City of Oaks by Joshua Ingersoll
Joshua is attorney Shaun A. Ingersoll’s youngest son who presently works as the Assistant Park Manager of Education at Historic Oak View County Park in Raleigh. Joshua earned his Undergraduate Degree in History from UNC Chapel Hill and received his Master’s Degree in Public History from North Carolina State University. All photos are courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina.
Located in Raleigh, the Ingersoll Law Practice is fortunate to call the beautiful “City of Oaks” its home. As North Carolina’s capital, Raleigh has long been a center of commerce and influence in the State and is one of the few early state capitals to be a planned city. Raleigh’s origins date back to the late 1700s. Following the Revolutionary War, North Carolinians decided they needed a new capital city. While New Bern was a prosperous coastal city, many State congressmen from the mountains were forced to travel long distances to attend meetings. As a result the State Legislature decided in the 1780’s to build a new capital city in the middle of the State. At the time, there was nothing in this area but a few farms and crossroads, so the State commissioned William Christmas to draft a plan for a new centrally located city to be built allowing easier access for all residents. They named the city after Sir Walter Raleigh who had funded the initial settlement, Roanoke Colony. Even though he never set foot in North Carolina, North Carolinians considered Sir Walter Raleigh to be the spiritual founder of the State. From the beginning, Raleigh was planned to be a “natural city”. William Christmas designed Raleigh to contain a park on each of the four corners of the city, two of which remain today.
President Andrew Johnson
While Raleigh has had its share of notable natives, few can match the fame of the 17th U.S. President, Andrew Johnson. Born to a soon-to-be widowed laundress in a small Raleigh cabin in 1808, Andrew Johnson’s earliest years were a struggle simply to survive. Because food was scarce, Andrew Johnson was apprenticed by his mother to a tailor at the age of ten. Tiring of the difficult life as a tailor’s apprentice, he ran away and eventually moved to Tennessee and opened his own tailor shop. Discovering a passion for politics, Johnson would eventually run for and win positions as a congressman and governor of Tennessee. When the Civil War began, Johnson found himself in a difficult position. Although the State of Tennessee voted to secede from the Union, Johnson decided to stay in the U.S. Senate and refused to join the Confederacy. His actions greatly impressed Abraham Lincoln who decided to choose Johnson as his running mate for the 1864 election. By this time, the Civil War was coming to a close, and Lincoln hoped that choosing a Southerner as his Vice President would help the United States heal following the devastating conflict. Unfortunately, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated soon after winning the election, and Johnson, a Southerner, became President of the United States immediately following the Civil War. Viewed as a traitor by both Northerners and Southerners alike, Johnson would become the first president to be impeached and the only president to be removed from office. Despite the criticisms he received at the time, he was a conciliatory man before his time and Raleigh still claims him as our own. His birthplace has become part of a local historic site at Mordecai Historic Park in downtown Raleigh.
State Capital Building
One of the most iconic buildings in the State, North Carolina’s State Capital Building stands at the center of Raleigh’s downtown area. Built in 1840, the State Capitol’s Greek Revival Style reflects the architecture of the time and remains one of the finest examples of the style used in a public building in the United States. While originally the State Capitol housed all the major functions of the North Carolina government, in 1888 the North Carolina Supreme Court moved out of the building and in 1963 the North Carolina Legislature followed suit. Despite a growing infrastructure, both the Governor and Lieutenant Governor continue to call this beautiful building their home, and the Capitol continues to proudly represent the State to all who visit.
Historic Oak View Park
Not far from downtown at Historic Oak View County Park, stands the only remaining house of the four Wake County delegates to the North Carolina Constitutional Convention in 1868. In order for North Carolina to regain their statehood following the Civil War, North Carolinians voted on representatives who were tasked with rewriting the State Constitution to ban slavery and allow formerly enslaved people to vote. Benton Williams, an outspoken Unionist during the Civil War, was selected to represent the rural people of Wake County and was influential in creating the State Constitution used today. Historic Oak View County Park is home to several historic buildings including Benton Williams’ home, a large pecan grove, five very friendly goats, and multiple trails and ponds. With a mission to teach about North Carolina’s agricultural history focusing on the late 1800s, Oak View’s programs, special events, and exhibits teach visitors about North Carolina’s rural heritage.
Research Triangle Park
In the past 100 years, few events have shaped modern Raleigh as significantly as the creation of the Research Triangle Park. Built in 1959, the Research Triangle Park helped to bring Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill closer together as they all shared in the benefits of this hi-tech incubation area. With multiple major universities creating an educated populace and the Research Triangle Park attracting bright minds from across the nation, the Raleigh area has one of the highest concentrations of residents with advanced degrees in the country. Raleigh’s growth as a city has attained new heights as it just recently reached the 400,000 population mark. Consistently rated as one of the best cities in the country to live, this growing metropolis houses not only a growing and diverse population, but also beautiful parks, fascinating history, and at least one excellent law practice.