After a protracted public debate, Dix Park became a reality on December 4, 2012 when the NC Council of State approved leasing the land to the City of Raleigh for a duration of 75 years, with the option to renew for 24 years, making it essentially a 99 year lease.
Dix Park is on the property which was first bought in 1850 at a price of $1,944.63 for 182 acres to establish the "Insane Hospital of North Carolina". It was renamed "Dorthea Dix Hospital" in 1959 to honor the woman who successfully advocated in 1848 for a state facility to help the mentally ill. At the time Dorthea Dix refused to have the institution named after her, but she did agree to have the land named "Dix Hill" in honor of her physician grandfather Dr. Elijah Hill. For decades the institution successfully served as the primary mental health institution in North Carolina. In 1974 the Hospital had 2,354 acres including 3 lakes, 282 buildings and 1,300 acres of farmland. In 1985 Governor Hunt transferred the land that is now Centennial Campus and State Farmers Market to the NC Department of Agriculture. In 1998 a study commissioned by the legislature concludes that Dix and three other mental hospitals are outdated and recommends that they be replaced with smaller institutions. In 2002, the State announced Dix Hospital would close in 2007 and patients would be relocated to Butner and community- based care programs. It was around this time that discussions started about how to use the grounds in the future. While some people foresaw selling and subdividing the land for profit, many advocated to convert at least part of the land to a park.
The Dix Hill Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1990 for its statewide significance in North Carolina’s history of advances in health and medicine, landscape architecture, and architecture.
The Dix Visionaries is comprised of individuals, businesses and foundations dedicated to creating a park on the Dorothea Dix campus. The group has pledged $3 million of privately raised money to commission a master plan for the park.
• Gregory Poole Jr., president; Gregory Poole Equipment Co.
• Charles Neely, Jr., treasurer ; former Republican state House member now with Williams Mullen law firm
• James Goodmon, Capitol Broadcasting Co., parent company of WRAL-TV.
• Lucy Bode, recording secretary; former secretary of state Department of Health and Human Services; board recording secretary
• Scott Custer, former chairman and CEO of RBC Bank, now director and CEO of Piedmont Community Bank Holdings, Inc.
• Robert Ingram, former CEO, GlaxoSmithKline
• Frank B. Holding Sr., executive vice chairman, First Citizens Bank
• Bill McNeal, former Wake County schools superintendent, now executive director of the N.C. Association of School Administrators
• Ann Goodnight, SAS Community Relations, wife of SAS co-founder Jim Goodnight.
• Leadership Triangle Raleigh - Winkie La Force
The entire (remaining) grounds consist of several distinct sections, and is partially still occupied by State office buildings and will remain so in the future. The park is bisected by an active railroad track. East of the track is Dix Hill, the highest elevation of the park, and designated a historic district. It contains a number of houses that date back to the mental health facility days. Continuing counter-clock-wise across the tracks, there are soccer fields, a forest, a section with streets. The staging are for the ongoing prison construction is currently located there. Adjacent is Spring Hill, are area that contains many office buildings housing DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) and other department and a facility for Meals on Wheels. Next is the Big Field and surrounding forests, and the State Farmers Market (not part of the park).
Dix has just been leased to the City of Raleigh, and the City will start a process to convert the area from its current use to a park. Existing office use will continue for the time being (likely in the range of 5-10 years), Beyond that, the future of this wonderful space is wide open.
Main roadway (and possible future entrances) are:
Extensive, semi-permanent community gardens in The Fens in Boston. Give you any ideas?