A Sense of Place
Historical preservation enhances Cary’s character and charm.
By Cheryl Capaldo Traylor
Cary is a rapidly growing and flourishing area marked by shiny new buildings and innovative modern parks. But the town, incorporated in 1871, is also committed to preserving its rich history as a thriving business and agrarian community. Cary’s Historical Preservation Committee is currently overseeing the preservation of several historic properties, including the Barnabas Jones House, the C.F. Ferrell Store, and the A.M. Howard Farm.
“The town acquired all three properties between 2000 and 2008 with the purpose of protecting them due to their potential for educational or recreational use,” says Kris Carmichael, operations and program supervisor for the Town of Cary’s Historical Resources department. The three properties vary in their historical usage, but all help tell the story of Cary’s early years.
The Barnabas Jones House is located in Jack Smith Park off Penny Road. The main structure is a two-story, pre–Civil War farmhouse built around 1845. Other buildings on the site were constructed as early as the 1820s, including a structure believed to house enslaved people. A small log dwelling initially used as the kitchen later served as a community schoolhouse where one of the Jones’ daughters taught.
Pathways will soon connect the property to Jack Smith Park, so park visitors can walk over and get a sense of the history of this site as it is developed. Site improvements will begin soon, and historic interpretative signs will be added to facilitate public walking tours of the grounds.
The A.M. Howard Farm, located in the historic Carpenter District, is an intact example of a tobacco farm dating from the late 19th or early 20th century. The farmhouse was built in 1910 and the barns, corncribs, and various storage sheds were added after World War II. The property currently operates as Good Hope Farm, and provides a working example of the type of farm that is rapidly disappearing from the landscape.
Good Hope Farm’s stated mission is to honor Cary’s agricultural heritage while increasing the community’s access to farmland and connecting its residents to local, healthy food. The farm achieves this through its demonstration garden, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), and educational programs. Cary’s goal for this property is to preserve other buildings on site for the Good Hope farmers to use. The feeling is we would be utilizing those structures to help enrich and advance what is already successful there,” Carmichael says.
The C.F. Ferrell Store, also located in the historic Carpenter District, has a diverse history as a country store, sawmill, and funeral parlor. The Ferrell family owned much of the surrounding land, and was influential in its development of a central area of local community use. One of the two warehouses served as a roller-skating rink, and the large field was a popular place for the community to gather and play baseball. Its future will likely continue to include community use, but private business use isn’t ruled out. “It’s in the historic district, so we want to honor that,” Carmichael says.
The first phase, completed last year, involved research by experts to give sound assessment of each building and its preservation requirements. The town has set aside more than $1 million in funds for the current phase of restoration, which focuses on stabilization and basic historical interpretation of all three sites. While there isn’t a projected completion date, preventative maintenance work is already underway. The town continues taking citizens’ input and gathering research as it refines concepts for public use.
Preservation doesn’t stop with these projects. Cary plans to continue identifying and saving historic structures. “Old buildings are what give a community a sense of place and [provides] its residents with a shared connection to the past,” says Anna Readling, senior planner Town of Cary Planning and Development Services Department.
Once preserved, these historical locations will serve Cary and the surrounding communities in many ways. They provide not only a look back to the past, but also a glimpse into what is possible for the future.