Renaissance Raleigh Hotel

We finally found out what was buried at North Hills, but it’s a little soggy

Originally published in the News & Observer on June 8, 2011

RALEIGH – Hundreds of Raleigh residents gathered Thursday outside what was once the Cardinal Theater at North Hills to see what their forebears sealed 50 years ago in a copper cylinder to show what life in Raleigh was like.

The capsule was buried at a ceremony on Thursday, June 8, 1967, to honor the grand opening of the theater. On Thursday, wet from groundwater, the capsule’s contents were unveiled. They included a range of soggy items – a plastic-wrapped newspaper, a gift certificate to the Cardinal Theater, a key to the city, audiotapes and books.

David Mobley, 69, came to see what was in the capsule with his wife, Peggy, 69, and daughter, Diane Willeford, 39.

Mobley said being in front of the former theater – which is now a Bonefish Grill – brought back a rush of memories for the family.

“I used to bring Diane and her two siblings to the children’s movies on Tuesday mornings,” Peggy Mobley said.

The family has lived nearby for many years and watched the phases in the life of the shopping center and mall.

“We used to live to go to North Hills and go to the K&W Cafeteria,” David Mobley said.

The single-screen theater, which seated more than 800, opened in 1967 with a showing of the Doris Day comedy “Caprice.” In the mid 1970s, the Cardinal was remodeled to a two-screen theater. The last movie to be shown at the Cardinal was “Henry V,” before it closed in 1990, making way for a Blockbuster video rental store. The News & Observer then called it “a sign of the changing times.”

The old North Hills Mall, like the theater, is long gone, swallowed up by a dense combination of stores, restaurants, bars, offices and apartments.

In a brief speech Thursday before the time capsule’s contents were held up one-by-one by North Hills redeveloper John Kane, Raleigh native and film director Peyton Reed shared how the Cardinal influenced him.

Reed, 52, has directed feature films including “Bring it On,” “The Break-Up” and “Ant-Man,” and said the Cardinal was his “dojo.” Seeing films at the Cardinal taught him the language of visual storytelling and introduced the ideas not only of film making but film exhibition, he wrote in the June edition of Walter Magazine.

He told the crowd Thursday he was “hell-bent” on attending the capsule opening and had marked his calendar for many years so he would remember.

Mostly pastures

David Leonard, 62, was the assistant manager at the Cardinal between 1970 and about 1976. He said that the time capsule opening brought back memories of the time he spent with some of his co-workers, who still gather in North Hills for reunions every few years.

He said that the area now dubbed “Midtown” was once the northern edge of Raleigh.

When the capsule was buried, Raleigh was a town of 110,000 and Downtown Boulevard, now Capital, was the busiest thoroughfare in the state. The 12-story Branch Banking & Trust building was the city’s tallest “skyscraper.”

“You would drive past here, and Six Forks Road was mostly pastures,” Leonard said.

The contents that had been buried since 1967 were displayed at North Hills on Thursday. They will now be dried and displayed at the City of Raleigh Museum.

In the coming days, a new and hopefully more watertight time capsule will be buried with a new range of items that include a model of N.C State University’s Bell Tower, a 2017 UNC National Champions T-shirt, memorabilia from local sports teams and a book by author David Sedaris, who grew up in Raleigh.

The new time capsule also will get contributions from The News & Observer, WRAL, Walter Magazine, the Raleigh Fire Department and students from nearby public and private schools.

A sixth-grader at Carroll Middle School, Emma Poyer, said her school is including an iPad – complete with a charger – programmed with apps students use in today’s classrooms.

It was chosen to represent Carroll, because when the capsule is revealed in 50 years, the tablet will show how far technology has come in the past half-century.

“I think technology will be more advanced,” she said. “They’ll see how much technology has improved and how their lives are better.”

Chris Cioffi, @ReporterCioffi, News & Observer