Cary, NC – This week marks Cary’s 148th birthday and with so many years comes a lot of history. People who may not be familiar with much of Cary’s history can see it for themselves as the historic trolley tours return for a new year.
Ride Around History
The Friends of the Page-Walker’s Historic Trolley Tours for the Spring takes place this Sunday, April 7, 2019, starting at the Page-Walker Arts & History Center, taking people through Downtown Cary and some surrounding sites.
The tours started last year, operating in Spring and Autumn, and while the history has not changed, this year’s route may be diverted some due to construction downtown.
“We’ve had a hard time fitting everything in that’s on Academy Street, so now we have more time there to show people all the historic buildings there,” said Barbara Wetmore with the Friends of the Page-Walker.
Academy Street is a key part of Cary’s history, Wetmore said, not just because of all the historic buildings on it but because of what it stands for.
“We didn’t name our main street ‘Main Street.’ We named it ‘Academy Street.’ What defines us is our schools and education,” Wetmore said. “Cary Academy, now the Cary Arts Center, was built on the highest point of the land at the time.”
Cary has many historic locations many residents know, from the Cary Arts Center to the Guess-Ogle House to the Page-Walker Hotel. But on the tour, Wetmore and Kris Carmichael, director of the Page-Walker Center, said there are several locations residents are not aware of, such as Hillcrest Cemetery at the end of Page Street.
“If you look at the headstones, it’s a who’s who of Cary over the years,” Carmichael said.
Carmichael and Wetmore also said many people do not know about the historic African-American cemetery located near Glenaire, or the evidence of segregated on some old buildings, with segregated entrances on the Yarborough House and the Cary Theater.
“People are surprised Cary has old history at all. They think the town sprung up in the 1960s,” Carmichael said. “That’s why this tour is so good. We have so many immigrants here, who moved from across the country or across the world to Cary, it’s important to understand the community you’re moving into.”
The Future of History
Since the tour started a year ago, Wetmore said it has been very popular and routinely sells out.
“We’ve had a very positive reception and we keep getting requests for more tours,” Wetmore said.
Right now, the Friends of the Page-Walker are only planning on having the two tours each year, one in Spring and one in Autumn, but trolley driver John Lytvinenko started the idea of private group tours. People in groups of 20 at minimum can contact the Friends of the Page-Walker and arrange a tour for themselves.
At the conclusion of the tour, guests are encouraged to go around the Page-Walker Center itself and see its rooms and learn about the town history inside. The group is looking into updating the self-guided walking tour guides for all of Downtown Cary, but there are still children’s guides available, including illustrations and descriptions written by Cary children, available at the Page-Walker Center.
The tours are currently operated by the Friends of the Page-Walker with assistance from the Town of Cary but Carmichael said, in the future, the longterm goal is to increase that collaboration and get more involved in supporting the tours. But Carmichael also said she would want the members of the Friends to continue to be the tour guides.
“I’m impressed by the time and research put into the script,” Carmichael said. “People get so caught up in the feel of that old trolley.”
The Spring 2019 History Trolley Tour is Sunday, April 7, 2019, running a tour at 1, 2 and 3 PM.
Story by Michael Papich. Photos by Michael Papich, Hal Goodtree and the Friends of the Page-Walker.