Raleigh, N.C. — Today, Hargett Street in downtown Raleigh is known for eclectic stores, local restaurants and hangouts.
Many people have no idea this stretch of old buildings was once the segregated business district and cultural hub for the Black community in Raleigh – known as Black Main Street.
To help highlight some of the lost history, Raleigh Arts has worked with artist TJ Mundy to create a series of murals exploring the important stories hidden along Hargett Street.
The public art series marks four buildings that played a major role on Black Main Street.
The Delany Building: First Black public library in Wake County
During the past decade, the Delany Building is probably best known for holding Remedy Diner – the building with the faded butterfly mural on the side.
However, the building, also known as the Delany-Evans Building, was founded in 1926 by Raleigh’s second Black dentist. In 1935, it also held the first Black public library in Wake County – established by Mollie Huston Lee, the first Black librarian in Raleigh.
“The Delany Building is one of only two remaining commercial strictures built on Black Main Street before WWII,” according to the Raleigh Historic Development Commission.
It was built by Dr. Lemuel T. Delany, who was also the first Black surgeon practicing at St. Agnes Hospital. His father was the well-known Bishop Delany, who laid the first cornerstone of St. Agnes, which was the highest quality segregated hospital between Washington, D.C., and New Orleans.
In short, this building, which is still standing today, held many of the ‘firsts’ in Raleigh’s Black history.
The Lightner Arcade and Hotel – Cultural hub for Raleigh’s Black community
During its heyday in the roaring 1920s, the Lightner Arcade and Hotel was the cultural hub in this segregated portion of Raleigh. It was built in 1921 by Charles Lightner, and it was, according to the mural, “One of the few places for Black travelers of the time.”
“It served as the premier social hub of Raleigh’s Black community,” says the mural.
The multi-purpose building also housed medical offices, lawyers, a pharmacy, a barber shop and the Carolinian Newspaper. It was renowned for holding music and dancing.
Sadly, the grand brick building burned down in 1968. Today, nothing remains of this popular cultural hub – however, the area still serves as a hub for travel, hosting the GoRaleigh station.
Hamlin Drug Store – Oldest drug store in Raleigh
For over a century, Hamlin Drug Store has served downtown Raleigh. It’s the oldest Black-owned pharmacy in the entire state.
It opened in 1904 as People’s Drug Store, opened by James Hamlin. Three years later he changed the name to its modern incarnation.
In 1921, Hamlin’s relocated it to the newly-built Lightner Arcade, just a few doors down the street. Later, they moved into a building next door to the Arcade.
The store survived the “mass exodus” of downtown businesses in the 1960s, when many people stopped coming downtown to shop, instead opting to visit malls and shopping centers. It celebrated its 100-year anniversary a few years ago – but, like many other businesses once part of the thriving Black Main Street, has sadly closed its doors permanently.
The next time you find yourself strolling down Hargett Street, take a look around for the public art project showcasing the rich history of Raleigh’s Black Main Street.
WRAL’s Hidden Historian explores Black Main Street live
Want to see it for youself? WRAL’s Hidden Historian takes us for a livestream tour of Black Main Street and the new murals.
This content was originally published here.