Metropolitan Hall Bell Returns to the City of Raleigh

A Historic Bell Returns to Its Owner

November, 19, 2008 , by Ladye Jane

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Another favorite structure from the past, Metropolitan Hall (aka. The Market House), is back in Raleigh news. In a ceremony this morning at Fire Station 1 on Davie Street, the building’s former bell was returned to City custody by NC State. According to the City, no one is quite sure how State came to be in possession of the historic bell, but they have had it for over 60 years, and decided it was time for it to go back to its rightful owner.

Built in 1870, Metropolitan Hall stood on the corner of Fayetteville Street and Exchange Plaza (the walkway next to the Mint). The long brick building was built to replace the Market House of 1840 that was destroyed in a fire. Metropolitan Hall was a multi-purpose building with a city market on the first floor, and City Hall and the city’s first auditorium on the upper floors. It was the center of the Raleigh economy in its heyday, with vendors selling everything from livestock and vegetables to homemade goods.

The basement held the fire department and the jail, which was appropriate since the area used to be the most dangerous strip in town. Exchange Plaza went by the nickname “Grog Alley” since it was the area where most of the drunken fights, riots, and gambling went on in town due to the heavy population of saloons on the strip.

After the turn of the century, the structure became rundown, so a new city municipal building (1911) and city market (1914) were built elsewhere. Metropolitan Hall was torn down in 1920.

Image courtesy of the Raleigh City Museum








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  • Micah
    11/19 02:57 PM

    I don’t understand why they didn’t re-tune the bell and put it in the bell tower like the original plan was.  Right now (and always) the bell tower just plays a recording.


    I think putting the bell in an old structure…And one that IS a bell tower…Is better than putting it on a new “Public Safety Center” that will probably have the character of cardboard box.


    At least it is removed from the hidden spot it has rested in on top of Withers.

  • James
    11/20 05:20 PM

    It’s good that the city has the bell again.  While it would’ve been cool for the bell to be in the NCSU bell tower that wouldn’t have been a very appropriate place for it.  Plus no one would know where it came from, or what it was once used for. 

    Now that the city has it there is at least a chance that the bell could be displayed (or even used?) appropriately. 

    Maybe we can pull it out and ring it on New Years or other special occasions.  Put it on a truck and run it up and down Fayetteville Street during the Christmas Parade.  I dunno.  We have to be able to come up with something ...

  • Wayne Chiam
    07/07 04:24 PM

    That old bell brings back fond memories of my NCSU days in the early ‘70’s.  A group of us budding freshmen engineering students saw the bell with one idea - could we ring it!  It had a motor driven ringing mechanism that took a bit of work to get going.  But we were able to repair it, wire it up through a timer, and depart the scene of the mischief.  A bit later that night it rang with a deep and wonderous tone . . for about 30 minutes before someone figured out how to turn it off.  Interesting history . . I’ll have to stop in and see the old bell when I get back to Raleigh!

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