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Raleigh was chosen as the site of a new state capital in 1788, and was officially established in 1792 as both the new county seat and the new state capital. The city was named in November 1792 for Sir Walter Raleigh, sponsor of the Colony of Roanoke, the "Lost Colony," commemorated at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site on Roanoke Island, North Carolina.
The city's location was chosen, in part, for being within ten miles (16 km) of Isaac Hunter's Tavern, which was known to be popular with the state legislators of the time. No known city or town had existed on the site before it was chosen as the capital. Raleigh is among the few cities in the United States that was planned and built specifically to serve as a state capital. Its original boundaries were formed by North, East, West and South streets.
The North Carolina General Assembly first met in Raleigh in December 1794, and within one month, the legislators officially granted the city a charter, with a board of seven appointed commissioners (elected by the city after 1803) and an "Intendant of Police" (which would eventually become the office of Mayor) to govern it.
Despite being spared significant destruction during the Civil War, Raleigh grew very little from its original 1792 size until the introduction of streetcar lines in the 1920s, the establishment of the Research Triangle Park in the 1950s, and completion of the Interstate 40 and Beltline (I-440/US-1/US-64) freeways after the 1960s.
Raleigh is located in the northeast central region of the North Carolina, where the North American Piedmont and Atlantic Coastal Plain regions meet. This area is known as the "fall line" because it marks the elevation inland at which waterfalls begin to appear in creeks and rivers. As a result, most of Raleigh features gently rolling hills that slope eastward toward the state's flat coastal plain. Its central Piedmont location situates Raleigh about three hours west of Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, by car and four hours east of the Great Smoky Mountains of the Appalachian range. The city is 145 miles (233 km) from Richmond, Virginia; 232 miles (373 km) from Washington, D.C.; and 143 miles (230 km) from Charlotte, North Carolina.