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.