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The State Bank Building, the oldest commercial structure in Raleigh, was built to house the first state sponsored bank in North Carolina. While the State Bank (incorporated in 1810) originally served the public with six district offices around the state, the War of 1812 raised concerns that offices along the eastern shore were vulnerable to British looting. As a result, all bank funds were centralized near Raleigh in 1812, and a permanent structure to house the bank was completed two years later.
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The Flemish Bond brick building has served in several capacities since its construction almost two hundred years ago. When the State Bank of North Carolina was liquidated in 1832, the next incarnation, the Bank of the State of North Carolina, was created. After the bank entered bankruptcy while trying to fulfill Civil War debts in 1866, the state liquidated the institution and made a future state sponsored bank impossible. The building stood empty and in disrepair until Christ Episcopal Church of Raleigh acquired the building in 1873 and, after removing the vault, used it as a rectory.
The State Bank Building is the only brick structure in Raleigh remaining from the early nineteenth century. The builder, Lewis Nichols, accrued expenses from columns, Doric porticos, and hand-made bricks, forcing him to finish construction with his own funds and leaving him bankrupt after the job was complete. The elegant gable roofed building is trimmed with granite lintels and sills, and the east and west facades rest on pediments flanking the main structure on either side like, as one observer commented, “a ham sandwich.” In 1983, the Historic American Building Survey mapped and photographed the building.
Having been moved from 111 to 123 New Bern Avenue, the structure today serves as a branch of State Employee’s Credit Union and is once again a banking center in the heart of Raleigh’s downtown district. William Polk was the first president of the State Bank, and Jacob Johnson, father of Andrew Johnson, was a porter in the building.
Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (2003)
Catherine W. Bishir, Charlotte V. Brown, et al., Architects and Builders in North Carolina: A History of the Practice of Building (1990)
T. Harry Gatton, Banking in North Carolina: A Narrative History (1987)
Elizabeth Reid Murray, Wake: Capital County of North Carolina, Vol I: Prehistory Through Centennial (1983)
William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina, 1071-1072—sketch by W. Carson Dean