The Evolution of Raleigh: 10 Time Lapse Photos Show How The City Has Changed

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North Carolina. Late 18th Century.

A number of cities were in contention for selection as the State Capital; the area which eventually became Raleigh was referred to as Wake Cross Roads or Wake Court House.

It was argued that the capital should not “situate in a lonely grove of oaks, inland from any port, a place without populace, amid thorn and briar with nothing to recommend it but a courthouse, an inn and two or three scattered residences.”

How times have changed. As 2016 draws to a close, we’re happy to share a collection of time-lapse photos of Raleigh put together by our friends over at RentCafe in coordination with the State Archives of North Carolina and Google Street View.

1. Downtown Raleigh

Year: 1966

In the original photo we see Wake County’s central business district taking form. Directly ahead is the North Carolina State Capitol building. Today we see the skyline has filled in significantly. In the forefront is the Raleigh Convention Center and Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.

2. Capitol Square

Year: 1925-1929

While certainly more barren looking, this early photograph of the North Carolina State Capitol building shows forward planning with a clear grid system being built. The church at the left corner is Christ Church of Capitol Square, which still remains today. The buildings to the left now house the North Carolina Museum of History and Science.

3. Martin Street

Year: 1946

Contrasting views of the 100 block of Martin Street show new streetlights, traffic lights, new vehicles, and higher buildings. Yet there’s something about old Raleigh — maybe its walkability, small businesses, and more eclectic architecture — that give the city a less sterile, more inviting air.

4. Intersection of Morgan and Wilmington Streets

Year: 1916

This shot presents some of the best of Raleigh in both its improvements and preservation of history. In the original, there’s not much we can see other than a mess of power lines, bent utility poles, and heavy snow. Today the church still remains, as do trees, and a collection of other brick and stone buildings from different decades of real estate development.

5. Salisbury Street

Year: 1935

This view of Salisbury St. shows the street lined with small businesses, power lines, and on-street parking. The Lawyers Building was torn down in 2009 to make room for the new Wake County Courthouse. In today’s view we see more glass being used, including in the upper floors of the Wells Fargo building on the right.

6. Fayetteville Street at Davie Street

Year: 1917

While the State Capitol building remains at the end of the street, gone are the horse and carts and cable car lines. While some great works of architecture are gone today, this stretch of Fayetteville St. shows some of the better examples of modern building design in Raleigh, with different colored stone, and gleaming glass towers.

7. PNC Plaza, Fayetteville Street

Year: ~1933

This is the PNC Plaza building, the tallest building in Raleigh, at 33 floors. The original strip of small businesses were built in the 1880s. The new tower houses offices, retail, and 139 residential condo apartments in the heart of Raleigh, North Carolina. The new structure completed in 2008 saw residential units sold out in just 3 months.

8. Downtown Raleigh Aerial View

Year: 1960

Almost 100 years after being named after Sir Walter Raleigh, the ‘City of Oaks’ made a major transition by renaming schools, and making an investment of over $620M over the span of 15 years in redeveloping the Centennial Campus. Thanks to this aerial perspective, we can see that traditional brick architecture dominates the area, and great effort has been made toward retaining green space.

9. Aerial views of downtown and nearby areas of Raleigh

Year: 1960

While there may be more high-rises now, one of the most noticeable differences in this view is the increase in open space and ground area dedicated to parking. In the center of today’s image we see the towering glass PNC Plaza in front of the Wake County Justice Center.

10. Aerial view looking over Salisbury Street

Year: 1933

The two groups of trees bounding this view belong to Nash Square on the left, and Moore Square on the right. While government buildings certainly dominate the downtown area, much of the new development in the forefront appeared and developed thanks to Raleigh’s growing arts scene. Note the amphitheater, convention center, and Duke Energy Center.