Sometimes when you’re transported somewhere new, and you’re trying to get your bearings, it helps to go back to the beginning.
And so I found myself at the Page-Walker Hotel last week, learning more about Cary’s origins in a building that once served as a railroad hotel from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.
I met with the perfect people to explain why it’s important to remember the town’s roots as Cary grows, evolves and gains new residents every day – members of the Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel and Kris Carmichael, supervisor of the Page-Walker Arts & History Center for the Town of Cary.
The organization works in conjunction with the town to preserve the historic building (now the arts and history center); host concerts, speakers and events; and introduce children to their hometown’s heritage.
They’ve digitized old photos and protected old documents. When a class from Cary High School wondered whether a pictoral history of the town existed, the Friends and the town put one together.
The top floor of the hotel has a mini Cary museum, where a photo of the town’s namesake – Samuel Fenton Cary – slyly smiles from the wall.
“We’re a real preservation voice in the community,” said Pat Fish, treasurer of the organization.
Their programs, which also include camps, art exhibits and genealogy workshops, reflect that mission, she said.
The group evolved from the former Cary Historical Society, said Bob Myers, president of the Friends group and chair of the preservation committee.
Some may not realize how important it is to protect some of these historical items, like old Cary High yearbooks, or the oral histories of longtime residents, said Wil Trower, a former hospital administrator from Florida who came to Cary a few years ago. He’s one of the group’s board members and serves as the publicity chairman.
“You can lose that history,” he said, explaining the alternative.
“It’s imperative that organizations like this identify and preserve history,” he said.
They’re offering residents a chance to learn more about their personal history on Saturday, Nov. 8, at the Antiques Appraisal Fair. The event, which will be at the center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., was a major success two years ago when it was first held.
This is the second time the appraisal fair has been organized, and Fish hopes it become a tradition – and a major fundraiser for the group. Proceeds will go to the group’s preservation and archival efforts.
This year’s fair features Ken Farmer of “Antiques Roadshow” fame and his team of expert appraisers from Quinn & Farmer Auctions.
Two years ago, a line stretched around the building to the street. This year, measures have been put in place to help move the crowds through the building. Tickets are sold in hour-long intervals, for starters.
There also will be a triage of sorts to help fair-goers figure out which expert can best help them, depending on his or her expertise. One expert who specializes in appraising jewelry will be on site, another first.
Fish plans to bring two sentimental items – one from her grandmother and another made by her father who died when she was young.
“It’s not so much the value, but you want to know about it,” she said.
Indeed, most people don’t necessarily want to know the value of their treasures so they can sell them. It’s about discovering its age, its origins and how it came to be. How was it crafted, and what special touches are beneath the surface?
Everything has a story, at least that’s what I like to believe.
In a town that’s really the size of a city, one that’s quickly changing and sprouting new buildings and homes, it’s nice to remember what layers lie beneath Cary’s surface.
And it’s nice to know that many are working to make sure that sense of place remains intact.