Midtown Raleigh News

Old Raleigh orphanage building comes down to make way for cathedral

Buildings on the 37-acre tract of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh are being demolished in preparation for the new Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral. The buildings, which once held administrative offices, classrooms and a Catholic orphanage are being razed in preparation of a groundbreaking expected to take place by the end of 2014. The Diocese is continuing to work with N.C. State and the city of Raleigh to design roadways and egress to the new facility.
Buildings on the 37-acre tract of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh are being demolished in preparation for the new Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral. The buildings, which once held administrative offices, classrooms and a Catholic orphanage are being razed in preparation of a groundbreaking expected to take place by the end of 2014. The Diocese is continuing to work with N.C. State and the city of Raleigh to design roadways and egress to the new facility. cliddy@newsobserver.com

The single-story brick building off Centennial Parkway that once housed a Catholic orphanage and later the offices of the Raleigh diocese is coming down this week to make room for a new cathedral.

The 47-year-old building is on the site of the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, the planned mother church of the 54-county diocese. Another building on the lot, the last remaining structure from the former Cardinal Gibbons High School, will be demolished later this year.

The Diocese of Raleigh announced plans to build the new cathedral in September 2011. Since then it has received pledges of about $62 million toward the project, though the church has earmarked more than $24 million of that for other purposes, including parish building projects and expansion of pastoral and social outreach programs, said spokesman Frank Morock.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge said the church is hoping for $5 million to $10 million more in pledges. “I think we’ll be in good shape,” Burbidge said earlier this summer. “We may not have everything we want. We may not have every material. But we’ll have a beautiful building.”

The church hopes to break ground on the new cathedral in 2014 and expects it will take 2 1/2 years to complete.

The diocese moved from the former orphanage building in May after it bought a 42,000-square-foot building off Creedmoor Road in North Raleigh for $2.8 million and moved its offices there. At first glance, the three-story building could be offices for lawyers or an insurance company, except for the statue of the Immaculate Conception out front and a consecrated chapel just off the lobby.

The building the diocese is tearing down this week was the last home of an orphanage that opened in 1899 on hundreds of acres the Catholic church owned on what was then the western edge of Raleigh. The Rev. Thomas Price had established a seminary there a decade earlier but decided that an orphanage for boys was needed more.

Within a few years, the church had built a Gothic revival home for boys and a chapel. In 1927, girls from an orphanage in Belmont were brought to Raleigh, and what was known as The Catholic Orphanage at Nazareth had as many as 250 residents during the Great Depression.

Many of the children were not orphans; they had one, sometimes two, living parents who couldn’t care for them because of poverty or illness. By the late 1960s, none of the children at the home were orphans, and it was renamed Nazareth House.

By then, the need for such institutions was waning. Government programs like Social Security and Aid to Families with Dependent Children helped poor families care for their own children, while those who did need assistance were being placed in group homes or foster care.

When the new Nazareth House was dedicated in the spring of 1966, it housed 30 children. When it closed a decade later, 13 were left.

Meanwhile, across the street, the original orphanage built by Price sat empty. When the church decided to tear it down in 1979, the Raleigh Historic Properties Commission unsuccessfully appealed to the diocese to save it, saying it was likely the first steel and reinforced concrete building in North Carolina.

Before demolition began, the cornerstones of the main hall and the chapel were moved to the new building. They have now been moved again, to the office building in North Raleigh.

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