Just outside downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, sits a house older than its city, county, state…and country. The 1769 Joel Lane House belonged to Colonel Joel Lane, known as both “the Father of Wake County” and “the Father of Raleigh.” Today, the oldest dwelling in Raleigh is a museum where visitors can take a journey into the world of Revolutionary America.
Joel Lane’s life reflects the time in which he lived: Lane was a patriot soldier, slaveholder, planter, politician, Constitutional Convention delegate, tavern-owner, judge, and university trustee. He helped found Wake County under British rule—then helped Raleigh become the capital of an American state. He served on the Colonial Assembly—then in the state Senate. He fought for freedom—while he owned dozens of enslaved people on his 6,000-acre plantation. The Lane House itself hosted much of this history. It was here, in 1792, that the final decision was made to purchase a 1,000-acre parcel of Lane’s own land for the state’s new capital city: Raleigh.
Today, the mission of the Joel Lane Museum House is to bring American history to life by providing a rich understanding of regional North Carolina history and the struggles, sacrifices, and achievements of those who lived in Piedmont North Carolina in the 18th century, with particular emphasis on the life and times of Colonel Joel Lane, his family, and enslaved workers. Docents in full eighteenth-century costume guide visitors on a lively journey through beautiful grounds, a garden of eighteenth-century herbs, a 1790s middleclass home (used to depict a period kitchen), and, of course, Joel Lane’s home.
Come see the house that was known in its day as “the best house for 100 miles,” and step into our earliest Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina, and American history.