Yarborough House: The Place to be Seen

Olde Raleigh

July, 28, 2008, by Ladye Jane

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With all the talk about the end of Yancy’s, and what might become of that space, it’s interesting to take a look at the importance in Raleigh history that piece of land holds. The area of Fayetteville Street that houses Yancy’s and The Hudson used to be home to one of the most popular spots in the city.

If you were involved in politics, or were a socialite in the mid-nineteenth century Raleigh community, then you spent a lot of time at THE place to see and be seen, the Yarborough House (also spelled Yarbrough and sometimes Yarboro). The hotel opened in 1850 on the 300 block of Fayetteville Street, and its close proximity to the courthouse made it a prime place for after-hours business meetings. Called the “unofficial political and social center of the capital,” some people joked that more laws were written there than in the actual politicians’ offices.

At the end of the Civil War, General Sherman and his troops had camped out at the Governor’s Palace, which was located at the southern end of Fayetteville Street. When the union troops finally left the city, the returning governor refused to stay in the palace (it had been tainted by Sherman and his troops) and it was burned to the ground. Until a new governor’s home was built in 1891, several North Carolina governors, including Thomas J. Jarvis and Alfred Moore Scales, took up residence in the Yarborough House. This all but secured the Yarborough House as the most exclusive place to lodge, eat, or socialize. Visitors traveled for many miles just to stay a few nights at the city’s finest establishment. Guests of the hotel included US Presidents Andrew Johnson, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson.

The hotel’s popularity began to wane in the 1920s when an even swankier joint was built in 1924: the Hotel Sir Walter. On July 3, 1928 the Yarborough house caught fire and was damaged beyond repair. The remains were demolished to make way for new businesses (including an expansion of the Hudson Belk department store). No business in Raleigh has ever been able to recapture the vibrance the Yarborough experienced in its prime.


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  • Mark Turner
    07/29 02:43 PM

    Actually, them Yankees didn’t destroy the Governor’s Palace. We’ve got years of prior neglect to thank for that.

    From the State Archives:

    General William T. Sherman and his staff were quartered in the Palace during the spring of 1865. Although as unwelcome guests they may have injured the pride of local citizens, occupying forces caused only minor damage. Years of neglect, however, had made the Palace unattractive to governors and their families. During the Reconstruction period and until the completion of the present Mansion in 1891, successive chief executives resided in Raleigh, living in rented houses, or hotel rooms, or—during two administrations—in their own homes. From 1871 to 1891, a noted Raleigh hotel, the Yarborough House, served as the unofficial residence for several governors.

    What I’m now trying to find is info on the governor’s mansion that used to reside on the corner of Hargett and Fayetteville Streets, where CVS is now.


  • ladye jane
    07/29 04:21 PM

    I didn’t say the union soldiers destroyed the residence…above it states that it happened after the union troops had left :)

    The governor’s residence that was on the corner of Fayetteville and Hargett was an existing home that was purchased in 1797 from Dr. Redmond Dillion. It was purchased for 788 pounds, and was presumed to be one of the first homes built in Raleigh (and one of the only with two-stories). If you’re looking for more info, check out Elizabeth Reid Murray’s book WAKE: Capital County of North Carolina.

  • Mark Turner
    07/29 04:25 PM

    Well, I meant “destroyed” as in “defiled.” The place was apparently a firetrap before Gen. Sherman got there.

    Thanks for the info on the guvnor’s house. I’ll check out the book!


  • Ashton
    07/29 06:50 PM

    check out some other pictures that archives put on flickr - including this one of the yarborough house:


  • Lee Moore
    07/29 10:10 PM

    This is great to see the old connecting to the new.  Thanks Ladye Jane and Mark.  Just a note:  The Governor’s House was used as a school called Centennial School in the time between the “Yankees” and the final destruction.  Given the name, my guess is it started in 1872.
    How wonderful to have the archives on flicker!

  • ClubPenguinCheats
    05/30 11:41 PM

    It was purchased for 788 pounds, and was presumed to be one of the first homes built in Raleigh (and one of the only with two-stories).

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