Turns out not everybody was impressed with early-20th-century Raleigh, In 1937, Former State Commissioner or Public Charities and Welfare Kate Burr Johnson spoke about conditions in the city.
(Johnson's) assertion ... that "Raleigh is the dirtiest city I've ever seen," drew a promise from one city commissioner to remedy the situation and a denunciation from another official, who termed the statement "uncalled for and unfair."
Mrs. Johnson, who is now superintendent of the New Jersey Home for Girls at Trenton, commented on the appearance of Raleigh's parks and streets during a talk at a luncheon meeting of the Wake County Council of Social Agencies.
Mrs. Johnson denied published reports that she had described the city as "the dirtiest in the world."
"I couldn't have said that, for I've never been outside the United States," she said later.
Returning here for a visit, Mrs. Johnson said she was distressed at the appearance of Nash Square and streets of the city, which she said she found littered with paper and trash.
Public Safety commissioner T. K. Fountain, whose department is in charge of street cleaning, was at the luncheon meeting and followed Mrs. Johnson on the program. He promised that "we will do everything in our power to see that the streets are kept cleaner."
S. J. Ferguson, Public Works Commissioner, who did not attend the meeting, later said he thought Mrs. Johnson's criticism was unfair.
"Raleigh has the nicest people in the world," Mrs. Johnson told those attending the meeting. "but I was shocked to see that the city has not capitalized on its asset of natural beauty."
Commissioner Ferguson, who is in charge of the city's parks, said that bad weather had much to do with the condition of public squares. He added that steps would be taken to keep trash out of the parks when the weather clears. - The News and Observer, 1/15/1937