Raleigh (/ˈrɑːli/; RAH-lee) is the capital of the state of North Carolina and the seat of Wake County in the United States. Raleigh is the second-largest city in the state, after Charlotte. Raleigh is known as the “City of Oaks” for its many oak trees, which line the streets in the heart of the city. The city covers a land area of 142.8 square miles (370 km2). The U.S. Census Bureau estimated the city’s population as 469,298 as of July 1, 2018. It is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. The city of Raleigh is named after Sir Walter Raleigh, who established the lost Roanoke Colony in present-day Dare County.
Raleigh is home to North Carolina State University (NC State) and is part of Research Triangle Park (RTP), together with Durham (home of Duke University and North Carolina Central University) and Chapel Hill (home of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). The “Triangle” nickname originated after the 1959 creation of the Research Triangle Park, located in Durham and Wake counties, among the three cities and their universities. The Research Triangle region encompasses the U.S. Census Bureau’s Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Combined Statistical Area (CSA), which had an estimated population of 2,037,430 in 2013. The Raleigh metropolitan statistical area had an estimated population of 1,214,516 in 2013.
Most of Raleigh is located within Wake County, with a very small portion extending into Durham County. The towns of Cary, Morrisville, Garner, Clayton, Wake Forest, Apex, Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina, Knightdale, Wendell, Zebulon, and Rolesville are some of Raleigh’s primary nearby suburbs and satellite towns.
Raleigh is an early example in the United States of a planned city. Following the American Revolutionary War when the US gained independence, this was chosen as the site of the state capital in 1788 and incorporated in 1792 as such. The city was originally laid out in a grid pattern with the North Carolina State Capitol in Union Square at the center. During the American Civil War, the city was spared from any significant battle. It fell to the Union in the closing days of the war, and struggled with the economic hardships in the postwar period related to the reconstitution of labor markets, over-reliance on agriculture, and the social unrest of the Reconstruction Era. Following the establishment of the Research Triangle Park (RTP) in 1959, several tens of thousands of jobs were created in the fields of science and technology, and it became one of the fastest-growing communities in the United States by the early 21st century.
Raleigh was first established as a city in 1792. It became the county seat of Wake County (which was then only part of Wake County) and it remained so until 1871 when the General Assembly voted to move the county seat to nearby Raleigh which was becoming the state’s new capital. The state capital had already relocated from New Bern in 1788.
The first European settlers arrived near present-day Raleigh (in an area commonly known as “Trinity”) circa 1750. Many early settlers hailed from eastern areas of North Carolina, including German Palatines who moved down from Pennsylvania . These early settlers were mostly farmers, but also included fur trappers, hunters, and others seeking raw, such as lumber and iron ore.
Raleigh grew rapidly during the 1840s, initially due to a major influx of families from the Research Triangle area moving down to work in textile mills and associated industries that were spreading into this region. It was in these early years that Raleigh earned its reputation as a “Smith & Wesson” town, with a high number of gunfights and killings per capita. These conflicts were sometimes between lawmen and criminals, but also included among private citizens after altercations with each other. This rough reputation has long since faded away.