Historic Preservation Information

 

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Town of Apex, Past and Present

The early history of Apex stems from a railroad station that was chartered in 1854, although the first train did not pass through town until 1869. The first settlers came to the area in the 1860s and the town was incorporated in 1873. The town was named Apex because the community was the highest point on the Chatham Railroad between Richmond, Virginia and Jacksonville, Florida. Another justification for the name Apex comes from the fact that water which falls on one side of Salem Street flows to the Neuse River, while water falling on the other side of the street flows to the Cape Fear River.

A small community developed around the railroad station and the dense forests in the area were cleared for farm land. As one of the first towns to develop around the state capital of Raleigh, Apex became an active trading and shopping center. Since the train station was located in the heart of a vast pine forest, Apex became a shipping point for such products as tar, turpentine and lumber. By the turn of the 20th century, the little town of Apex boasted a population of 349.

Tobacco farming became an important part of the local economy in the early 1900s when a plant disease forced many tobacco farmers in Person and Granville counties to relocate.  Many of the farmers discovered that the land around Apex produced excellent tobacco crops and decided to move to the area. The first tobacco auction market in Wake County was established in Apex in 1905.

The town’s early growth was shaped by two disastrous fires in the early 1900s. In February 1905, a fire destroyed a number of frame commercial buildings in the town. A second fire on June 12, 1911 destroyed much of the business district, including the Merchants and Farmer’s Bank, the postmaster’s house, and many of the old frame stores. The fires provided merchants with a strong incentive to replace the old frame structures with fireproof brick buildings.

In 1912, the Apex Town Hall was built on the Corner of Salem and Templeton, the building served many other needs over the years including housing the Police Station, jail, farmer's market, the firehouse (in the rear), a ticket office and once provided a second floor gathering place for teenagers to meet and dance. By 1913, the 100 block of Salem Street was rebuilt with pressed-brick front stores and, in 1914, the Union Depot was rebuilt.

The population of Apex had grown to 1,000 by 1920 but the tobacco market declined during the ‘20s and by the 1930 census the population had dropped to 863. The great economic depression of the ‘30s hit Apex hard and, by 1934, only four train stops were made at the Apex depot.

Apex remained a sleepy little town into the early 1960's when the nearby Research Triangle Park was established and began to attract high-tech firms from throughout the world. Apex began to boom, along with the rest of the Triangle, and by 1990 the population reached 5,000. The town experienced unprecedented growth during the 1990's as technology-driven industry continued to move into the area. Money Magazine name ranked Apex #14 as one of the best places to live in the USA in 2007 and by 2008, the population of Apex has zoomed to more than 34,000.

Halle Cultural Arts CenterThe Small Town Character Overlay Zoning District passed in 2006 to help maintain the character of the heart of Apex, the Downtown and surrounding residential neighborhoods. The Town offers façade grants and a reduction of capacity fees for businesses locating in the Central Business District. A major streetscape renovation project has restored Apex’s downtown and recaptured its historic flavor and the old Town Hall was renovated and has become the award-winning Halle Cultural Arts Center. The downtown and surrounding neighborhood is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as one of the best examples of an intact turn-of-the-century railroad town in North Carolina. The National Register Historic District has commercial and residential buildings that date to the late 1800's and represent a wide variety of architectural styles.

Staff Contact
Lauren Simmons
Planner
lauren.simmons@apexnc.org
(919) 249-3422