Executive Mansion Gets Marked

On May 12th, the newest addition to North Carolina’s historical marker army was unveiled for the world to see. This particular one will give pedestrians, and yes drivers too, a brief history lesson about the Executive Mansion that sits on Burke Square. The marker reads:

Official residence, N.C. governors, it was completed 1891 on Burke Square using prison labor. Architects, A.G. Bauer & Samuel Sloan.

The marker isn’t that exciting, not for me anyway, but with this news I can bring up one of my favorite historical facts that anyone can see around the Executive Mansion.

Prison labor, referenced on the marker, was used to build the executive mansion, including the brick sidewalk on the edges of Burke Square. Gang leaders left their names on bricks used in construction of the sidewalk and you can still see the names today. Here is an example of one on the block’s north sidewalk.

See more examples in an old RalCon post in 2008.

Raleigh Streetcar Tracks Make An Appearance On Edenton Street

Edenton Street is currently being repaved. With the top layer of asphalt stripped away, some Raleigh history has been revealed. Take a look at the photos posted below and you’ll see some of the old streetcar tracks that once rolled from the capitol down Blount Street.

We have talked about buried tracks before and the map from North Carolina Maps confirms the track lines. Shown below are tracks on Edenton Street and the beginning of the curve onto Blount Street.

Baseball In Downtown, Devereux Meadow Meets Progress In Raleigh

Courtesy of the North Carolina State Archives

It’s no secret but most people don’t know about the baseball stadium that once stood near downtown. That’s right, at one point in time, minor league sluggers were blasting home runs onto what would eventually become Capital Blvd. The ballpark once sat in the area highlighted in the map below and this is where I’d like to focus the conversation today.

Click image for wider view.

Raleigh’s Team
The Raleigh Capitals once played at Devereux Meadow Ballpark which was located along present day Peace Street between West Street and Capital Blvd. The stadium was built in 1938 and baseball had its up and downs here until the site was cleared in 1979. In the name of “progress”, the area was then used for city services, a parking lot for waste disposal vehicles really. I want to highlight two articles I found that mention the stadium meeting the wrecking ball, written around that time.

Sentiment Surrounds Wrecking Of Park – The Time-News June 27, 1979.

Wrecker’s Ball Puts End To Ballpark – The Tuscaloosa News June 27th, 1979.

Courtesy of the North Carolina State Archives

What is there now?
The area today contains few offices or very little of anything representing density or urbanity. The city has been using the lots for parking waste services trucks and other utility vehicles. A few businesses reside off West Street in “off the beaten path” office space with very little car and pedestrian traffic on West Street.

However, the more important resource in this area is the Pigeon House Branch Creek that snakes through the Devereux Meadow site and hides underneath certain streets in downtown. Here’s an excellent blog post tracking the creek through the site. Last I checked, the creek was on the state’s list of impaired waterways and the city is trying to remedy this. One example of a fix has been the water garden at nearby Fred Fletcher park. I bet most readers have driven or walked through this area and never knew that a creek was flowing underneath.

The Future
As far as I know, there are no plans for Devereux Meadow at this moment. Ideas of a river walk have come up but nothing has materialized from that. It’s all talk at this point but that allows the online peanut gallery here to dream up ideas for this large piece of property on the edge of downtown.

More on that later….

Buried Tracks In The Warehouse District

High-speed rail and train travel out of downtown sounds like a thing of the future to some people. To others, its a thing of the past now that cars are king and planning of our cities happen around it. It’s no surprise that cities across the country have demolished or abandoned their train stations.

In case you missed it, we’ve mentioned before that Raleigh actually still has its Union Depot, now re-purposed as an office building. It will probably never see trains again but the warehouse district around it continues to have trains roll by. Its possible to uncover some of the older tracks that once ran through here. Let’s jump straight to the maps.

Above is a map of the area around Nash Square in 1914. Union Depot is marked on here as ‘Depot’ and you can see the old tracks leading up to the back of the building coming from the west.

This is a current map overlaid on top of the previous and it is obvious to see that the tracks are not there anymore. You can use a more interactive old/new map overlay at the North Carolina Maps site where I got them from. They set up a very slick Google Map to show this.

The truth is that the tracks were never torn up and are blatantly noticeable if you walk around the warehouse district. The tracks that used to lead up to Union Depot can be seen on West Street, they continue through one of the Dillon warehouses, and there are suspicious cracks along the asphalt leading up to the office buildings behind the old depot.

Click on the pictures for a larger view.

Tracks crossing West Street.

Tracks running through the Dillon Warehouse.

Harrington Street. Look for the cracks in the asphalt in neatly spaced, parallel lines.

The tracks lead up to the offices and disappear underneath.

Next time you are walking in the area, look for the tracks and imagine that at one time passenger trains were unloading people right into Nash Square and a few blocks from Fayetteville Street.

Picture: Heck-Andrews House

Heck-Andrews House
Heck-Andrews House on Flickr (via DTRaleigh)

Among the first grand residences built in Raleigh after the Civil War, the Heck-Andrews House set the tone for the subsequent development of North Blount Street as an enclave of the well-to-do. Industrialist Jonathan McGee Heck had the towering Second Empire house constructed for his wife Mattie in 1869 on what was then the edge of town.

continue reading at Raleigh: A Capital City | National Park Service

Union Square Grounds Renovations

You might have noticed the construction fencing around some of the walkways on the capitol grounds. If you didn’t know what was going on, allow me to explain. All this information comes from some very informative banners that are hung up against the fence on the northern end of the capitol. Along with the information there is some very interesting history displayed about union square and its evolution to today’s setup. If you are walking by I recommend you stop and read a little. Here is a quote from the banner:

The walkway renovations at Union Square will increase access and safety for visitors. During this project, we will create accessible walks at the south entrance (Fayetteville Street), remove the steps at the corner of Wilmington and Edenton Streets, and replace portions of the pavement between these two points.

So it’s really nothing too exciting except more handicap access. The posted history was pretty interesting. At one point the capitol grounds had fencing all the way around but that has changed (obviously). Anyway, the capitol is hands down the touristiest thing about downtown so of course we are watching what goes on around it.

Rendering of the southern entrance.

Map layout of the affected area.

Get Up And Do The Cherry Bounce

About a month ago I decided to make this legendary Raleigh drink, Cherry Bounce, and this weekend was the official tasting at a party I organized. The words Cherry Bounce pop up here and there around Raleigh but the actual drink, rumored to have played a role in the choosing of the North Carolina capital’s location, is not served anywhere to my knowledge. Yes, Deep South can make it for you on the spot but this is a drink that needs to be made before hand so I don’t count it.

I’ll be honest, I did little research on the recipe but discovered the following and just went with it:

– 4 parts cherries
– 2 parts sugar
– 1 part whiskey
– Let it sit for six weeks

The cherries and sugar are easy but the whiskey is wide open. Since there are many types of whiskey out there, I made three different batches of CB for the tasting party. I asked a bartender friend for some help here and needed three different types to use. Jameson, Crown Royal, and Jim Beam were the final candidates. I had to use frozen cherries since fresh ones are not available right now and I went with brown sugar to close things out.

Making the CB was pretty easy. All three pieces were thrown together, stirred, and kept in separate pitchers for serving later. I did add a little water to the sugar beforehand so that it was more of a paste rather then pure sand.

After five or six weeks of sitting in my kitchen, the CB was ready to be strained. I used a huge cheese cloth and poured the entire pitcher inside a bowl wrapped with the cloth. Most of the drink comes out easily but you can get a few more ounces if you squeeze the cherries while inside the cloth.

During the party, there were mixed reactions towards the CB. Each batch was served blind and no one knew what whiskey was in each sample. It had also been sitting out for six weeks so the drink was at room temperature; no ice was added. The Crown and Beam batches were the most popular. Whiskey fans leaned more toward Beam while others preferred Crown. These two had pretty opposite tastes while the Jameson batch was more down the middle.

Overall, the drink was good, but not great. Fortunately, I still have some of each batch left. I am going to get more opinions and will tweak the recipe so it tastes really great (hopefully leading to a follow up post to this one).

Unfortunately, I’m lacking pictures during this whole process. It is nothing exciting unless you taste it for yourself. Ask for Cherry Bounce at your favorite bar and let’s get it flowing through downtown.

Drink Cherry Bounce at Deep South

Deep South is serving up some Cherry Bounce. You may remember them from this BeerCon Post. If you are not familiar with the Raleigh history around the drink, read:

In the late 1700s, North Carolina legislators traveled to rotating capital cities to meet and conduct the state’s official business. So how did an oak-shaded area in Wake County become the permanent state capital?

The official story goes that the Constitutional Convention met in 1788 and decided the capital must be established within 10 miles of Isaac Hunter’s tavern and plantation in Wake County. After exploring the area, the commissioners agreed to purchase a parcel of land from Joel Lane, a local Revolutionary War colonel who had hosted General Assembly sessions at his home during the war. In 1792 Lane sold one thousand acres of his Wake County property for 1,378 pounds ($2,756) to provide a site for North
Carolina’s permanent capital, Raleigh.

But according to local legend, Lane, who–like Isaac Hunter–operated a tavern and inn out of his house, relied upon a potent fruit and alcohol drink called Cherry Bounce to sway the legislators in favor of buying property from him, rather than Hunter. Cherry Bounce is a concoction made up of mashed cherries, sugar and whiskey or brandy, aged for several weeks. Visitors today are not likely to find Cherry Bounce in Raleigh, but they will find that the tradition of Southern hospitality–inspired by the city’s “founding father”–continues.

– Via [Visit Raleigh]

Talk to your local bartenders and get them to serve Cherry Bounce too.