Folks remember when the Page-Walker Hotel was owned and operated by Helen and Jake Walker:
C.Y. Jordan: My grandmother’s sister Helen married Jake Walker, and together they operated the Page-Walker Hotel.
Helen Jordan Bourke: Jake and Helen Walker’s bedroom was on the eastern side of the first floor of the hotel. Jake slept with his clothes on, including his collar and tie, but not his pants, because when somebody wanted a room, he would answer their knock at his bedroom window. Then he would slip on his pants to let the people in and give them a room. He’d take the lamp and lead them up the stairs.
The hotel was popular with traveling salesmen. Helen had an arrangement for the trains to stop at mealtimes. A large bell was kept in an opening cut in the wall to pass food into the dining room. Helen rang the bell from the front porch to announce the meal. She would seat up to 22 passengers at two long tables in the dining room. People enjoyed food served in large bowls. The room had two large sideboards.
Rachel Dunham: Mama wanted us to go to high school, but Cana Elementary didn’t go beyond the seventh grade, so we came to Cary. The girl’s dormitory was crowded, so my sister, Mossa, and I boarded at the Walker Hotel. We did light housekeeping and had to carry water from an outside well up the steps.
We got ourselves up in time to go to school. We cooked our own meals on an oil stove.
Mrs. Walker’s nephew had a room right down the hall from us, but not many others were staying there. The big room was the dining room. Passengers off the Southern train would stop over and spend the night.
The third floor was the laundry. There was a living room on the west end, where guests would entertain. Mossa and I liked to get out on the upstairs porch and watch the trains go by, and they would throw cinders all over us.
Doris Denning: Mrs. Helen Walker cooked dinner for the train passengers. The train would stop there for a good while, so passengers could come to the hotel to eat dinner. Sometimes they would take the food back on the train to eat as they traveled.
Austin Rich: When I first came to Cary, the town didn’t have any rooms. I went to the Page-Walker Hotel and asked if I could rent a room there. It was three stories, and they had 12 big bedrooms with two big old poster beds in each bedroom. Mrs. Walker showed me the room on the third floor, and said, “Now you can rent this room but when we get busy, I’ll have to put somebody else in here with you.”
At that time, they were building Highway 1 around Cary. I thought to myself, “I don’t believe I’m going to like that. You never know who’s going to be sleeping beside you.”
I heard a tale about Mrs. Walker from years ago. When the train would stop in town, she would stick her head out the window and count the people getting off of the train. Then she’d put that much food on the tables, because she knew she’d have them for dinner.
Cary’s Heritage is taken from the book, “Just a Horse-Stopping Place, an Oral History of Cary, North Carolina,” first published in August, 2006. The book is a collection of oral history interviews conducted between local citizens and Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel.