A few golden tobacco leaves still hang from the ceiling of Carpenter Farm Supply Co. in western Cary.
The store’s pearly-white front facade still looks as it did when the Carpenter family, which opened the store in 1895, moved into the building 10 years later.
Farmers like Lee Phillips can still fill up their tanks with fertilizer from the back of the store’s warehouse.
Dale Carpenter’s store is one of six properties in Cary that the town has labeled a historic landmark – something he compared to putting the property “in a pickle jar” to preserve.
Soon, that number could grow. Cary recently took a step toward saving the remnants of a town that existed long before subdivisions and shopping centers arrived.
Town leaders have established the Cary Historic Preservation Commission, a group of seven residents responsible for helping the town preserve its oldest and most valuable landmarks and properties.
The commission is part of a master plan the Town Council approved in 2008 that aims to protect Cary’s historic areas from development and neglect.
Until the move, Cary relied on the Wake County Historic Preservation Commission to name and protect the town’s historic landmarks.
Most Wake towns – including Apex, Fuquay-Varina, Holly Springs and Morrisville – partner with the county commission for historic preservation. Raleigh and Wake Forest have their own commissions responsible for the task.
But the pace of development in Cary prompted some to call for the town to start its own group, said Anna Readling, a senior planner for Cary.
“There has been increased interest because there’s been so much growth,” she said. “There’s only so much time we can ask of the county because they’re serving so many municipalities.”
Until now, property owners of Cary’s historic landmarks had to get approval from the Wake County Historic Preservation Commission before making major changes to the exterior of buildings. Now the town’s commission will oversee proposed aesthetic changes.
Properties designated as historic landmarks don’t have to stay that way forever. Property owners maintain control over the landmarks’ future, including the potential to sell to a developer.
Cary expects the new commission to come in handy when it considers future development proposals that affect potentially historic properties like the Franklin House, built in the 1820s by one of the families that Jones Franklin Road is named after.
The owner of the property where the Franklin House sits just outside the town’s southern border is asking Cary to annex and rezone her land that includes an old cemetery and horse barn.
The Franklin House would be the second-oldest house in Cary if the council approves the annexation, according to Gary Roth, executive director of Capital Area Preservation.
Town staff members are currently limited in what they can do to preserve historic properties because there are no formal regulations.
The new Cary commission will likely form guidelines for maintaining historic properties and make recommendations to the Cary Town Council on how it should handle development proposals.
Along with making recommendations, the commission will bring attention to the fragments of Cary’s past that are becoming harder to find, Councilman Ed Yerha said.
“We have so many new people in Cary that I think it’s important for us to make them aware of our history,” he said. “I don’t think there should be 60 (historical landmarks). But I definitely think there should be more than six.”
The town is still crafting the application form for residents who are interested in serving on the commission. In the next few weeks, Cary council members will nominate commission members from the pool of applicants.
“You’d be surprised how much anecdotal information local residents can bring to bear on a recommendation,” Readling said.