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Created as a planned city in 1792, the area we now know as Raleigh, North Carolina had a handful of sparse settlements as early as the 1760s. Enterprising landholders like Isaac Hunter and Joel Lane owned large tracts of farmland and operated taverns and ordinaries near their homes to accommodate travelers along the main north-south route cutting through central North Carolina. Called Wake Crossroads, this primitive outpost provided a foundation for Raleigh's future development. By the late 1780s, North Carolina's general assembly recognized a need for a permanent location to conduct state government. Prior to this time, the state's seat of government had been hosted by several existing cities. Rather than select one of these communities, the legislature decided to build a new city that was more centrally located within the state. Eight commissioners were appointed to choose the new capital's location. On March 30, 1792, the commissioners purchased 1,000 acres from Wake County landowner Joel Lane and a city plan was quickly developed.
The city of Raleigh grew slowly, with state government initially its primary focus. The opening of the original State House in 1794 provided not only a physical location for governmental business but also a center for the community's social life. Over time inns, taverns, dry-goods stores, coffin houses and brickyards were established to support the burgeoning capital city. Until the Civil War these businesses catered mostly to retail customers, providing both services and basic needs. Fayetteville Street quickly became Raleigh's commercial core as storefronts began to replace residences along the blocks south of the State Capitol. In addition to downtown commerce, a handful of mills and new ventures, like the Raleigh & Gaston Railroad, completed the composition of early Raleigh.
Raleigh emerged from the Civil War unscathed physically and a new era unfolded. Although there was an effort to establish a manufacturing base in Raleigh with cotton mills and other industries, Raleigh did not develop into a manufacturing mecca. Retail, however, flourished and a plethora of family-owned businesses dominated the downtown district. 19th century Raleigh witnessed a wave of publishing enterprises as newspapers, printers and bookbinders became an important means of communication and advertising. As the century progressed and the industrial revolution brought new technology to Raleigh, innovations like the Raleigh Street Railway, the Raleigh Waterworks and electric lights on Fayetteville Street fundamentally altered the city's way of life.