The History of the WRAL Azalea Gardens

Capitol Broadcasting Company founder A.J. Fletcher created the WRAL Gardens as a service to the community. The WRAL Gardens opened to the public in 1959, three years after WRAL-TV went on the air as the first VHF station in Raleigh. The Gardens surround WRAL-TV’s studios on Western Boulevard in Raleigh , NC.

“I did it because I knew it would be beautiful,” said Fletcher of his beloved Gardens. “It was simply my way of paying a tribute to beauty for beauty’s sake.”

Fletcher loved azaleas and enjoyed finding new varieties to enjoy. He decided to share that passion with the general public, personally overseeing the installation of a thousand azaleas to create the Gardens.

The 5-acre property containing WRAL-TV’s studios, the corporate offices of Capitol Broadcasting Company and the WRAL Gardens sits near the corner of Western Blvd and Avent Ferry Road, only a few miles from downtown Raleigh. The Gardens, currently in the process of expanding, and will eventually stretch from Western Blvd. to Centennial Parkway.

fletcher_garden-262x222CBC Corporate Secretary Scottie Stephenson told a story of the depth of Fletcher’s devotion to the Gardens. Before a ceremony to dedicate the new station building in the spring of 1959, Raleigh experienced three straight nights of cold but not quite freezing weather. When Stephenson arrived for work the morning of the ceremony, the administration building looked like “an octopus” with hoses running out all of the doors. A.J. Fletcher was running warm water from the janitor’s closet to the fledgling azaleas.

“I don’t think he spared the horses much when it came to landscaping,” she said.

"CBS This Morning" signed on from the WRAL Azalea Gardens on April 25, 1988, with anchors Harry Smith and Kathleen Sullivan. The show didn't normally leave its NY studios for remote origins. Another unique feature: the entire content of the program that day dealt exclusively with the state of North Carolina.
“CBS This Morning” signed on from the WRAL Azalea Gardens on April 25, 1988, with anchors Harry Smith and Kathleen Sullivan. The show didn’t normally leave its NY studios for remote origins. Another unique feature: the entire content of the program that day dealt exclusively with the state of North Carolina.
Sky 5 landing on the Capitol Broadcasting Corporate building circa 1987
Sky 5 landing on the Capitol Broadcasting Corporate building circa 1987

 

The Gardens underwent major renovation during the early 2000’s as the TV studio building expanded. A fountain and walkway in front of the station open to a view above the Gardens, and numerous planters and beds around the buildings tie the architecture into the natural landscape. The faux tower in the fountain seemingly emits a signal in arcs of paving stones and flower beds that extend down to the main plat of the WRAL Gardens.

In 2003, the WRAL Gardens received the Tree & Landscape Conservation award from the 21st Annual Sir Walter Raleigh Awards for Community Appearance, and continues to pile up accolades from professional organizations as well as the public.

As greenspace in the Triangle becomes harder and harder to find, the WRAL Gardens serve as a sanctuary from the clogged city streets, miles of concrete and high rise buildings, and the general hustle and bustle of the rat race. The lush vegetation of the gardens can quickly envelope each visitor, providing a haven that seems far away from the maddening crowd.

CBC Corporate Property Management oversees maintenance of Gardens, planting a seasonal rotation of annuals and perennial borders. With active input from Fletcher’s grandson CBC President & CEO Jim Goodmon, they constantly work to introduce new varieties of plants to complement the hedges of azaleas and pleasantly surprise visitors with visual treats year-round.

 
A newspaper article from 1979


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