Past Times

Sentimental reluctance for some when N&O moved

The newspaper’s home had been on West Martin Street since 1907.
The newspaper’s home had been on West Martin Street since 1907. N&O Photo

In November, The News & Observer announced a deal to sell its downtown headquarters and to move its printing operation to new off-site presses. Sixty years ago, the newspaper made a similar move, into a modern new building and the modern era. Telegraph editor Neil Hester, whose career with The N&O would span 45 years, described the move.

As the “rear guard” of the news department since 1920 – except for a brief babysitting interval with WNAO-AM-FM – I put “The Old Reliable” to bed this morning at 1:30 for the last time in the old News and Observer home at 114 West Martin Street.

As I walked down the steps and out into the street for a lonely last look at the vocational home in which I spent more than half of my mundane existence, technicians swarmed in to move the maze of news wires and battery of teletype-writing equipment around the corner to the bright, comfortable and modern new edifice at 215 South McDowell Street in which all departments of The News and Observer-Raleigh Times except the mechanical will proudly live.

This afternoon at 2 o’clock The News and Observer news department completes the moving process that began two weeks ago and gets down to the business of preparing the first issue from the handsome new home. And beginning tomorrow, all of the departments will be functioning at full blast at 215 South McDowell, linked by stairway to the mechanical structure that houses the composing room, mailing room, stereotype department and the press room.

At 114 West Martin the familiar revolutionary front door that whirled in cold air in winter and hot air in summer in welcome or unwanted quantity will be locked to a standing position. And on the old entrance merry-go-round will be a sign inviting one and all to go around the corner for a visit to the new building. …

Moving the complicated mechanism of two newspapers from three buildings into one is confusing even with the best-laid plans. It will take a little time to get adjusted – sentimentally and practically – to the new home.

Progress is irresistible and every home in which The News and Observer family labored was better than its predecessor. So it is with the modernistic structure … a creation of which the owners, the architects, the builders and the occupants are all proud. And we feel justified in saying our friends and the community will be proud of it, too.

This attractive, yet substantial erection of steel, concrete, brick and plaster is something of a three-story building on stilts. And if that sounds funny, just walk into the driveway to the left and see the under-building parking area made possible by huge concrete pillars. …

And to the great relief of patrons, visitors and occupants, there will be no laborious steps to climb. Located in the entrance lobby is the latest in automatic elevator service easily operated by passengers. …

The ground floor front presents an unusual structural scene of stainless steel harmonizing with gray brick with a concrete hue. The huge support columns are covered with stainless steel to match the entrance marquee and door and window frames of the same metal. The front steps are of concrete. …

Now, just glance up to the second and third floors outside the new building and you’ll see our pride and joy – outside venetian blinds. The architects call them vertical louvers, but they operate on the same principle as the indispensable interior venetian blind. The huge upright slats extend all around the front and south sides of the building. They may be turned in unison in any direction with hand cranks inside the structure just like pulling a blind cord. Any degree of light may be obtained for the interior by moving the big metal vanes to the desired position. There will be no intense sun glare through the second and third floor windows.

This escape from sun glare and heat on the west and south sides is made absolutely complete by the most modern air conditioning obtainable. In other words, the building embodies the last word in interior comfort. …

It is a real thrill to us all to move into this handsome new home. But to the old-timers in the family like the writer, there are also fond memories of the old location. …

But the old days are gone. We all enjoyed them and the old building, too. We old-timers leave it with some sentimental reluctance, despite its discomforts, especially the humid heat in summer. On the top floor we really sweated. And I’ll miss the big south window to which I could whirl around in my swivel desk chair and prop my feet on its handy ledge for a few minutes of relaxation. I’m still wondering how my feet will wind up in the new building.

The 100-block of West Martin Street is quiet and peaceful now. Like the old building we are leaving and The Old Gray Mare, it ain’t what it used to be. The N&O May 6, 1956

Read more stories from local and state history and send us your own stories on the blog Past Times, newsobserver.com/past-times.

Leonard: 919-829-4866 or tleonard@newsobserver.com

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