The Acorn

Located in historic Moore Square, the giant acorn is the official monument commemorating Raleigh's bicentennial in 1992. The idea for this tribute to the "City of Oaks" came from John Watkins, a Raleigh businessman. Watkins solicited several sponsors and a local artist, David Benson to make his dream of the giant acorn a reality.

David Benson had the talent to sculpt the acorn. He is a metalsmith/sculptor of exceptional ability. Benson's first job was to draft a sketch from which to prepare a prototype of the acorn. The prototype was about the size of a baseball. It allowed Benson to experiment with the acorn's proportions, cap to nut. As he worked to get it visually correct he had to keep in mind how much inner structural work would be needed to build a stable figure.

Benson did as much of the work as possible at his studio in City Market's Artspace, but had to do the final assembly in his own backyard at Five Points. Much like the danger of building a boat in your basement, he wanted to be sure he wasn't trapped inside the building with something too large to get out.

The acorn itself is 250 times the size of a regular acorn, and is made of copper. Some of the copper from the original capital dome was used in the construction of the acorn. It weighs 1,250 pounds, and is 10 feet high by 8 feet in diameter. There are 18 steel ribs of undergirding to support the structure, and a steel shaft 5 inches in diameter passes through the acorn to hold it in place on its concrete base. There are 50 copper plates in its cap and 24 copper panel that compose the nut. The copper has not been oxidized. Temperatures were too cold to accomplish this and it was thought that the shiny finish would give a spectacular display on New Year's Eve when the acorn was flooded with searchlights. The acorn rests on a base of 11 tons of poured concrete that extends 18 inches below the ground.

The Bicentennial Acorn made quite an entrance into the city, accompanied by a police escort, the mayor, the "HOGS" (Raleigh's Harley Owner's Group), and a 7 foot squirrel. The acorn made its way to the Civic Center Plaza where it was to be a part of the New Year's Eve Festivities. The acorn was Raleigh's version of the "big ball" in New York's Times Square extravaganza. The acorn was hoisted 110 feet into the air. Led by Ira David Wood (local actor and director), thousands of Raleigh's citizens counted down the seconds to a new year and watched excitedly as the giant acorn made its descent.

Thanks to John Watkins, David Benson, and generous sponsors for giving the "City of Oaks" such a spectacular bicentennial tribute and a new tradition for Raleigh's First Night celebrations.


Metz Beal, Candy Lee. Raleigh: The First 200 Years. Published under the auspices of the Bicentennial Task Force for the Bicentennial (1792-1992) Celebration with the generous support of Glaxo, Inc. IBM Corp., Branch Banking & Trust, the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association, and the cooperation of the Wake County Public School System, 1992.