Since its founding in 1792, Raleigh has grown into a major bustling tech center of the United States. As the North Carolina State Capitol, Raleigh is home to great universities, history, art and culture, and more. But like any city, exploring its dark corners and shady past reveal how Raleigh grew from a backwater town into a major city. Here are a few of those seedy places in Downtown Raleigh.
As the name suggests, death has a strong connection to the Death and Taxes building, now a contemporary restaurant from chefs Ashley Christensen and Lauren Ivey. Constructed in 1907, the building first served as a coffin shop opening just in time to handle the influx of victims from the Spanish flu epidemic that raged through the city for the next five years. It then evolved into an undertaking and mortuary company, a bank, and eventually, a great place to grab dinner. Guests have claimed to have heard strange voices and footsteps in the building and in one case, a young girl reported having a full conversation with a man that no one else could see.
Mordecai Park was once the site of the largest plantation in Wake County and includes the Mordecai House, a chapel, office, barn, and more. Built in 1785, the Mordecai House is the oldest home in Downtown Raleigh on its original location and is one of the crown jewels of Raleigh. Its long history may be the cause for many unexplained happenings, which attract Triangle ghost hunters every October. Some say that the parlor piano can occasionally be heard playing while no one is around while others have witnessed a gray mist hovering near the piano. The cause of these spooky events is said to be the ghost of Mary Willis Mordecai Turk, a descendent of Moses Mordecai, who lived in the house from 1858-1937.
Not necessarily “spooky” per se, but, the next time you eat at Morgan Street Food Hall, think about sitting in the center of Raleigh’s turn-of-the-century red light district. Believe it or not, Morgan Street would have been lined with brothels, liquor houses, and other houses of ill repute complete with a long list of tragic stories back in the 1800’s.
Ernest Dollar is a Triangle native who has a passion for teaching history to the public. He is the Executive Director of both the City of Raleigh (COR) Museum on Fayetteville Street and the Pope House Museum on S. Wilmington Street.