The History of Raleigh Memorial Auditorium #NCT30

May 23, 2014

As we celebrate 30 years of NCT, we also reflect on over 200 years of history at the historic landmark we call "home."

We are deeply grateful for our generous sponsors, donors, and patrons who have been with us throughout our 30 year history.  As we celebrate 30 years of NCT, we also reflect on over 200 years of history at the historic landmark we call "home."  The site, now known as the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, has seen many iterations in its two centuries, but the significance of the land and the events that take place here has remained the same.

Whether it is your first time in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, or you have been coming with your loved ones for many decades, you are part of this story.


1813 – The Governor’s Palace was built upon this site, and it was the first house for the Governor of NC here in Raleigh.  It housed the leaders and their families until April of 1865, when General Sherman seized it during the Civil War. 



1876 - The building was sold to the City of Raleigh and turned into the second graded school in North Carolina.  It became Raleigh's first public school. 


1913 - Raleigh was being threatened that the title of “State Capitol” would be given to Greensboro unless they could provide a space large enough to accommodate Party Conventions, so the building changed functions again and was expanded, replacing the original City Auditorium.  On October 24, 1930, the building tragically burned down during the Negro State Fair Marshall’s Ball. 


1932 - Rebuilding began a year after the fire, and the cornerstone was laid on January 19th for the newly named 'Memorial Auditorium.'  Memorial Auditorium served as a memorial to the soldiers that died in WWI.  The first big event in the new facility was the state Democratic Party Convention that was held in June of that same year, and the official building dedication was on August 14th.  A copper box is in the cornerstone and contains a sketch of the old Governor’s Palace, a photograph of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate battle flag from the Civil War, a copy of the Old North State song, a newspaper, and a reproduction of the 1792 William Christmas map of the city. 

A fire station was also built directly under the stage of the new Memorial Auditorium.   This building was considered the city's largest expense since the Great Depression, costing around $310,000 to construct.  The Auditorium hosted a myriad of events throughout the years including NC State basketball games, a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., and many debutant balls.  Memorial Auditorium was renovated in 1963, and again in 1977. 


1990 – Memorial Auditorium went through a $10.5 million dollar renovation that updated the building, but still preserved the outside appearance.

2000 – A Performing Arts Center was born when the plans for construction on Meymandi Hall and Fletcher Auditorium were revealed to go on both sides of Memorial Auditorium. These halls could accommodate the types of performances that the original auditorium could not - Meymandi was designed for improved sound for the Symphony, while Fletcher was created for a more intimate setting for opera and ballet performances. The Kennedy Theater was born from an old rehearsal space in the back of the original auditorium, and transformed to hold experimental and nontraditional black box performances.                                                  


Today – North Carolina Theatre produces and presents the world’s most beloved musicals in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, featuring a unique blend of Broadway actors and local talent, thanks to its beloved supporters and the City of Raleigh.

Check back for more stories as our 30th Anniversary celebration continues!  And don't forget to share YOUR favorite NCT memories! Click here to share yours!