70 years of history in Raleigh’s Cameron Village

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This piece was written in 2019. Since then, Cameron Village has changed its name to The Village District to cut ties with the Cameron name.

In 1946, immediately following WWII, the shopping center as we know it today was a novel idea. Raleighite J.W. “Willie” York was traveling by train to Chicago when he first read about the new concept in a newspaper. By the time he returned home, he had an idea, and one year later he broke ground on the 160-acre property near downtown that would become Cameron Village — Raleigh’s first modern shopping mall + the first of its kind between Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

Cameron Village was designed as a mixed-use development, including homes as well as retail stores and restaurants. By the mid-1950s, the center had grown to include 566 apartment units, 100 houses, 112 offices, a movie theater + 65 stores (including hallmark anchor Sears, which formerly occupied the Harris Teeter space). The Village Restaurant (now Cameron Bar & Grill) was initially financed by Willie in order to get things off the ground.



As occupancy grew, the center became an area attraction. In 1971, they renovated 20,000 sq. ft. of space below the retail stores (now the Fresh Market location) to become an underground entertainment venue called the Subway. Thirty restaurants, nightclubs, and shops occupied the space + hosted big names like Jimmy Buffet, the GoGos, Dizzy Gillespie, Iggy Pop, David Bowie + more. Last year, York Properties announced they have plans to revitalize the historic underground venue with a jazz club. 🎶

In the ‘80s, Cameron Village underwent a transformation which much resembles the center today. Characteristic brick pavers replaced concrete sidewalks + existing tenants moved in: The Great Outdoor Provision Co. opened its flagship location in 1983, the Wake County Regional Library moved to its current location in 1985, and Fresh Market opened in 1988. Harris Teeter followed in 1992 — taking over the old Sears lot — and in 1993, the Village hosted its first open house, a tradition which continues every year and brings a lot of the community into the center to celebrate the holidays, and of course, shop (save the date for Nov. 21).

In 2001, the center was completely renovated. Earlier this month, Cameron Village celebrated 70 years with a weeklong celebration including live music + family friendly events.

🔉A trip down memory lane: click to hear fellow Raleighites share their favorite moments in the Village.

🎸From the archives: get the full lineup of bands and artists who played in the Village underground.

🐮DYK: the CV Chick-fil-A was the brand’s first 2-story location + is one of its largest stores.

🍟Mystery solved: find out what happened to the Village McDonald’s.

🛒Finally: Good news for the neighborhood, Harris Teeter will complete its $8 million renovation this fall.


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