In the early days of North Carolina, both as a colony and a state, the government lacked a fixed location. The capital was typically wherever the governor resided, and the colony's records were often relocated, leading to loss and damage. In 1766, New Bern was designated as the permanent capital with the construction of Tryon Palace, the residence of colonial governor William Tryon. The palace officially opened in December 1770, marking the establishment of a permanent seat of government. Tryon's successor, Josiah Martin, resided in the palace from 1771 until he fled in 1776 amidst revolutionary fervor. Hillsborough was selected as the permanent capital in 1781, but it was later deemed unsafe following a British Loyalist raid.

In 1788, North Carolina lawmakers decided to establish a permanent state capital. A committee, led by Willie Jones, was formed to select a location within ten miles of Isaac Hunter’s plantation in Wake County. Despite opposition and delay tactics from Fayetteville advocates, the Wake County site was approved by the legislature on December 5, 1790. After a dinner hosted by Joel Lane, the committee purchased 1,000 acres from him. Construction of the State House began in 1792 in Raleigh's town square. The General Assembly convened in Raleigh for the first time in 1794. The official governor's residence was established at the intersection of Fayetteville Street and Hargett Street in 1797, but it was eventually deemed insufficient. By 1816, the Governor’s Palace became the official residence for the North Carolina governors. Between 1820 and 1824, the State House was expanded to include a third floor, eastern and western wings, and a central rotunda to house a statue of George Washington sculpted by Antonio Canova.

On May 29, 1831, a massive fire engulfed the city of Fayetteville, North Carolina. In response, the state government attempted to protect the State House in Raleigh. Thomas Bragg was hired to fireproof the wooden roof by covering it with zinc sheets. However, on the morning of June 21, 1831, a fire broke out in the west wing of the building, consuming the building and the statue of George Washington. After the original statehouse was destroyed in the fire, funds were allocated in 1833 to construct a new capitol building on the same site. The current State Capitol building was completed in 1840. Following the Civil War, the Governor’s Palace was deemed unsuitable for the governor, prompting the General Assembly to pass a bill in 1883 to build a new official governor’s residence.

The State Capitol housed the entire state government until 1888 when the Supreme Court and State Library moved out. The current North Carolina Executive Mansion was completed by 1891 and remains the official governor's residence. In 1963, the General Assembly relocated to the current State Legislative Building. Today, the State Capitol building houses the offices of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor and contains a replica of Antonio Canova's statue of George Washington in its rotunda.