Cary, North Carolina

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Cary, North Carolina
Town of Cary
Town Hall in Cary
Town Hall in Cary
Flag of Cary, North Carolina
Official seal of Cary, North Carolina
Location in Wake County and the state of North Carolina.
Location in Wake County and the state of North Carolina.
Coordinates: 35°47′30″N 78°46′52″W / 35.79167°N 78.78111°W / 35.79167; -78.78111Coordinates: 35°47′30″N 78°46′52″W / 35.79167°N 78.78111°W / 35.79167; -78.78111
CountryUnited States
StateNorth Carolina
CountiesChatham, Wake
IncorporatedApril 3, 1871
Named forSamuel Fenton Cary
 • MayorHarold Weinbrecht
 • Total59.94 sq mi (155.25 km2)
 • Land58.86 sq mi (152.44 km2)
 • Water1.08 sq mi (2.80 km2)  1.83%
495 ft (151 m)
 • Total135,234
 • Estimate 
 • Density2,893.05/sq mi (1,117.01/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP Code
27511-27513, 27518, 27519
Area codes919, 984
FIPS code37-10740[3]
GNIS feature ID1019552[4]

Cary is the largest town and seventh-largest municipality in North Carolina. Cary is predominantly in Wake County (with a small area in Chatham County) and is the county's second-largest municipality, as well as the third-largest municipality in The Triangle after Raleigh and Durham.

The town's population was 135,234 as of the 2010 census (an increase of 43.1% since 2000), making it the largest town and seventh-largest municipality statewide.[5] As of July 2019, the town's estimated population was 170,282, though Cary is still classified a town because that is how it was incorporated with the state.[6] Cary is the second most populous incorporated town (behind only Gilbert, Arizona) in the United States.

According to the US Census Bureau, Cary was the fifth fastest-growing municipality in the United States between September 1, 2006, and September 1, 2007.[7] In 2015 Cary had a crime rate of 84 violent crimes per 100,000 residents.[8] Charlotte, the largest city in North Carolina, had a violent crime rate of 648 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, almost eight times higher than Cary.

Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill make up the three primary metropolitan areas of the Research Triangle metropolitan region. The regional nickname of "The Triangle" originated after the 1959 creation of the Research Triangle Park, primarily located in Durham County, four miles from downtown Durham. RTP is bordered on three sides by the city of Durham and is roughly midway between the cities of Raleigh and Chapel Hill, and the three major research universities of NC State University, Duke University, and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Effective June 6, 2003, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) redefined the Federal statistical areas. This resulted in the formation of the Raleigh-Cary, NC Metro Area and the Durham-Chapel Hill, NC Metro Area.

The Research Triangle region encompasses OMB's Combined Statistical Area (CSA) of Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill in the central Piedmont region of North Carolina. As of 2012, the population of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill CSA was 1,998,808.[9] The Raleigh-Cary Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) as of Census 2010 was 1,130,490.


Page-Walker Hotel (now local history museum)
The Preston Clocktower in West Cary

Prior to the arrival of European settlers, the Tuscarora people lived in what is now called Cary.[10] In the 1750s, John Bradford moved to the area and opened an ordinary or inn, giving Cary its first name--Bradford's Ordinary.[11][10] However, most of the land remained in the hands of two men, both named Nathaniel Jones. Jones of Crabtree owned what is now western Cary, while Jones of White Plains owned eastern Cary.[10] In the early 19th century, Eli Yates added a gristmill and sawmill to the community, while Rufus Jones founded the first free school and Asbury Methodist, the community's first church.[10]

In 1854, Bradford's Ordinary was linked to a major transportation route when the North Carolina Railroad came through the settlement, followed by the Chatham Railroad (later Seaboard Coast Line) in 1858.[10][12] Wake County farmer and lumberman Allison Francis "Frank" Page also arrived in 1854 and is credited with founding the town.[10] [13][14] Page purchased 300 acres (1.2 km2) surrounding the NCRR and Chatham junction and laid out the town's first streets, along with building his home, a sawmill, general store, post office, and hotel to serve railroad passengers.[15] Page became the first post master and the community was unofficially known as as Page’s Turnout, Page’s Tavern and Page’s Siding.[16] The population grew after Page and others established Cary Academy, a private school later known as the Female Institute and Cary Female Academy, built on Page's land with lumber milled by Page in 1870.[17][18]

Cary was incorporated on April 3, 1871, with Frank Page serving as the first mayor.[19] Page named his development Cary because of his admiration for Samuel Fenton Cary, a former Union general, Ohio Congressman and head of the national temperance movement, who had recently delivered an oration for the community.[20][21] Because of Page's support of temperance, the town charter prohibited the sale of whiskey in Cary and two-miles around it; an 1889 addition also banned "...any vinous, spirituous or malt liquors, cider or peach brandies."[10][12][21] This law was in place until 1964, when it was superseded by state and county laws.[22][23][24] .[25][21]

The Raleigh and Augusta Air-Line Railroad (later the Seaboard, now CSX Transportation) arrived in Cary in 1879, creating Fetner Junction just north of downtown and spurring further growth. Sixteen Cary residents purchased the Academy in 1896 and converted it into the tuition-based Cary High School which grew to nearly 250 students by 1900.[26].[18] When the N.C. legislature passed a law establishing a system of public high schools in 1907, the holdings for Cary High School were donated to the State, giving Cary its claim of having first public high school in N.C.[18][27] Town bonds and the State funded a new brick school building in 1913, and it was expanded in 1939 with WPA assistance.[15] Today that structure survives as the Cary Arts Center.[28]

In the 1930s, a Cary garden club began growing gourds and showed their produce and related crafts at the N.C. State Fair.[29] After the club's first annual Gourd Festival in 1944, they sent award-winning exhibits to the International Gourd Society Festival in Pasadena, CA.[30] This earned Cary the nickname "Gourd Capital of the World," a designation that was reflected in the official town seal and on public works vehicles.[29] Once dubbed “Cary’s longest running annual celebration," the now named North Carolina Gourd Festival moved from Cary to the N.C. State Fair grounds in 2000.[31][32][33] The town seal lost its references to gourds in the 1970s.[29]

Cary expanded its original one square mile boundary in 1949, and continued to increase its population in the 1960s and 1970s after the opening of the nearby Research Triangle Park.[16] In the early years, Cary adopted zoning and other ordinances on an ad-hoc basis to control growth and give the town structure. Beginning in 1971, the town created Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning which allows a developer to plan an entire community before beginning development, thus allowing future residents to know where churches, schools, commercial and industrial areas will be located in advance. Kildaire Farms, a 967-acre (3.9 km2) PUD in Cary, was North Carolina's first PUD. It was developed on the Pine State Creamery Company's Kildaire Farm by Thomas F. Adams, Jr.

Despite more than seventy years of steady growth, Cary and its residents have preserved important historic structures, including the Page-Walker Hotel, the Ivey-Ellington House, the Utley-Council House, and the Nancy Jones House which are all on the National Register of Historic Places along with the Carpenter Historic District, the Green Level Historic District, and the Cary Historic District that includes the former Cary High School building,[34] The Page-Walker Hotel is now the Page-Walker Arts & History Center and houses the Cary Heritage Museum.[35]


Located in the Piedmont region of the eastern United States, Cary is near North Carolina's Research Triangle. It is bordered on the north and east by Raleigh, on the north and west by Research Triangle Park and Morrisville, on the south by Apex and Holly Springs, and on the west by the Jordan Lake area. The town is hilly, with much of the undeveloped land covered in dense woods. Several creeks and small lakes dot the area, most notably Lake Crabtree in the north.

Nearly all of Cary is in western Wake County, with neighborhood-sized sections in the northeast corner of Chatham County.[36]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 43.5 square miles (112.6 km2), of which 42.1 square miles (109.0 km2) is land and 1.4 square miles (3.6 km2) (3.17%) is water. As of 2010, Cary claims a total area of 55.34 mi2.[37]


Cary has a humid subtropical climate (Cfa) under the Köppen climate classification system. It receives hot summers and mildly cold winters, with several months of pleasant weather each year. Temperature extremes here range from the negatives to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Hurricanes and tropical storms can affect Cary, usually after weakening substantially from being over land. Some, such as Hurricane Fran in 1996, have caused great damage in the area. Snow falls every year, averaging approximately six inches annually.

Climate data for Cary, North Carolina (1991–2020 normals, extremes 2000–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 80
Average high °F (°C) 50.2
Daily mean °F (°C) 40.7
Average low °F (°C) 31.2
Record low °F (°C) 6
Average precipitation inches (mm) 3.54
Source: NOAA[38][39]


Cary is divided into distinct east and west sections. The eastern side contains the downtown area as well as the town's neighborhoods. Several of the town's iconic buildings, such as the Ashworth Drug Store, Fidelity Building, and Page-Walker Hotel are in the eastern part of town. The western side holds mostly residences and shopping. Almost completely suburbanized, the area features sprawling neighborhoods, parks, and lakes.


Historical population
Census Pop.
2019 (est.)170,282[2]25.9%
U.S. Decennial Census[40]

2020 census[edit]

Cary racial composition[41]
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 99,357 56.87%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 13,506 7.73%
Native American 302 0.17%
Asian 39,035 22.34%
Pacific Islander 76 0.04%
Other/Mixed 8,069 4.62%
Hispanic or Latino 14,376 8.23%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 174,721 people, 64,728 households, and 47,640 families residing in the town.

2010 census[edit]

According to the 2010 Census, there were 135,234 people and 55,303 households in the town. As of 2013, the population has increased to 151,088.[42] The population was 73.1% White, 13.1% Asian, 8.0% African American, 7.7% Hispanic or Latino of any race, 2.6% identified as having ancestry of two or more races, 0.4% Native American, and 0.0% Pacific Islander.

The median household income for Cary as of 2011 was $110,609.

Data from the 2000 Census shows 29.2% of Cary residents are native to North Carolina; 55.2% were born in other states. Additionally, 15.6% of the town's population were born outside the United States.[43] The high proportion of non-native-born North Carolinians in the town has led native-born North Carolinians to refer to it derisively as "Containment Area for Relocated Yankees" or "Congested Area of Relocated Yankees".[44]

Educational attainment[edit]

More than two-thirds (68.0%) of Cary residents (aged 25 and older) hold an associate degree or higher, and 60.7% of adults possess a bachelor's degree or higher. Cary has one of the lowest crime rates (79% less than North Carolina) in the state for municipalities of its size.[45][46] The home ownership rate (owner-occupied housing units to total units) is 72.8%.

In 2013, Cary moved up in the latest rankings of safe U.S. cities and is now considered the third-safest among municipalities with populations of 100,000 to 499,999, behind Amherst, New York, and Irvine, California, according to CQ Press, publisher of the annual "City Crime Rankings 2008-2009: Crime in Metropolitan America."


Notable businesses[edit]

Top employers[edit]

According to the Cary's 2020 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[47] the top employers in the town are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 SAS Institute 5,567
2 MetLife 3,100
3 Verizon 2,000
4 Siemens Healthineers 1,600
5 HCL America 1,500
6 Town of Cary 1,152
7 Precision Walls 1,015
8 Global Knowledge 1,000
9 American Airlines Reservation Center 964
10 ABB 900

Arts and culture[edit]

Arts facilities and museums[edit]

Events and festivals[edit]

The Cary community supports a wide variety of public events throughout the year. An annual tradition since 1959, Cary Band Day brings bands from across the southeast to compete in one of the oldest and best-known regional competitions.[53][54] Cary supports artists with two festivals: Spring Daze Arts & Crafts Festival and Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival.[55][56] For the latter, the town closes the main downtown roads for two days, a tradition since 1976.[55]

Numerous multi-cultural events showcase the diversity of Cary. The annual Diwali Celebration, the Indian Festival of Light, features an exhibition of Indian art and culture with music, dance, a handicraft bazaar, and food.[57] Presented by Asian Focus and the town, the Greater Triangle Area Dragon Boat Festival includes displays, food, performances, and boat races. [58] The NC Eid Festival celebrates two Muslim holidays--Eid al-Fitr (Festival of Feasts) and Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice)--with music, food, arts and dance from across the world.[59] Founded in 2004, the Ritmo Latino Festival showcases music, art, dance and food from the Hispanic world.[60] One of the newest annual events in Cary, the North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival is quickly becoming a town favorite with its illuminating nighttime celebration of the Chinese New Year.[61]


Cary is home to two professional sports teams: North Carolina FC (USL League One) and North Carolina Courage (National Women's Soccer League).[62][63] USL League One is the third tier of the American Soccer Pyramid.[64] Both teams play their home games at WakeMed Soccer Park, known as Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.[62][63]

Club Sport Founded League Venue
North Carolina FC Soccer 2006 USL League One WakeMed Soccer Park
North Carolina Courage Soccer 2009 NWSL WakeMed Soccer Park

WakeMed Soccer Park has been the host site for NCAA Men's Division 1 Soccer championships.[65]

As of 2007, Cary is also home of the USA Baseball National Training Complex, located within the 221-acre town's Thomas Brooks Park[66] Beginning in 2009, the complex was selected to host the NCAA Division II College World Series.[67]

Parks and recreation[edit]


The USTA award-winning Cary Tennis Park is one of the largest public tennis facilities in the southeast and features 32 championship courts.[96][97] In addition, Cary has satellite locations at Annie Jones Park, Middle Creek School Park, Robert V. Godbold Park, and R.S. Durham Park[96] There are also members' only tennis courts at both the Lochmere section and the the Highlands section of the Lochmere residential development.[98]


Cary has a council-manager government; the mayor and council members serve a four-year term, with half of the council seats being up for election each odd-numbered year. Four of the six council seats are elected by single-member districts; the remaining two seats are elected as at-large representatives, meaning they must attract a majority of votes across the whole town.

The current (as of June 2021) town council consists of Mayor Harold Weinbrecht and Representatives Jennifer Robinson (District A), Don Frantz (District B), Jack W. Smith (District C), Ya Liu (District D), Lori Bush (at-large), and Ed Yerha (at-large).[99]

On October 9, 2007, Harold Weinbrecht defeated incumbent Mayor Ernie McAlister in the 2007 mayoral election. Citizen concerns that rapid growth was adversely affecting infrastructure and environment over the effect rapid growth was having on the town, especially on roads, schools, and the environment, led to McAlister's ouster.[100]

On December 26, 2009, The Nation reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had secret prisons in the United States, where it held suspected illegal immigrants indefinitely before deportation. It reported that at least one of these secret federal prisons is allegedly located in an office building in Cary.[101] Part of the federal government's Department of Homeland Security, ICE has leased an office in Cary for more than ten years. The town says that no detainees are kept at this location overnight. Other than protesters of punitive ICE policies picketing the facility, the town does not acknowledge any issues associated with the Cary ICE office.[102]


Harold Weinbrecht, the incumbent mayor of Cary
From 1871 to present

Read in columns.

Name Year(s) Name Year(s) Name Year(s) Name Year(s)
A. F. Page[103] 1871 G. S. Leacock 1914 Dr. J. P. Hunter 1933–1935 Joseph R. Veasey 1969–1971
J. H. Adams 1884 T. H. Taylor 1916 M. T. Jones 1935 Fred G. Bond 1971–1983
R. J. Harrison 1887 W. G. Crowder 1916 T. W. Addicks 1935 Harold D. Ritter 1983–1987
John Nugeer 1897 E. P. Bradshaw 1921 L. L. Raines 1937–1947 Koka E. Booth[104][105] 1987–1999
E. C. Hayes 1900 W. H. Atkins 1921–1925 R. W. Mayton 1935–1937 Glen Lang 1999–2003
A.R. McGarrity 1902 G. H. Jordan 1925 Robert G. Setzer 1947–1949 Ernie McAlister 2003–2007
R. J. Harrison 1903 E. P. Bradshaw 1925 H. Waldo Rood 1949–1961 Harold Weinbrecht 2007–present
H. B. Jordan 1903 Dr. F. R. Yarborough 1927–1928 Dr. W. H. Justice 1961–1962
N. C. Hines 1910 A. N. Jackson 1928–1929 James Hogarth 1962–1963
J. M. Templeton, Jr. 1912 H. H. Waddell 1929–1933 Dr. E. B. Davis 1963–1969


Public schools[edit]

Green Hope High School

Based in Cary, the Wake County Public School System is the largest public school system in North Carolina.[106]

Private schools[edit]

Higher education[edit]

Wake Technical Community College's Western Wake Campus is located on Kildaire Farm Road in Cary.[115]



Public transit[edit]

Public transit within the town is provided by GoCary, with six fixed-routes.[116] There is a door-to-door service for the senior citizens (60+) and riders with disabilities.[117] GoTriangle operates fixed-route buses that serve the metropolitan region and connect to the local municipal transit systems in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.[118]

Intercity rail[edit]

Amtrak's Silver Star, Carolinian, and Piedmont passenger trains stop at the Cary Amtrak station. They offer service to Charlotte, New York City, Miami, and intermediate points.


In 2010, the League of American Bicyclists designated Cary as one of the fourteen recipients of the first Bicycle-Friendly Community awards for "providing safe accommodation and facilities for bicyclists and encouraging residents to bike for transportation and recreation".[119] The Maine-to-Florida U.S. Bicycle Route 1 passes through suburban Cary, as does N.C. Bicycle Route #2, the "Mountains to Sea" route.


Cary Greenways and Trails maintains a network of sidewalks and paved trails connecting neighborhoods and parks throughout the town.[119] These greenways place strict requirements on environmental conditions to preserve a park-like atmosphere. In addition, standard sidewalks and paths exist throughout the town. The American Tobacco Trail also runs through parts of Cary.


The Raleigh-Durham International Airport, north of Cary via Interstate 40 between Cary, Raleigh and Durham, serves Cary and the greater Research Triangle metropolitan region. Raleigh-Durham offers more than 35 destinations, serving approximately 9 million passengers per year.

Freeways and primary routes[edit]

Downtown Cary, on Chatham Street

Cary is linked to areas both in in and out of N.C. via the east-west running Interstate 40. the north-south running U.S. 1, and the east-west running U.S. 64. The following state highways also serve Cary: NC 54, NC 55. NC 147. NC 540, and NC 751. Primary roads within the town include Cary Parkway, Davis Drive (links to Research Triangle Park), Harrison Avenue, High House Road, Holly Springs Road, Kildaire Farm Road, Maynard Road Loop, and Walnut Street (which appears on some maps as Cary-Macedonia Road).

Notable people[edit]

Sister cities[edit]

Cary's sister cities are:[138]

See also[edit]


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