A Stroll Down Memory Lane A.K.A. 230 Fayetteville St.

As our Coalmarch family grew, so did our need for a new home. In March 2014, Coalmarch made the gigantic move from Wilmington Street to Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh. If you’re not familiar with the area, .1 miles stand between the former and current location of our agency. History is prevalent among the streets of the Oak City and our home at 230 Fayetteville St. is no exception. Below, we’ll revisit the history of the Coalmarch Productions stomping ground and the impact it has made on the building we live in approximately 25% of our daily lives.

Coalmarch Productions is housed in the original Carolina Trust Bank Building constructed in 1902. When I walked through the doors on my very first day at Coalmarch, I was blown away at the place I would be spending 40+ hours a week. There is something to be said about a city and specifically a building that houses one hundred plus years of hard work and contribution to a community.

Featuring Classical Revival detail and high ceilings, our four-story brick landmark was home to several businesses including the National Cash Register Company, Red Cross, and several medical and insurance companies in its early days. The detail has been preserved and is one of the many things we Coalmarchers enjoy about our home away from home.

The beginning of an era.

In 1928, the building was sold to McLellan’s Stores, a thriving five and dime chain that was founded by Scottish owner William McLellan, for $250,000. Five and dime stores were extremely popular during this time, featuring a variety of merchandise that was affordable to immigrants and rural Americans moving to the cities.

Merchandise during the early days included toys, sewing supplies, stationery, glassware -- pretty much anything you could think to grab and may not necessarily find in a department store. Candy and toiletries became popular for consumers as time went on, making a quick trip to McLellan’s a prime spot for children. Following the title closely, most items available for purchase were either five or ten cents. To put things into perspective, the 1935 nickel and dime have a value of $0.75 and $1.50 in today’s world. If you’re thinking “dollar stores” as a 2015 comparison to the early twentieth century five and dime, you would be correct!

In the first year of McLellan’s operation in 1928, a two-story rear addition reached Salisbury Street and then later, in 1932, the entire building was combined with our neighbor, the Mahler building. Today, this houses “The Mahler Fine Art,” a gallery devoted to emerging and established artists. By 1933, McLellan’s grew to over 200 stores, but control was obtained by the United Stores Corporation shortly after the Great Depression forced the company into bankruptcy.

Civil Rights in Raleigh.

Under the same name, McLellan’s flourished in the original Carolina Trust building until the early 1960s when McCrory’s, a similar five and dime chain, purchased the flailing business. Five and dime stores such as McCrory’s included lunch counters that were frequented by hungry patrons. This became a popular staple for five and dime stores, drawing customers to eat as well as shop. Typical menu items included hot and cold sandwiches (grilled cheese, BLT, ham and cheese, egg salad, etc), soups, ice cream, soda, coffee, and more. If McCrory’s lunch counter existed today, you better believe our Coalmarch Thursday “fun lunch” would be sippin’ on a milkshake and chatting as we enjoy a melty grilled cheese. 

As years passed, five and dime stores in Raleigh became a popular venue for the Civil Rights movement due to segregated lunch counters. Home to two of the most prominent African American schools, Raleigh’s Shaw University and St. Augustine’s College students led a peaceful protest in Raleigh by participating in sit-ins at McCrory’s and other five and dime lunch counters in the area. This movement started just up the road in Greensboro when four African American male students from NC A&T were refused service at the “whites only” lunch counter of Woolworth’s. They remained in their seats until the store closed that night and were accompanied by 20 more black students the following day. Because of these efforts by an empowering group of individuals, Raleigh businesses integrated in 1964! What an awesome piece of history that lives directly underneath the floors of Coalmarch Productions.

Transition to the ‘burbs.

During the next two decades, construction of shopping centers such as Cameron Village and North Hills gradually caused large stores to move to the suburbs and strip downtown of it’s retail shine. To combat this restructuring, McCrory’s decided to remodel the storefront of the building in 1971 - trying to hide the fact that the store was actually two buildings - if you remember from earlier. This was done in the form of a metal architectural screen - typical of the 1970s (and rather unappealing if you want to know my opinion).

In 1978, the city took matters into their own hands and closed off Fayetteville Street to create a “pedestrian mall” that resembled the popular suburban establishments. All traffic through the street was removed and the idea of providing that “suburban mall feel” failed to deliver the desired effect. Ultimately, five and dime stores began to phase out and local investors purchased the building from McCrory’s in 1998. The architectural screen was removed and the building was rehabilitated to feature the beautiful original detail that is present today. The next year, the building was designated a historic landmark by the Wake County Historic Preservation Commission.

Life as we know it.

In 2000, the facade was renovated and a remastered wood storefront with transom windows was installed. The upper floors that had been closed off for decades were reintroduced to natural light and feature plaster walls, hardwood floors, exposed brick, and other classic details of the original time period. In 2012, the Board of Directors of Capital Area Preservation awarded Empire Properties, the current owners of the Carolina Trust Building, with the Anthemion Award for the commercial rehabilitation of the building.

Today, dozens of city goers walk in and out the front door of 230 Fayetteville Street without clear knowledge of the millions of others who took those same steps for over one hundred years. Hopefully, through this post you find the bond you have with those people, and you will find and appreciate the legacy that you will leave for generations to come. Here at Coalmarch, we value the place we call home five days a week. We hope our contribution to the community will make a lasting impression on Fayetteville St. and Raleigh as whole.