The large main building of the North Carolina School for the Deaf is an imposing and interesting collection of rhythmically arranged eclectic elements in a brick building of a monumental scale--one of the few surviving examples in the state of full-bloom Victorian institutional architecture. Begun in 1892 and opened in 1894, the building was designed by architect Adolphus Gustavus Bauer (ca. 1860-1898), an associate of architect Samuel Sloan in constructing the Executive Mansion, who had established a prominent practice in Raleigh. The building is of major significance to the social history of the state and nation as an ambitious early effort at providing proper education and care for the deaf at state expense.
The first building was known as the North Carolina Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind. Its cornerstone was laid on April 14, 1848. The basic curriculum was the teaching of trades, principally the craft of mechanical printing. The original school for the deaf at Raleigh remained open during the Civil War. By 1869 a school for the colored deaf and blind-- said to be the first of its kind in the United States--had been opened, also in Raleigh.
The new facility, opened in 1895 was widely regarded as one of the finest of its kind in the nation. The school was honored by a visit from Dr. Edward M. Gallaudet, president of Gallaudet College for the Deaf at Washington, D.C. (the only liberal arts college in the world exclusively for the deaf), who visited the classes and addressed the staff and student body. Another early visitor was Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, who likewise expressed an interest in the school.