floors were used for hardware sales, the building’s upper levels saw a variety of uses over the years. In the 1890s, the Oak City Guard rented space for drill practice. Later, the city’s first YMCA was housed here, as well as a Catholic church congregation, the Raleigh Little Theater and offices of a number of attorneys and insurance companies. Briggs descendents continued to operate the store until 1995. That year, the family moved the business to North Raleigh and sold the building. Shortly thereafter, it was jointly purchased by a coalition of non-profit organizations, which have thoroughly renovated the building. The building’s upper floors serve as offices, while the first floor is home to the Raleigh City Museum. Briggs Hardware Building is a designated
Raleigh Historic Landmark.
The Briggs Hardware Building, now the City of Raleigh Museum, is located at 222 Fayetteville Street. The Raleigh City Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday from 9:00am to 4:00pm and Sunday from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. Call 919-996-2220 or visit the museum’s website for further information
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