The history of the Joel Lane House

Learn about Raleigh’s oldest residence.

The oldest residence in Raleigh — a small, red house.

Raleigh’s oldest residence was built by enslaved people in 1769.

Photo by RALtoday

A proposed zoning request submitted last July outlines a plan that could change the neighborhood landscape across the street from the Joel Lane Museum House. A date has not yet been set for when the City Council will meet to discuss the zoning request — but we’ll let you know when we learn more. In the meantime, let’s dive into the significance of this historic home.

If you’ve found yourself at the intersection of St. Mary’s Street and West Hargett Street, you’ve driven past the small, red house with off-white shutters. Not to be dramatic, but the Joel Lane House is the reason why Raleigh exists. Built in 1769, this unsuspecting home is considered the birthplace of NC’s capital.

The site across there street (where the new tower is being considered) is where the Joel Lane House was originally erected. It was moved to its current location in 1911.

The house is where the first meetings of the Wake County Court took place and where Raleigh was selected as NC’s state capital. In 1769, plantation owner Joel Lane acquired thousands of acres of land after settling into Johnston County (now Wake County). Lane sold 1,000 acres of his property to NC in 1792 — the site where the City of Oaks was established.

Enslaved laborers of Lane built his plantation and its structures, and looked after his family. In the center of the museum’s herb garden is a sundial atop of a memorial for the 43 known enslaved people who lived on Lane’s plantation, which the museum uses as a teaching tool.

The Joel Lane Museum House now serves as an educational resource for field trips, history buffs, and Raleighites alike. In a typical year, the museum hosts roughly 4,000-5,000 people at the house and at offsite events.

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