State Politics

Throwback Wednesday: NC House relives the 1800s with session in old Capitol chamber

House Speaker Tim Moore presides over a session in the old House chamber at the state Capitol on Wednesday.
House Speaker Tim Moore presides over a session in the old House chamber at the state Capitol on Wednesday.

The N.C. House left behind the microphones and comfortable seating of their usual chamber and moved Wednesday’s session back to the room where the House met from 1840 to 1963.

The reason for the throwback session was a resolution honoring the 242nd anniversary of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. That 1775 act in Mecklenburg County was a precursor to the formal Declaration of Independence.

“This was the first step of a long process that led to our national Declaration of Independence,” said Rep. John Blust, a Greensboro Republican. “It was a momentous and courageous thing to do, because this was viewed as treason by the powers at the time, and the punishment was to be death by hanging. We’re still in their debt today, and we need to look at their example as we struggle with the issues and problems of our day.”

Wednesday’s session was the first time in about three years that the House has met in the Capitol building, which typically hosts school groups and special ceremonies. The room is much smaller than the House chamber in the Legislative Building, forcing legislators to sit awkwardly close together in historically accurate wooden chairs.

“We are a little larger than our legislative predecessors,” Rep. Grier Martin, a Raleigh Democrat, joked on Twitter.

But legislators took the opportunity to take photos, and some said they felt the weight of legislative history as they sat in the seats held by their predecessors a century ago.

Rep. Becky Carney, a Charlotte Democrat, recalled watching House sessions in the building when she was in middle school. She said the cozier room forces legislators to look at each other while speaking. “I think we’ve lost something in that huge room,” she said.

And Rep. Rodney Moore, a Charlotte Democrat who is black, recalled the racial history of the building. “This building was built by the labor of slaves,” he said. “We have come a long way from slavery to here, and this is something to be commemorated.”

House Speaker Tim Moore joked that sessions should be held in the Capitol more often because lawmakers are less likely to make long speeches. “It may go a lot shorter,” he said.

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter