Home & Garden

Famous Cary Pink House gets to tell its own story. Tours available.

Local entrepreneur Sheila Ogle won the 2016 Cary Hometown Spirit Award for her years of job creation, nurturing of small businesses and charitable work. She is best known as the owner and operator of The Matthews House; a founding member of the Cary Community Foundation and Cary Women’s Giving Network; and the owner and rehabilitator of what’s often called “The Pink House.”
Local entrepreneur Sheila Ogle won the 2016 Cary Hometown Spirit Award for her years of job creation, nurturing of small businesses and charitable work. She is best known as the owner and operator of The Matthews House; a founding member of the Cary Community Foundation and Cary Women’s Giving Network; and the owner and rehabilitator of what’s often called “The Pink House.” hgargan@newsobserver.com

The Pink House was in complete disrepair.

Its back wall and most of its roof were gone, its mantels and door knobs had been stolen, and homeless people were using it as a shelter and a place to cook meals.

Sheila Ogle was on her way to the post office in the 1990s when she saw the bright, but dilapidated home with a three-story tower and had an idea. She immediately went home to tell her husband, Carroll, about it and, after two years of talking him and a bank into it, the Pink House was hers.

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The staircase in the Pink House, photographed before and after renovations were done by the Ogle family in the 1990s. Sheila Ogle

Now, she’s written a book about the house — or rather, the house has.

“The Pink House, Circa 1830: A Love Story” tells the story of the house, its history and architecture from the perspective of the house itself, said Mary Jekielek Insprucker, the book’s contributing editor.

“While working at Sheila’s table in this Victorian treasure, the house whispered her stories to us, leaving just the task to pen,” she said.

Ogle even likes to refer to the house as if it’s a person, often giving the house “she” and “her” pronouns.

“It takes the reader from when she (the Pink House) was a young and innocent girl to the beautiful queen of Academy Street she is today,” said Ogle, who also manages of Cary Innovation Center.

The House’s History

The house was built in the early 19th century by railroad roadmaster Capt. Harrison P. Guess, who bought the land from Cary’s founder, Francis Page. At the time, it was a two-story I-house, a type of farm or folk house popular in states that began with the letter i: Indiana, Illinois and Iowa.

Local minister John White bought the home in 1896 and added the three-story tower, among other changes, making it a Queen-Anne structure.

Ogle writes about this period in the new book:

“This man was a Baptist minister, the Reverend John White, and he would sit up in that tower and write his sermons while he overlooked the entire town. Imagine the inspiration he may have gleaned. Maybe a sermon on avoiding temptation after seeing some boys steal a bike, or something on kindness after observing a man helping an old lady cross the street. He would sit up there and just ponder, praying, thinking and looking.”

When the Ogles bought it in 1997, Carroll left his job for a year to focus on fixing it. “He put his heart and soul in it,” Sheila said.

She calls the book a tribute to him.

In 2002, Capital Area Preservation gave the couple the Anthemion Award for their renovation and preservation work.

A Community Home

The Cary community house, as Insprucker calls it, has hosted weddings, Cary Women’s Giving Network meetings, political fundraisers and even tea parties.

It’s why Ogle, the first woman inducted into the N.C. Advertising Hall of Fame, decided to write the book in the first place.

“There are just so many people that are interested in this old house,” she said.

Ogle said she once even had a father knock on her door and say, “My daughter just loves your house; could she have a tea party here?”

So, she put on a white dress and a tiara, took the 3-year-old on a tour, read a book to her upstairs and finished it off with cupcakes and tea. Ogle said she did this again recently with another little girl.

“They look at it like it’s a gingerbread house,” she said.

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The piano room in the Pink House on Academy Street in Cary. Sheila Ogle’s book “The Pink House, Circa 1830: A Love Story” takes the reader into the perspective of the house over it’s almost-two century history. Sheila Ogle

Last year, Ogle held a contest where community members sent in their memories of the house. The best were included in the book, and the winner of the contest got to spend the night in the house. Ogle plans to post all of the submissions on the book’s website.

Now she’s offering anyone who buys a book and a ticket a chance to see the inside of the house.

Ogle will be hosting tours from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, during the Farmer’s Fall Festival in Cary. The book is available at Ashworth’s Drugstore and Everything’s Better Monogrammed in downtown Cary.

You can buy tour tickets and signed copies of the book at https://bit.ly/2lADXEK

A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Cary Women’s Giving Network.

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The front cover of “The Pink House, Circa 1830: A Love Story” by Sheila Ogle. The book is available at Ashworth’s Drugstore and Everything’s Better Monogramed in downtown Cary. Sheila Ogle
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Trent Brown covers the Town of Cary and other odds and ends. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2019 and is a Collegiate Network fellow.
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