“. . . a morsel of genuine history, a thing so rare as to be always valuable.”—Thomas Jefferson
The Joel Lane Museum House is the oldest extant home in Wake County and in Raleigh. Built by enslaved laborers in 1769, this home was once called “the best house for 100 miles,” and it hosted a number of significant historical meetings. From the first meetings of the Wake County Court, through Committee of Safety strategy sessions during the Revolutionary War, to the final decision to locate the new state capital—to be named Raleigh—on Joel Lane’s land in 1792, the Hall of Joel Lane’s home is “The Room Where it Happened.” The house was also the seat of a sprawling plantation of more than 6,000 acres, where at least 43 enslaved men, women, and children labored in bondage.
Joel Lane is considered a founding father of both Wake County and Raleigh—he sold 1,000 acres of land to the State of North Carolina in 1792, on which to build the latter. He was a plantation-owner, soldier, slaveholder, Patriot, and politician. His life, his home, and the people—free and enslaved—with whom he surrounded himself provide a unique lens through which to examine the history of the period. Through their stories, we see an America in transition.
We hope you will explore, at the Joel Lane Museum House and in these pages, the complex, sometimes contradictory history of this place and the people who made it their home in the 18th century. The ripples of these events flow into the present day.
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