The Mordecai House is the oldest residence in Raleigh on its original foundation. Closely associated with the founding Lane family, the property is representative of the plantations that once dominated the local landscape. In recent years, the building has also come to symbolize public commitment to local historic preservation. At one time the house was the seat of one of the largest farms in Wake County, encompassing more than 5,000 acres. The oldest portion of the home was built about 1785 by Joel Lane for his son Henry. Seven years later, Joel Lane sold 1,000 acres immediately south of the house to the state as the site of the new capital city of Raleigh.
The house takes its name from Moses Mordecai, who twice married into the family of Henry Lane--first to daughter Margaret and after her death to her sister Ann. Before his death in 1824, Moses Mordecai hired William Nichols, then State Architect, to enlarge the original house. This addition is considered a significant work of Nichols, who had previously overseen the remodeling of the State House. In 1826, with the completion of the four new rooms, the Mordecai house was transformed into a Greek Revival mansion. The Mordecai family was prominent in local and state affairs. Jacob, Moses' father, founded a girls' school in Warrenton, North Carolina. Moses was a prominent lawyer and member of the 1805 Court of Conference. Moses Mordecai had two sons, Henry and Jacob, and one daughter, Ellen, by his first wife and one daughter, Margaret, by his second. Henry was a prosperous planter at Mordecai House and served in the State Legislature. His daughter Margaret and her descendants owned and occupied Mordecai House until 1967.
Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, the subdivision and sale of Mordecai lands helped feed Raleigh's expansion as a city. In 1867, Henry Mordecai donated a wooded parcel east of the city to establish a Confederate cemetery; another plot became the county's first Hebrew Cemetery. The adjacent Oakwood Cemetery, chartered in 1869, eventually lent its name to the large suburb that developed in the adjoining wooded land, earlier known as Mordecai Grove. In 1974, Oakwood became the first neighborhood in Raleigh to be listed in the National Register
Sales of Mordecai property continued until 1967, when the house and its surrounding block were put on the market. Spurred by local preservationists, the city purchased the property, turning it over to the Raleigh Historic Sites Commission to supervise and develop as a historic park. The commission was able to obtain many original Mordecai furnishings, as well as preserve the family papers and library. Mordecai Square Historic Park is now managed by City of Raleigh's Parks and Recreation Department. The Mordecai House is a designated Raleigh Historic Landmark.
Mordecai House is located at 1 Mimosa St. in the Mordecai Square Historic Park, about one half mile north of the State Capitol, just off Wake Forest Rd. It is open to the public Tuesday-Saturday from 9:00am to 4:00pm, and Sunday from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. Tours begin on the hour, with the last one departing at 3:00pm; closed major holidays. There is a fee for guided tours. For further information call 919-857-4364 or visit house's website.
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