One of the Easter eggs of Cameron Village is that we have a mini-museum. Go up the stairs between Tin Roof Teas and Cantina 18 and you’ll be treated to a gallery of photos framed in reclaimed North Carolina barn wood that will take you back in time. We took a tour with former mayor of Raleigh Smedes York and Vice President of Retail Leasing at York Properties Inc Lynne Worth to learn about the history behind each photograph.

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The Plan

This is how it all started. It wasn’t just going to be a place to shop. It was intended to be an entire community from the start. Smedes pointed out how the shopping center has a much different layout in the plan than what it turned out to be.

You’ll notice how it has a large parking lot in the center with shops on all sides. Interesting to think how different Cameron Village would be if that’s how it would have started.

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Village Restaurant

The Village Restaurant in 1950. Located on Cameron and Daniels Streets, this is where the Village Deli currently resides.

Although it’s probably not so strange now, the idea of people eating at outdoor restaurants wasn’t commonplace back then. Lynne tells us that the city didn’t want people eating outside because it wasn’t considered sanitary.

Back when Smedes was on the city council and the mayor, there was a proposal to allow outdoor dining in downtown Raleigh. And the Merchants’ Association was opposed to it because they thought trash would be a big problem. Funny, considering all the smokers you see in the picture.

You’ll also notice a few other interesting things. Flat-top canopies and pipe columns were everywhere in Cameron Village back then. Also, check out the wooden bumper guards preventing the cars from getting too close to the bushes.

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Remember the time Cameron Village was invaded by rabbits from outer space? Neither did we.

“It looks like something out of The Twilight Zone,” says Lynne.

We love our traditions, but we don’t think this paper mache bunny will be making a reappearance.

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Hollingsworth Shoe Repair

Back in the 50s, it was much more common to have your shoes resoled than to buy a brand new pair. And yes, that is a Goodyear shoe repair machine. You might not have known that Goodyear makes soles, but it makes sense considering that shoes are basically tires for your feet.

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Kerr Drug Store

Of course, it wouldn’t be a photo from the 50s without more cigarettes. And yes that is $1.95 for an entire carton.

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Cameron Village Apartments

Doesn’t this look almost too perfect? Well, Smedes has a theory as to why that is.

“This is clearly a posed picture,” says Smedes. “It must have been an advertisement for the apartments.”

Even today, it still works. How bad do you want to live in a place with that amazing furniture?

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The Cars

So many fins! To give you some perspective, that Wachovia in the distance on the left is now Cafe Carolina. Smedes believes it’s the first bank in the state with a drive-through window.

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Sidewalks

Here you see the beginnings of what would become our famous sidewalk sales. Smedes tells us that Stephenson Music Company was a great place to play hide and seek.

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Woolworth

Here you see the lunch counter that is now where Nadeau stands.

After the famous sit-in at the Greensboro Woolworth’s, students from Shaw University and St. Augustine’s College organized a sit-in of their own. That sit-in was the first in Raleigh and was the beginning of a major integration movement in the area.

This was also the location of the winning story from our Living History contest. If you haven’t heard how Eleanor Upton defended her housekeeper, you need to.

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Bird’s Eye View

And there’s the Village in all its glory. You’ll notice Oberlin Rd on the left running north to south and Clark Ave towards the bottom running west to east. It’s crazy to think about how much has changed.

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And that concludes our walk back through Cameron Village history. If you’d like to check out these amazing photographs yourself, head up the staircase between Tin Roof Teas and Cantina 18. Let us know what you think.

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