Located approximately two miles southwest of downtown Raleigh, this park occupies 308 acres of rolling hills that were once part of a state mental hospital. In 1848 Dorothea Lynde Dix brought her campaign to improve treatment for the mentally ill to Raleigh, where she established a state institution in what is now the Dix Hill Historic District. In 1850 prominent architect Alexander Jackson Davis designed the principal hospital building (completed 1856), and further structures were added throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. By 1974 the Dorothea Dix Hospital campus comprised 282 buildings on 2,343 acres of the hilltop landscape, housing more than 2,700 patients.
In 1984 roughly 1,000 acres were transferred to two neighboring institutions – North Carolina State University for its new Centennial Campus, and the State Farmers Market. The remaining grounds continued to function as a mental health facility until 2000, when most of the patients were relocated. Shortly thereafter, the psychiatric hospital was slated for closure. In 2015 the City of Raleigh purchased the land from the State of North Carolina and opened it as a public park, and in 2017 the Raleigh City Council and the newly formed Dix Park Conservancy selected Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates to develop a comprehensive master plan. The landscape, which provides panoramic views of the Raleigh skyline, retains many historic buildings, and its north-facing slope, known as “The Grove,” is home to significant mature oaks and dogwood trees. Dorothea Dix Hospital was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.