Cary Celebrates 150 Years of Tradition, Growth, and Life

By: Alexis Cope

April 3 marked the Town of Cary’s 150th anniversary, a landmark in any city’s life.

In the early 1850s, Allison Francis (Frank) Page and his wife, Kate, purchased and settled 300 acres of land surrounding a vital railroad track between Greensboro and Charlotte, creating a stop for weary passengers traveling on this line. As the town grew–and it did so with alarming speed–a second line, which ran from Raleigh to Chatham County, was built. The now historic Page-Walker Hotel was later built by Frank to provide the increasing number of travelers with somewhere to stay.

In addition to the Hotel, Page also built and owned a dry goods store, a saw mill, and a tobacco warehouse. Intent on helping his little town flourish, Page also served as its first mayor, postmaster, and railroad agent and specialist. 

Page named his town “Cary” after the prohibition leader Samuel F. Cary, whom he greatly admired. When Cary, its boundaries measuring only one square mile, was officially incorporated on April 3, 1871, the name was kept, and, per Page’s wishes, Cary became a “dry” town. This meant that the town forbade the selling, consumption, or other use of alcohol. This was, however, later abolished.

Page, along with Adolphus and Rufus Jones, created Cary Academy, a private school for their children to attend, after the town was official. This is not to be confused with Cary High School, also built with help from Page in 1871. In 1907, the high school was purchased by the Wake County Board of Education and became one of the first public high schools in North Carolina. Cary High’s original building now serves as the Cary Arts Center, and the current buildings now sit on Walnut Street. 

In the 1920s, Cary’s population grew by 64 percent, and this growth redefined Cary completely. The town thrived, new roads were built, new neighborhoods established, new businesses were created, and new technologies, such as the telephone, were introduced. After World War II, Cary became an incredibly industrial town with a swelling population; in the 1950s, Cary’s population doubled. 

This pattern of growth has continued even through to the present day: Cary proper now covers nearly 60 square miles and boasts over 166,000 residents. With new revitalization plans in place, other continued development, a vibrant downtown, and rich history, Cary certainly is staying at the forefront of change. Listed several times as a desirable city to live in, Cary continues to thrive, even 150 years later.

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