The marker, covered in purple velvet, tied with a yellow bow, was unveiled during the ceremony led by Historical Society President Chris Smith.
Smith said he hopes the marker causes people to remember the Granville County farmers who came to Wendell in the late 1800s after bad tobacco crops brought them to Wake County, looking for a better life. They became the beginnings of the town which officially formed in 1903.
“I hope it will ring some bells for them,” said Smith of passersby when they see the marker. Smith said he wants residents to remember the farmers, the first school and the creation of downtown.
The homes in the district were built as the tobacco industry flourished in Wendell which had the largest tobacco market in the county at one time. The district includes an airplane bungalow, Queen Anne homes, typical North Carolina tri-gables and homes built in the Colonial Revival style.
A movement was formed to create a historic district after a zoning proposal in 2005 that would have turned part of Wendell Boulevard into an office strip, said Nora Cambier, past president of the Historical Society. Residents along Wendell Boulevard started a petition that resulted in Town Commissioners rejecting the rezoning proposal.
In 2006, Cambier and her husband, Michael Unruh, applied to have their airplane bungalow on Wendell Boulevard registered as a Wendell Historic Landmark. In working toward that designation with Capital Area Preservation, the organization which is the staffing arm of the Wake County Historical Preservation Commission, became interested in Wendell. That interest led to the town’s first tour of historic homes.
With her close association with CAP from her work on her home, Cambier approached the organization and asked how Wendell Boulevard could be named an historic district. She found that the N.C. State Preservation Office had placed some homes on Wendell Boulevard on a National Register study list some years before. That meant the area had historically significant properties appropriate for a district.
At the ceremony, Mayor Pro Tem Carol Hinnant said it was important for the growth and well-being of a town to make these designations. Downtown Wendell is already an historic district.
Smith thanked the people at Wendell Baptist Church for allowing a corner of its property to be used to hold the sign and he thanked the businesses and residents who contributed money to buy banners that are hung throughout the historic district.