north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Essay:
     Raleigh is among the few capital cities in America to have been designed as such, and its location was determined not by topography or climate, but rather by distance from a popular tavern in what was then Johnston County. Strategically placed alongside a major travel artery through North Carolina, the tavern owned by Isaac Hunter (1745-1823) earned a reputation for quality food and spirits, making the establishment a landmark for locals and travelers alike. Hunter’s tavern was so well known that, in 1788, the Constitutional Convention met in the restaurant and mandated the new state capital be built no more than ten miles away.

     After the Halifax Resolves were ratified in April 1776, North Carolina began to relinquish all associations with Britain, and create a new system of state administration. Although the governor’s mansion remained in New Bern, from the expulsion of Josiah Martin in 1775 until a new capital was operational in 1794, legislative bodies met in six different locations, due to the lack of a permanent capital as well as fear of British retaliation. The 1779 General Assembly decided to begin the search for a new capital, yet it was not until 1788 that the Constitutional Convention in Hillsborough chose the general location, that being in Wake County. Further, the representatives to the convention specified that capital should be within a ten-mile radius of Isaac Hunter's tavern.

     A meeting convened at Hunter’s tavern four years later, in July of 1792. At that meeting, they considered Hunter's own offer of land but instead decided that the new capital should be constructed on one thousand acres owned by Joel Lane (ca. 1740-1795).

     While Hunter at one time held a significant amount of land, during his twilight years he lost a major portion to creditors. Two years after his death in March 1823, all of his holdings were liquidated in order to reconcile additional debt against his estate. Hunter’s tavern remained a part of the Raleigh landscape, located on Wake Forest Road just north of the Beltline. A hotel was constructed on the site after the remains of the tavern were demolished during the 1970s.

References:
Elizabeth Reid Murray, Wake: Capital County of North Carolina (1983)
North Carolina Deeds, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh
Walter Clark, ed., State Records of North Carolina, XIX, XXI (1901 and 1903)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, III, 237 (2006)—sketch by Thornton W. Mitchell
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north carolina highway historical marker program


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