If you were stopping through Raleigh in the late 1790’s, then you definitely made a stop at one of Raleigh’s first booming businesses, Casso’s Tavern and Inn, which played a major role in the initial commercial growth of Fayetteville Street. With a prime location at the foot of the statehouse on the corner of Morgan and Fayetteville, Peter Casso set up shop in 1795, which became the stagecoach stop for everything and everyone coming in and out of the town. The Tavern and Inn served as a lodging house, mail house, restaurant, bar, stable, and cock fight pit. Peter’s cock fights were said to have some of the highest purses in town.
Most importantly, the Inn was home to “Mrs.Casso’s Bell”, which members of the night watch would ring to warn citizens of a fire. Raleigh had a little problem with repeatedly catching on fire, with three devastating fires occurring in 1816, 1832, and 1833. Each time, the fire was finally put out at the home of Hannah Casso Stewart, daughter of Peter and Margaret Casso. In each instance, the kitchen of the house was blown up in order to create a fire-break between buildings giving the city time to put out the great fires. Three times her house was blown up, and each time she built a new one. The Inn, however, was completely destroyed in the 1833 fire, and was not rebuilt.
A small building in the back of Casso’s Inn was also the birthplace of Andrew Johnson, who was President of the United States. The building was moved from it’s Morgan Street location, and is now located in the Mordecai Historic Park.
Image courtesy of Raleigh City Museum