St. Agnes Revives Raleigh History
Tucked away between the hustle and bustle of Historic Oakwood Cemetery and St. Augustine University sits an often overlooked slice of Raleigh history. Despite its unusual appearance and massive cultural significance, many lifelong Raleighites aren’t aware this building even exists — which is, perhaps, a sad reflection on how easily our city paves over its own history.
Established in 1896, St. Agnes was one of the first hospitals built to serve men and women freed from slavery in America. It was particularly important because, not only did it provide medical care, it also acted as a teaching hospital, providing education and opportunity for the best and brightest men and women of color in Raleigh to become doctors and nurses themselves — a chance that would not have been offered at all-white hospitals and colleges.
Though the building closed its doors in the 1960’s, the cobblestone shell remains on Oakwood Avenue, a beautiful reminder of our city’s culture and history. A visually stunning urban exploration, this three story structure has a full basement, its floors removed and overgrown with weeds and ivy that creeps up through the open windows. Small trees have even begun growing inside the building, and they stretch up towards the blue sky, visible through the roofless walls. It’s picturesque; an artist’s dream.
Although St. Agnes is on the National Historic Registry, it is not often open for public viewing–a shame, given its antique beauty and fascinating history.
During today’s adventure, we explored the outside walls, inside the basement, and a miniature model of the building as it appeared in the early 1900’s, which gives some perspective on how the space was once used.
Let’s begin with the outside.