Oakwood is Raleigh's only intact 19th-century neighborhood. It was the first area in the city to be listed in the National Register, and is Raleigh's oldest and largest local historic district. The development of Oakwood began shortly after the Civil War. The locally prominent Mordecai family donated a tract east of the city as a cemetery for Confederate soldiers; in 1869, a larger, private cemetery, named Oakwood, was chartered immediately adjoining it.
Sales of residential parcels just to the west, in the wooded area known as Mordecai Grove, began at about the same time. Development was slow but steady, with the majority of residences built between 1890 and 1930. Reflecting this extended construction period, homes display a diversity of architectural styles including Queen Anne, Second Empire, Classical Revival and Bungalow. The narrow lots, small front yards, large front porches and tree-lined sidewalks unify and give an intimacy to this diverse residential district.
Two lot-sized parks and a small commercial area are also located within the approximately 25-block neighborhood. Oakwood's original residents mostly plied middle class trades, walking to work in the nearby downtown. Following World War I, however, as the automobile came into general use and more fashionable neighborhoods developed on Raleigh's outskirts, many second generation families moved away. Numerous residences were subsequently divided into apartments or rooming houses. Upkeep often lagged, and by mid-century the area seemed destined for urban renewal. Around 1970, however, the renovation of several houses sparked an interest in neighborhood revitalization. The announcement in 1972 of plans for a major thoroughfare through the heart of Oakwood united residents, and the Society for the Preservation of Historic Oakwood was formed. The thoroughfare plan was ultimately thwarted and neighborhood revitalization continues. Oakwood is now one of Raleigh's major tourist attractions. It is a tangible reminder of Southern urban life during the 19th and early 20th centuries, but is also a vital modern community.
Oakwood Historic District, directly east of the Executive Mansion, is roughly bounded by Person St. on the west, Franklin St. on the north, Watauga and Linden sts. on the east, and Edenton and Morson sts. on the south. Walking tour maps are available at the Raleigh Capital Area Visitor Services, located in the lobby of the North Carolina Museum of History at 5 E. Edenton St. For further information visit the neighborhood's website, which includes information on the Annual Garden Tour and December's Candlelight Tour. Oakwood Cemetery is open to visitors daily, from 8:00am to 5:00pm in the winter, and until 6:00pm the rest of the year.
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