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Dorothea Dix Park Walking Tour

If you live in Raleigh you are likely familiar with the Dorothea Dix Hospital or more recently the idea of turning that hospital into an world-class urban destination park. If not go here and catch up.

The 308 acre acquisition is an amazing open space that at times feels far away from the urban core while the sight of downtown reminds you how close you are. The property is also filled with dozens of buildings spanning decades and telling a history of their own. The walking tour explores the history of the space taking a careful look forward at the park that will slowly emerge.

Some of the most interesting pieces of the tour were learning more about Dorothea Dix herself (creator of the first generation of American mental asylums – not just in North Carolina but up and down the East Coast), the ties to the Civil War in the park, the transitions of the area over the years as the hospital grew and trained doctors and nurses on the property and seeing some of the amazing views both the escape views that feel so far away and the views of downtown Raleigh.

The tour was roughly an hour and a half walking at a slow pace and visiting the history and highlights of the future park. The staff did a great job leading the tour and keeping the stops frequent enough to where the walk didn’t feel overwhelming to anyone in the party and interesting enough to capture everyone’s attention when we did stop.

My favorite stop was the cemetery and the monument that read ‘State Hospital at Raleigh 1856 A.D.’ on one side and ‘Dix Hill State Hospital’ on the other – upside down. I didn’t get the story on that one but it I am sure there is a good one.

If you haven’t been to Dix Park I would highly recommend going for a visit. The current batch of walking tours are ‘sold out’ but I would expect based on this success we will see more in the future.


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