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A state-supported school for the deaf and blind was first proposed in 1816 by Archibald D. Murphey. Despite his recommendation no provision was made for such an institution until the 1840s when Gov. John Motley Morehead took up the cause. In 1844 the legislature appropriated $5,000 for such a school and in 1845 W. D. Cooke was hired to teach the deaf, dumb, and blind in Raleigh, establishing what is now known as the Governor Morehead School. By 1890 a movement was afoot to create a separate school for the deaf to alleviate the overcrowding at the Raleigh campus.
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Morganton civic leaders organized by Samuel McDowell Tate sought the new school, offering the state $5,000 and 100 acres on “Spa Hill,” a picturesque hilltop setting on the outskirts of town. Construction began in 1891 on the monumental Main Building which still dominates the campus. The architect was Adolphus Gustavus Bauer, an associate of Samuel Sloan, the two of them also being responsible for the Executive Mansion and other Victorian-era public buildings in the state. The North Carolina School for the Deaf (NCSD) opened on October 2, 1894, with 104 students and eight teachers. The first superintendent was Edward McKee Goodwin, who served in that position until his death in 1937. The school received national acclaim and in 1895 was visited by Edward Gallaudet, founder of Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C.
Today the NCSD campus has nineteen buildings and students in grades K-12. The Morganton and Raleigh schools are no longer the only state-supported schools for the deaf, institutions having been founded in Wilson and in Greensboro in recent years.
Edward W. Phifer Jr., Burke: The History of a North Carolina County, 1777 to 1920 (1977)
J. Randall Cotton, Historic Burke: An Architectural Inventory of Burke County, North Carolina (1987)
National Register of Historic Places nominations: Main Building (1976) and Historic District (1989)
William B. Bushong, “A. G. Bauer, North Carolina’s New South Architect,” North Carolina Historical Review (July 1983): 304-331
Otis A. Betts, The Education of the Deaf in North Carolina (1944)
“Edward McKee Goodwin, 1859-1937,” special issue of Deaf Carolinian (1937)
Charlotte Observer, October 21, 1989
North Carolina School for the Deaf