Help Save The NC State Bookstore, A Modernist Landmark

Help Save The NC State Bookstore, A Modernist Landmark

January, 25, 2011, by Jedidiah

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Photo: John Morris

A few weeks ago, John Morris of Goodnight, Raleigh! posted an article entitled: NC State - Please Don't Destroy the Bookstore! where Morris did what he does best and dig up some great history (including photos, drawings and more) of a modernist landmark that is about to be destroyed in the Raleigh area.

The latest, as the title suggests, is the NC State Student bookstore that was designed by Raleigh architect Milton Small Jr. in 1960 and represents some of the best things about what makes Raleigh's architecture history so rich. The building is planned to be destroyed as part of the Talley Student Center addition but this doesn't have to be the case. The site plan actually calls for the bookstore to become a green space outside of Talley.

John and crew have done a great job raising awareness on this building and a handful of local outlets are on the bandwagon so jump through the below links and see if you can help the grassroots effort to save the building. Even the National Trust for Historic Preservation is investigating the options.

Save the Bookstore on facebook

WRAL story and video

Preservation NC



Goodnight Raleigh original article

Read More

Architecture, Other posts by Jedidiah.


NC StateMilton SmallGoodnight, Raleigh


  • hackles10
    01/25 04:50 PM

    No, stop, please, you have got to be kidding me.  Some buildings are meant to die.  Take some good digital pictures, have one last walk through of that horrible place, and bid it adieu!!! 

    You can’t save everything just because its old.  That is a valuable piece of real estate for NCSU and a great location for the new bookstore.  I for one will be part of the grassroots effort to bring streamers and commemorative shovels for the day of demolition.  I love goodnight raleigh but they pulled this same crap for the Garland Jones building.  I worked in that building and it may mean something to you when you walk by it every day, but it was a cesspool that need to be demolished in 1990, let alone 2010.

    Again, appreciating architecture is one thing, but supporting an effort to prevent change for change prevention sake, when NCSU so desperately needs a new, modern, and centrally located upgrade is irresponsible!

  • Sara
    01/25 05:30 PM

    Another example of Raleigh’s inability to renovate and incorporate its history into its future. This is completely opposite from a city like Durham, which has been able to successfully transform aging buildings, such as the tobacco warehouses of downtown, into modern facilities that combine the best of both times and are proud reminders of NC history. Raleigh has existed for centuries but now acts like it has no buildings older than 1940.

    I won’t be surprised the day that Cameron Village is bulldozed to make room for the next Brier Creek.

  • hackles10
    01/25 06:22 PM

    This has nothing to do with Raleigh, and your comparison is lacking.  This is a building on NCSU’s campus and has nothing to do with the city.  NCSU needs a new bookstore desperately.  The current incarnation is an absolute embarrassment to prospective students, students, and alumni alike.  Don’t get me wrong, durham has done great things, but the argument about the bookstore has nothing to do with the vision of either city. 

    Again, the fact that some folks appreciate the mid-modern architecture while walking by the building (really how often do these people visit the ncsu bookstore) should not overshadow in any way the needs of the NCSU community.

  • John Morris
    01/25 06:40 PM

    It isn’t necessary to demolish the bookstore building in order to improve the Talley Student Center (and put a new bookstore in it). It’s being replaced by a “green space”.

    What would campus look like if buildings were automatically destroyed once they reached the 50 year mark? Brooks Hall was the previous location of D.H. Hill Library. When the library outgrew the building, NC State didn’t tear it down, they put it to other use.

    Yes, at that age buildings can be worn down and in need of upgrades to be comfortable and accessible workspaces or retail centers. However, one need only look at what Empire Properties has done with the plethora of once vacant and “ugly” buildings downtown. All are fine examples of adaptable reuse.

    If Tonic Design can turn the ugly duckling Audio Buys building in Five Points into something pretty (which I’m sure they will), the same can be done here. NC State doesn’t need to tear this down in order to put a new bookstore in the student center.

    NC State can meet the needs of a growing student population without erasing the past—and the legacy of the Design School.

  • TSnow27604
    01/25 07:42 PM

    Hackles is banned from the bookstore.

  • Miller Taylor
    01/25 08:15 PM

    I think its very important to make it clear that one can both agree with the creation of a new bookstore and still want to preserve the modernist legacy of the current structure.  The question to me appears as this:

    Do you want a new bookstore in Talley with some open space outside?  Or do you want a new bookstore in Talley with a historic modernist building outside? 

    Open spaces are a plus, but so is density, and I think in this case density is more desirable.  I can’t imagine this open area competing with The Court of NC or the Brickyard.

    Also, I find it hard to believe that the building couldn’t be put to good use for some other purpose (John’s example of the library seems very fitting) potentially by the College of Design itself.  Right now, studios are taught in the basement of Brooks Hall (not the greatest space ever) and the graduate architecture studios on the top of Kamphoefner are usually always in need of more space.  Maybe make it a studio?

  • hackles10
    01/25 10:03 PM

    Putting it to good use is easier said than done.  That would cost a million plus to re-purpose that building, so if any of you restoration buffs want to pony up the cash while the rest of the university is hemorrhaging $$$, cutting majors, and firing teachers….more power to you!  But the practical solution is to demolish this building, leave the open space available for a future project and invest the university money in a much needed bookstore/student center upgrade.

  • Miller Taylor
    01/26 12:03 AM

    It’s almost always cheaper to retrofit than to start from scratch.  And its going to cost money to demo it.  And it’s going to cost money to set up a temporary bookstore in Harrelson Hall for the duration of the renovation. And if you really want to talk about spending money “while the rest of the university is hemorrhaging $$$, cutting majors, and firing teachers,” it seems silly to argue the economics of simply NOT tearing down a building in the shadow of a $120 million dollar renovation.

  • klute
    01/26 01:22 AM

    I fragot that place even existed. Sorry if history sucks.

  • Aly Balagamwala - DiscoMaulvi
    01/26 02:54 AM

    I walked past by that building for 4 years! (Lived at Alexander Hall 1997-2001) Never knew (or noticed) that it was an architectural landmark!!

    I say out with it and in with the new!


  • RaleighRob
    01/26 09:40 AM

    NCSU has done a good job on much of its northern campus of renovating buildings instead of just knocking them down and starting over.  I don’t know why they wouldn’t consider that here….this building is pretty “young” compared to some others that they’ve renovated, so it should be easier (and cheaper) to do.

  • hackles10
    01/26 10:07 AM

    So Miller your argument is that it would cost less money to re-purpose this building than demo it?  I am sure as part of the project they need this space for construction, storage, machinery, etc.  Unless you want to plop all of this out front Carmichael Gym. 

    The “save everything” crowd is exhibiting a tired argument which patterns itself from the “little boy who cried wolf”  Start choosing some truly “great” buildings to rescue, not dumpy old bookstores!

  • Carl
    01/26 10:18 AM

    I got fired from that bookstore.

    My manager at that time already had it in for me for my living out loud neck tattoo choices of the cat n the hat riding an eightball.

    She caught me eating other people’s week old birthday cake out of the break room fridge.
    I was fired before day’s end.

    No one was trying to save an aging hipster on THAT day, I will tell you !

  • b-fuss
    01/26 10:29 AM

    It’s NCSU’s property and I agree with the argument that it’s not a Raleigh cultural issue. Let’s face it, it’s right in the middle of campus, 99.99% of Raleigh residents will never have the opportunity to see the place unless they’re on a mid-century architecture tour of Raleigh. It is a fine example of mid century architecture but I don’t think the building does the drawings justice. First of all, the huge willow oaks out front fuck with the scale and with Talley right up against it on the SE side it seems wedged in to me. Thirdly, like a disease it’s veneered in that awful featureless red brick that you can’t escape at NCSU.

    As for the cost of demolition, many demo companies do the work for cost minus the value of recyclables in the building. How’s that for “green?” I will say the zig-zag canopy on the street side would be cool to keep.

    01/26 05:01 PM

    Still not as terrible as Harrelson.  Cant wait til they tear that down.  I spent about 8 years in Harrelson (BS/MS in Applied Math).  I want to push the demo plunger.

  • TheMysteryCow
    01/26 05:27 PM

    Yeah… no. That building needs to go. The front is visually unique, but the rest of the building is a complete eyesore.

  • John Morris
    01/26 07:15 PM


    I respect your view that this structure is ugly and therefore not worth preserving. It’s clear you aren’t alone in your opinion.

    Ironically, the arguments being used in favor of demolition are nearly identical to the ones used by developers and modernist architects in the 1960s and 1970s prior to wiping out beautiful Victorian-era homes and businesses. We now wish we had more of them. History judges those assertions as as folly, and in 10-20 years I have no doubt the same will be true about this and the equally reviled Garland Jones Office Building.

    The argument isn’t that we should never demolish a building.  The argument is that buildings which possess history and character should be preserved to enhance the character of an environment. Furthermore, buildings designed by College of Design faculty are important in touting the history of the its rise to national prominence during that time period.

    I will leave the financial arguments aside, but I will echo Miller Taylor’s comment that it’s absurd to cite what renovation would cost because NCSU is in the middle of budget cuts and will be cutting faculty and programs. It’s getting demolished (and replaced with a “green space”) as a part of a $120 million building project a few feet away.

    When this building is gone, it’s gone—and NC State will have thrown away a valuable part of its history.

  • Matt
    01/27 09:26 AM

    I think the bookstore is a great example of modernist design by one of NC State COD masters.  However, to be fair, the building lost its character and original design years ago when it was renovated.  While doing a recent exhibition, I came across a photo of the bookstore when it was originally constructed.  The rear of the building mimicked the front and it had a much cleaner, less bulky, and somewhat Mies-ian feel to the entire building, like many of Milton Small’s designs.  However, with an addition and expansion towards the current Talley Student Center (a modernist building itself), most of the rear awning was destroyed and the rear stairwell was replaced with a loading dock and giant air handling/coolant systems (seen in the WRAL video).  This is what destroyed the building.  I love the original design, but the bookstore is no longer in that same condition.  While I don’t agree that the new Talley preserves any sort of “modernist design” from either the bookstore or Talley Student Center, I can’t argue that a modernist building that isn’t anymore should stick around.  Sorry Raleigh, NC State already ruined Mr. Small’s bookstore.

    Check the photo out for yourself on Historical State…

    There are many others too, search “NCSU Student Supply Store”.  These images are really the best way to remember the building.  Enjoy!

  • hackles10
    01/27 10:26 AM

    Thats sort of my point.  Everyone gets nostalgic @ a wake John.  “Jim was a wonderful guy”, “Hell of a friend”, etc.  The simple fact is that the university chose long ago to not keep this building up, so if you want…blame them for the demolition. It may have once been a great building…but its clearly not anymore. Any perceived “importance” in displaying NCSU’s design history is far outweighed by the embarrassment that building causes to all who visit campus.  It really is detrimental to our goals as a modern university.  Can you imagine a top notch prospective student walking around Centennial campus, then stopping by the bookstore on the way home for a T-Shirt.  Go visit Notre Dame, or UGA, those universities have plenty of history, and they also have brand new, state of the art bookstores. 
    If you really wanted that place saved, you should have started holding bake sales and demanding funds be used on upkeep 20 years ago.  The university has let it rot, and any chance to save it at this point is silly. 
    By the way, I am no contractor, but is your argument that completely renovating and re-purposing that building is less expensive than throwing a wrecking ball at it, because that seems to be what you are saying.

  • Miller Taylor
    01/27 10:38 AM

    Matt: That’s a very good point about the damage done by the renovation.  The building definitely isn’t the modernist icon it once was, though I still would prefer it re-purposed before being turned to pastureland.

    Here is a project by architect Marlon Blackwell that dealt with a very similar issue.  He was challenged with converting a Miesan, 1960s Library by a prominent local architect (which had already seen 2 additions/renovations) into a functional office space:

    Considering some of the high quality renovation work done on Leazer Hall and Park Shops, maybe even our damaged, modernist supply store could once again prove more valuable than a grassy plain.

  • Matt
    01/27 11:08 AM

    Miller: I agree, it would be great to re-purpose the building into a much better use.  However, having seen the vision of the new Talley Student Center, I know that the new design will very much impose upon the current site of the bookstore. (There is a portion of the new building there, not to mention a huge underground loading dock.)  It would be much better to incorporate the bookstore into the new Talley Student Center than to have the new Talley tower over and impose its will upon such a modest modernist example.

    I hate that it has to happen, but the decision is already made.  The best we can do now is remember the original design, purpose and tell others of how beautiful it once was.  Get out your cameras folks, its time to capture history while its still here!

  • Eric
    01/27 06:04 PM

    I for one am very happy with the decision for this building to be torn down and made into a green space. NCSU has a very small number of these. When the new Talley/bookstore is built it will absorb, in my opinion, one of the nicest on campus. The fact that the current bookstore will be torn down and the vacant space will be turned into a replacement green area is a very good thing. I love NC State, but I could do with a bit of a break from the red brick.

    Not to mention the bookstore is an incredibly ugly building (after renovations). It’s one thing for people to argue it’s historical relevance and value, but they aren’t the ones that live within a stone’s throw of it and have to walk past it every day. Personally, I can’t wait to see something new.

  • LoneVoice
    01/31 08:43 PM

    I use the bookstore only for the ATM. I’ve walked there from my house, and I’ve driven there, too. I have never noticed the architecture as being unique or pretty. It’s just “there.”

    Tearing it down and integrating the bookstore into Tally would seem like a good thing to me.

    Change is inevitable. Sometimes, you can carry the past with you. Other times, you have to learn how to let go.

    As for Cameron Village; it got its facelift because of North Hills. I remember the blue bubble Cameron Village, and it definitely needed to go.

  • frank
    01/31 09:44 PM

    such fond memories of dorm mates plotting how to shoplift their semester’s textbooks from the shelves. Although one had the amazing skill to be able to steal a textbook and sell it back to the bookstore for his weekend beer money.

  • Trish
    03/06 09:04 PM

    I’m a student.  Get rid of that building.

  • Bill
    03/14 08:52 AM

    Are you people mad?  This eyesore which in no way serves as a decent focal point needs to be leveled and replaced with inviting, pleasing, and useable space.

    This building is not a Modernist Landmark.  Get off the hipster train.

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