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History of Moore Square

Last Modified: May 25, 2010
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The Raleigh Historic Districts Commission (RHDC) is funding a report on Moore Square's physical and cultural landscape. The report will provide a historical context for participants in the Moore Square Design Public Process Open Call for Ideas and Juried Conceptual Design Competition. To document the history of Moore Square, the report will use the palimpsest method, which identifies periods of a landscape's life by creating maps that can be viewed either stand-alone by period, or overlaid to show all periods.

The initial rough draft report is under review by the RHDC's Research Committee and is scheduled for acceptance by the Commission at its May 19 meeting; it is also to be reviewed by State of North Carolina (owner of Moore Square) prior to release. The report will document the following periods:

1792-1812: Origin

  • Began with William Christmas plan in 1792
  • Square named after Alfred E. Moore, State Attorney General (1782 - 1791)
  • Residential in nature for its first 100 years
  • Square used as a gathering space covered with oaks and crisscrossing informal paths

1812-1866: Institutional

  • Nicknamed "Baptist Grove" due to location of church with integrated congregation on Square; Episcopalian congregation also utilized "Christian Chapel"
  • African-American members of Baptist Grove Church moved structure off Square, with the condition that it always be used for worship by African Americans
  • Establishment of Eastern Ward School; anyone with funds for books invited to attend; later became the NC Literary, Scientific, and Military Academy, which performed military drills on Square
  • First presence of buildings on Square


1866-1914: Transitional

  • Union African-American soldiers utilized Square for sleeping quarters for 5 years
  • Square used as temporary farmers market
  • Formal design with cross and diagonal walks implemented
  • Commercial district along Hargett and Wilmington streets expanded toward areas adjacent to Square
  • Property adjacent to Square became residential and commercial in nature
  • Square became city's most popular park


1914-1964: Commercial

  • Harrison Library established itself as a central feature in local African-American culture, serving as a repository of African-American history and culture, and promoting African-American literature and music
  • African-American owned businesses on "Black Main Street" stretched along Hargett toward Moore Square
  • City Market located adjacent to Square; historically significant as an integrated space
  • Impromptu paths linking surrounding uses appeared, with decline of formal cross form
    Decline of Moore Square began with rise of suburbanization


1964-2009: Communal

  • Efforts to revitalize the city began, which included festivals held in Moore Square beginning in the 1970s
  • Moore Square Art District, Moore Square National Register Historic District, and local Moore Square Historic District created
  • Removal of cross form walk, impromptu paths made permanent, addition of curvilinear walks
  • Moore Square Middle School and Exploris Museum and charter school located adjacent to Square
  • Farmers Market returned

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