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Joel Lane House
Photo by Michael Zirkle Photography, courtesy of Raleigh Historic Development Commission
In the late 1760s, planter Joel Lane (c. 1740-1795) built a story-and-a-half house at Bloomsbury, a crossroads hamlet of colonial Johnston County, later renamed Wake Court House. Lane and his house subsequently played a central role in North Carolina’s transition from colony to state and in the establishment of Raleigh as the state capital. His house stood on a small hill, near the main trail through the area. Lane’s surrounding land holdings numbered in the thousands of acres, a status that naturally drew him into politics.

In 1770, as a member of the colonial General Assembly, Lane successfully lobbied to create Wake County, then a sparsely settled wilderness. He named the county Wake in honor of Margaret Wake, wife of colonial Governor William Tryon. The following year, Wake’s first county court is believed to have convened at his house. Lane was appointed a member of the court, a position he held until his death. During the Revolutionary War, Lane's manor plantation was the site of important government meetings, both formal and informal. In 1776, Lane hosted the colony Council of Safety; the following year, he obtained a license for a small ordinary, or inn. From May to June 1781, Lane’s property was the setting for a session of the state General Assembly. Lane served in the state Senate in 11 of the 14 sessions from 1782 to 1794; he was also a delegate to the 1789 convention in Halifax that ratified the U.S. Constitution.

[photo] Joel Lane House
Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History

Lane was directly involved in the decision to locate the permanent capital of the state in Wake County. In 1792, the legislature authorized the purchase of a thousand acres of his land upon which to establish the city of “Raleigh” as the new center of state government. The community’s western boundary was drawn just east of Lane’s house, and a street of the city was named in his honor. After Lane’s death in 1795, Wakefield served several owners before being purchased by planter William Boylan in 1818. The house remained in the Boylan family until 1909; during which time the city of Raleigh absorbed the house into its expanding boundaries. Lane’s former plantation lands became the site of new streets, homes and businesses. In 1912, the house was moved a short distance. In 1972, the Wake County Dames deeded the property to the Society of Colonial Dames, North Carolina, with the understanding that the Wake County dames would retain the primary responsibility for the museum house and gardens. The organization continues to operate this Raleigh Historic Landmark and National Register-listed property as a house museum.

The Joel Lane House, now called the Joel Lane Museum House, is located at 728 W. Hargett St. Raleigh NC. It is open March-mid-December, Wednesday-Friday from 10:00am to 2:00pm, and Saturdays from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. Additional holiday tours are also offered. For further information call 919-833-3431, email joellane@bellsouth.net, or visit the house’s website http://www.joellane.org/. The Joel Lane House has also been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey

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