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Good night Raleigh | A view of the city’s art, architecture, history and people at night

Back in May, we presented a mini-series of postcards with the seven government buildings that surround Capitol Square. This week’s Flashback Friday postcard is the second in the series – the State Administration Building, built in 1913. It is now known as the Ruffin Building and is home to the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

Supreme Court Bldg_back_web

Traveling long distances by car must have been an arduous feat in the early days, as ‘Fred’ indicates in this 1920 message to ‘Mother’.

December 5th ’20
Dear mother
Well, we had a little bit of bad luck today. We broke a couple of ball rings [sic] by doing [illegible] Rad. But we fixed it right away. We got as far as Rockingham, NC. Tomorrow we’re leaving for Columbia, SC. We’re all fine and we’ve seen a lot of the world. We set off near Fargot [sic]The day of the week.
(from Fred)

In my own experience, an extended road trip can certainly create a feeling of “wasted” time – I wonder where in the world Fred et al. were on their way, and if they got there at all!

An architectural masterpiece of the early 20th century

The State Administration Building was designed by the talented Atlanta architect P. Thornton Marye. It was built in 1913 to house the NC State Supreme Court, Court Law Library, State Library, North Carolina Historical Commission, and state administrative offices.

The architectural style combines Beaux Arts classicism with the characteristics of the Second Renaissance Revival. The building is made of reinforced concrete and masonry and is clad in Indiana limestone with granite cladding. Frank B. Simpson of Raleigh was the lead architect on site.

North Carolina State Archives Photo

North Carolina State Archives Photo

Above is the new administration building as it appeared in 1914. The elegant courtroom took up the space behind the tall windows seen here on the third floor. Below is a section with street level granite details.

Photo credit: John Morris

Photo credit: John Morris

Marye made several contributions to Raleigh’s architectural integrity in the early 20th century. He also designed Raleigh’s City Hall and Auditorium (1910), the Commercial National Bank (1912), and the Wake County Courthouse (1915), all of which, unfortunately, are now lost.

A bronze statue of former Chief Justice Thomas Ruffin (from 1833 to 1852) was commissioned by the legislature and placed in a niche in the entrance loggia on Morgan Street in 1915. It was designed by the New York sculptor Francis H. Packer also designed the statue of the Spanish-American war hero Worth Bagley, which was erected in Capitol Square in 1907.

Thos Ruffin

Thomas Ruffin, Chief Justice of the NC State Supreme Court, 1833-1852.

In 1940, the NC State Supreme Court moved to the new Justice Building, located across from what was formerly Fayetteville Street. The former administration building was later renamed the Ruffin building.

The State Court of Appeals, North Carolina’s second highest court, stayed in the old building. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the State Art Society, forerunner of the North Carolina Museum of Art, used the vast interior space as an exhibition hall.

North Carolina State Archives Photo

North Carolina State Archives Photo

An exhibition with Bard photographs and Currier and Ives prints shared the space in the Ruffin building in 1949.

A major renovation and restoration

After decades of changes and harmless neglect, the building was extensively renovated for 18 months in 2008 and 2009. Chief Justice John C. Martin noted that “The aim from the start has been to marry the historic features of this beautiful old building with the efficiency and utility of a modern office building. “

Improvements included upgrading offices with telecommunications and internet connections, installing energy efficient heating and cooling systems, ADA accommodations, and installing elevators.

Although Mayre’s original monumental staircase was removed, it was replaced with a new grand staircase lit by a skylight four floors above the lobby level.

An aesthetic highlight of the renovation was the careful restoration of the original courtroom on the third floor. The plaster ceiling was restored by an internationally recognized subcontractor whose experience included restoration work at Buckingham Palace.

The Ruffin building was inaugurated in January 2010.

The photo below shows the beautifully restored courtroom on the third floor.


The photos below show details of the intricate workmanship of the courtroom’s painted plaster ceilings.



(Courtroom photos by Raleigh Boy)

The Ruffin building is open for tours when the court is not present. To tour the restored courtroom and learn more about the renovation of the building, contact Court Marshall Dick Ellis at 919.831.3601 [email protected]

North Carolina State Archives Photo

North Carolina State Archives Photo

This photo shows the new administration building in 1914. I wonder if GNR readers can identify the masonry structure shown in the foreground in Capitol Square.

Our “White Border” postcard from Flashback Friday this week was published by longtime Raleigh stationery retailer James E. Thiem Sr. and printed by Curt Teich C. of Chicago under the trade name “CT American Art Colored”.

Curt Teich Co. 1893-1974 Chicago, Illinois

A major publisher and printer. Their US factories had more cards than any other printer. They published a wide variety of national sight maps of America and Canada. Many consider her one of the best manufacturers of white border cards. The linen-type postcard was born from their innovations when they pioneered the use of offset lithography. They were purchased in 1974 by Regensteiner Publishers, who printed maps at the Chicago plant until 1978.

Curt Teich logo

“Flashback Friday” is a weekly feature from Goodnight, Raleigh! in which we show vintage postcards depicting our historic capital. We wish you a lot of fun on the weekend!

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