Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Wake Wednesday - Raleigh Little Theater & Rose Garden, Old Fairgrounds, and Camp Polk

What could these three Raleigh icons have in common? Why the very ground they sat on! This parcel of land between Hillsborough, Horne and Brooks streets was home to all three.

The Old State Fairgrounds was established in 1873 and hosted the fair until 1925. 

At the outset of World War 1, the large flat expanse of land that was the Fairgrounds was appropriated for military housing and training as it made an excellent site for tank maneuvers.

At the end of the war the Fairground activities were in full swing again and two racetracks were built on the site. Over time, the financial burden of second racetrack resulted in the sale of the land to create the Fairmont subdivision,  but portions of that land proved too sunken and muddy for building. 

The City of Raleigh bought these compromised sites to create a park and the rose garden. The theater was built in the mid-1930s. 

As a frequent visitor to the Raleigh Little Theater Rose Garden, I was very surprised to learn this important and varied history of the ground we tread as we "stop to smell the roses."  Let me direct your attention to the history page at the Raleigh Little Theater website. Now, you can appreciate this little corner of  Wake County in all its iterations - military, agricultural, fun, festive, horticultural and theatrical!

Tanks drill at Camp Polk in the future
location of the rose beds

Map showing the double race tracks, circa 1920
Courtesy Wake County Register of Deeds

Raleigh Little Theater Rose Garden in full glory

Visit Wake County Genealogical Society's Website - 


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