Editorials

A farewell to Raleigh’s Velvet Cloak Inn

Velvet Cloak Inn demolished to make room for student housing

A demolition crew tears down the Velvet Cloak Inn, a fixture on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh on Monday, Feb. 27, 2017. The inn will be replaced by a 150-unit student housing complex that will accommodate about 500 people.
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A demolition crew tears down the Velvet Cloak Inn, a fixture on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh on Monday, Feb. 27, 2017. The inn will be replaced by a 150-unit student housing complex that will accommodate about 500 people.

Those big demolition machines have been crashing hard into Velvet Cloak Inn these days. Yes, it’s all over for one of Raleigh’s lingering landmarks of elegance, the creation in 1963 of another landmark of the human variety, the late Willie York. York, a man of vision and gumption, built the Velvet Cloak as a sort of New-Orleans/big city hotel/local flavor kind of place, and it worked. Most everything York created, notably including the Cameron Village Shopping Center, worked.

Long-time residents can remember families in the mood for a real treat going to the Velvet Cloak for Sunday lunch, and that was high living indeed. The furnishings in the place were a step up from most hotels of that era, to be sure, and the atmosphere, for kids on that family outing, was a combination of elegant but local.

After all, the name of the place came from the story of Sir Walter Raleigh throwing his cloak over a mud puddle for Queen Elizabeth. And here’s a little curious historic comparison: One could say the Velvet Cloak — which seemed destined for destruction a few times in the course of legal battles — had a story similar to Raleigh’s, who had a death sentence for conspiracy against him commuted but then ultimately carried out via beheading.

And Alas, the same ultimately became of what once was a Hillsborough Street jewel.

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