Tucked away on the northeastern fringe of downtown Raleigh in North Carolina is a cluster of old houses dating back to the mid 1800s to the early 1900s. This neighborhood is called Historic Oakwood, aptly named not only for its old houses but gnarled oak trees lining the narrow, zigzagging streets. It was previously known as ‘Mordecai’s Grove’, named after the prominent plantation family who used to own the lands. Today at least 400 houses in Victorian, Queen Anne, Neoclassical, Neocolonial styles or the more flamboyant Mansard roof style stand proudly in the area, vestiges of North Carolina’s glory.
Walking through Historic Oakwood is a literal walk in the past. One minute you’re in downtown Raleigh with all its skyscrapers and hums of the car engines. The next minute you’re in the shades of the densely wooded residential area with only the chirping of the birds as the sound you will hear. You’re left wondering if you’ve left North Carolina. It’s like time stood still in Oakwood. As you walk along you marvel at the different architectural styles of the houses reflecting the individual taste of the owners. Turret accents of houses in Baronial style and Queen Anne Variations and spires of Victorian tenements peek through the trees’ thick green foliage.
Sometimes you will see ivy crawling on the walls of an abandoned house, paints peeling off tattered walls, a broken wooden fence begging for repair, or a dying lawn long left abandoned. The walk can be a bit eerie at some point. The narrow and winding streets are deserted giving the false impression the place is uninhabited if not for the parked vehicles outside the houses, or the handful of geriatric cars passing by.
Not everything is old in Historic Oakwood though. Occasionally you will see interspersed between old houses a new Queen Anne architectural style house that makes you grimace and gape at the same time. You glower because it’s incongruous to the old appeal of the place. You also heave a gentle sigh of relief because it’s a true breather, a punctuation in what seems like an endless row of antiquated houses.
Along Oakwood Avenue, you will find the 102-acre resting place of the Confederate soldiers as well as Raleigh’s departed. A platform to remember the dead and an avenue to walk back in time, the Cemetery is popular among locals and visitors alike. Tours are regularly organized, check here for details. The Governor’s Mansion also known as North Carolina Executive Mansion, is a massive, red-brick, black-gated house in Queen Anne architectural style built in 1770. From outside it is truly eye-catching albeit typifies a haunted house featured in horror movies. The gigantic trees almost camouflaging the Mansion don’t contribute to the residence’s aesthetics either. The North Carolina Museum of History organizes tours of the Mansion, please check their website for details.
Historic Oakwood is only two blocks away from the North Carolina Museum of History in the center of downtown Raleigh. Should you find yourself in the neighborhood pay eclectic Oakwood a visit, it’s worth a peek. Join a tour or walk with someone but don’t go alone. Some parts are too shady you may not feel comfortable.