Neighborhood Guide: Oakwood

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Oakwood is Raleigh’s only intact 19th century neighborhood.

Photo by RALtoday

Table of Contents

When you head into Oakwood, you’re visiting Raleigh’s oldest and largest historic district. The neighborhood has grown since our city’s early days, so we wanted to check out its current happenings. If you haven’t explored it in a while, it might be time to rediscover why so many people — maybe even you — love to call it home.

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The roughly 25-square block neighborhood is known for its eclectic array of unique homes. | Photo by RALtoday

Need to know

You’re not the only one with your eyes set on historic Oakwood.

As Raleigh’s only (and NC’s largest) intact 19th century neighborhood, Oakwood is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The roughly 25-square block neighborhood is known for its walkability and eclectic array of unique homes with sprawling porches like the Heck-Wynne House.

The early days

In 1869, the locally prominent Mordecai family donated land from their estate to develop a cemetery for Confederate soldiers after the Civil War. Houses began to pop up between 1890 and 1930 after residential parcels were sold around the cemetery.

A look around modern-day Oakwood reflects this sprawling period of development — the neighborhood is spattered with homes of diverse architectural styles including Queen Anne, Second Empire, Classical Revival, Craftsman, and Victorian.

Most of Oakwood’s original residents were middle-class tradesmen who walked to work downtown. Although many of the large houses were converted into apartments post World War I, the neighborhood began its revitalization in the early 1970s and the Society for the Preservation of Historic Oakwood was formed. Many of the neighborhood’s original homes still stand.

Learn more about Oakwood’s history.

Can’t miss

Running low on time? A trip to Oakwood isn’t complete without a stop at the giant dinosaur, dressed to the nines in a rotating seasonal wardrobe. You’ll thank us later.

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The Historic Oakwood Cemetery is lush with greenery. | Photo by RALtoday

Outdoors

Visitors can explore the shaded pockets of Oakwood on foot or by bike.

  • Take a walk in the 12.7-acre Oakwood Park and bring your four-legged friend — there’s an off-leash dog park.
  • The vast Oakwood Cemetery is adorned with beautiful monuments, statues, and decorations.
  • Pedal by the rainbow of historic houses; there’s a Cardinal Bikeshare station located at 222 N. Bloodworth St.

Eat and drink

Local is all the rage in Oakwood — the community is full of small businesses that stand out.

  • Grab a coffee and pastry from The Optimist, a local haunt decorated with plants and skeletons.
  • Sandwich shop Side Street Restaurant opened in 1979 and is one of the oldest restaurants in Oakwood.
  • SmokeStacks Cafe is a quaint restaurant featuring biscuits for brunch + barbecue for dinner.
  • Gringo A Go Go specializes in authentic Mexican food + drinks. Be sure to check out the daily specials.
  • Try a crispy square pie topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, garlic, and fresh basil from Oakwood Pizza Box.

Entertainment

Plan ahead for these activities that will give you a feel for the district.

  • Every December, the Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour lights up the streets of the neighborhood for two nights of storytelling and an inside look at a dozen Oakwood properties; tickets (which often sell out) go on sale in early September.
  • Check Burning Coal Theatre Company’s events calendar to buy tickets to see a local performance.
  • Use this free guide for a self-led walking tour around the neighborhood.
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Brookside Bodega opened in June 2022. | Photo by RALtoday

What’s new

Although Oakwood is old, it attracts plenty of new.

Brookside Bodega, located at 1000 Brookside Dr. next to The Optimist, opened its doors in June 2022. This neighborhood cafe + market serves scratch-made items loosely inspired by New York bodegas (think: chopped cheese sandwiches). Before you leave, don’t forget to browse NC goodies like 321 Coffee, Piedmont Pennies + local beers. Plus, Brookside recently added events to its menu. Check out its calendar to plan for activities like yoga on the patio, community nights out + pet adoption events.

Where to live

If you’re sold + looking to buy a home in the area, here are some housing options currently on the market:

  • 415 New Bern Ave. | 5 BD, 2 BA | $899,900 | Built in 1910, this home features a 670 sqft carriage house and wrap-around porch.
  • 206 Idlewild Ave. | 4 BD, 3 BA | $699,900 | This historic home has an updated kitchen and hardwood floors throughout.
  • 623 Watauga St. | 3 BD, 2 BA | $699,000 | Walk to Oakwood from this recently renovated home with a chef’s kitchen.
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