From a gothic cathedral to space-age arena, your guide to some of North Carolina’s most memorable structures.
Throughout North Carolina, our most recognizable buildings are more than just landmarks—many are also architectural icons. And these acclaimed buildings go beyond well-known structures like the Biltmore Estate and the North Carolina Capitol Building, with smaller-town sites also capturing the architectural and historical legacy of this state.
Reynolds Building, Winston-Salem
Built in 1929 to house the offices of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., the Art Deco Reynolds Building served as a prototype for the Empire State Building, which was designed two years later by the same architectural firm. Today, you can book a room at its present-day use as the Kimpton Cardinal boutique hotel. There, those Art Deco flourishes of sleek geometric pattern details, metallic finishes and polished marble floors set the scene as a luxurious spot to relax and explore Winston-Salem.
Bertie County Courthouse, Windsor
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Bertie County Courthouse stands as a shining example of Neoclassical architecture. Built in 1889, the brick building, now painted white, features a gable roof topped with a polygonal cupola. The columned front portico, expanded in 1941, gives the building a stately air befitting its role in the community.
J.S. Dorton Arena, Raleigh
Designed by an N.C. State University architectural professor in 1952, the elliptical-shaped Dorton Arena on the NC State Fairgrounds in Raleigh was the first structure in the world to use a cable-supported roof. Parabolic concrete arches anchor tension cables that equalize the weight of the metal roof, eliminating the need for structural supports and leaving no seat obstructed. Since its opening, the arena has hosted everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Prince to presidential candidates, as well as concerts held during the annual State Fair.
Roanoke Rapids High School, Roanoke Rapids
Designed by architect Hobart Upjohn, who designed notable buildings across North Carolina and New York, the Roanoke Rapids High School cost 10 times the average high school building in the state. And for good reason. Built in 1921, the looming Tudor Revival- and Gothic-style building was designed to resemble Cambridge and Oxford universities in England. The three-and-a-half-story brick structure boasts a gabled roof and a projecting, crenellated entrance tower that exudes European grandeur. Come see for yourself why Architectural Digest named it the most beautiful high school in North Carolina.
Tryon Palace, New Bern
Originally built between 1767 and 1770 as the first permanent capital of the North Carolina colony and home to royal governor William Tryon and his family, Tryon Palace was consumed by a 1798 fire that destroyed all but two buildings in the complex. But during the 1930s, a discovery of the plans for the house led to the restoration of the palace on its original footprint, recapturing the austere, symmetrical Georgian design emblematic of late-1700s architecture. Today, visitors can explore the restored palace, complete with English period furnishings sourced according to an inventory of possessions created by Governor Tryon following the fire.
An example of Federal-style architecture—which is distinguished by flat, smooth facades and plain surfaces—the Boggan-Hammond House was built in 1787 by Revolutionary War veteran Patrick Boggan, who was one of the founders of Wadesboro. The two-story frame Alexander Little Wing was added in 1839, and during the 20th century, the original one-story house was separated from the wing and moved behind it. Visitors can tour both sections of the home, which operates as a museum outfitted with original furnishings and decor.
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