Wendell Commercial Historic District
In 1997 Robin Pugh from the Wake County Historic Preservation Commission contacted Guy Brashear, a member of the Wendell Town Board. Robin told Commissioner Brashear that there were no properties in eastern Wake County at that time listed on the United States Department of Interior’s National Register of Historic Places. She felt that Wendell was the best area in eastern Wake County to correct this omission. The downtown area of Wendell had been placed on a study list years before. By already being on this study list, it would make approval of this district much easier. Guy Brashear agreed with her and told her he would try to see if there was some interest in town to do this.
Guy brought this information to the Wendell Historical Society. The society was enthusiastic about the project. President Ray Hinnant invited Robin Pugh from the Wake County Historic Preservation Commission and Claudia Brown from the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office to explain how the National Register nomination worked. The Wake County Historic Preservation Commission advised the group that they would help the Historical Society obtain a grant for $7,000 to help pay for the research for the nomination. It was estimated that the research and preparation of the nomination would cost around $10,000.
The Wendell Historical Society presented the idea of having Wendell’s downtown business district placed on the National Register of Historic Places to the Wendell Board of Commissioners. The board was in favor of this. In fact, they authorized up to $3,000 to help pay for the nomination process if other funds were unavailable. The historical society selected Beth Thomas to do the research and prepare the nomination for the Wendell Commercial Historic District. Mrs. Thomas did an extensive amount of research about the buildings in this area. In the meantime, the Wendell Historical Society received the grant of $7,000 and began to raise the additional $3,000 which would be needed for the consultant. The society was successful in raising the necessary funds and paid Mrs. Thomas the total $10,000. The society did not have to use money from the town for this project.
Mrs. Thomas completed her research, prepared the nomination, and submitted it. The nomination was subsequently approved. On July 31, 1998 the Wendell Commercial Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Ten years later on July 4, 2009 the Wendell Historical Society placed a bronze marker on Main Street in Wendell to designate the area as a historic district. As it had done previously, the society raised the $2,000 to pay for the marker.
Past President, Wendell Historical Society
Wendell Boulevard Historic District
The citizens of Wendell were very pleased in June 2009 when five blocks of Wendell Boulevard were placed on the National Register of Historic Places as an historic district. Although this stretch of Wendell Boulevard (formerly called Wilson Avenue) has always been a source of pride for the people of Wendell, the movement to have it declared an historic district received its impetus in 2005. In the fall of that year a rezoning request to change one of the properties on this street from Residential to Office and Institutional motivated many citizens who lived in the area to act. The neighbors realized that the plan to build an office strip would endanger the integrity of this section of lovely historic homes. Several residents circulated petitions against this rezoning. Their petitions along with their testimony influenced the town board to deny the zoning request.
Next, in November 2005, the north side of Wendell Boulevard was added to the Downtown Development Overlay District. The south side of Wendell Boulevard was already included in this district. The DDOD gives the town some aesthetic oversight when new construction or exterior renovations are planned within its boundaries.
Then in 2006 Nora Cambier and Michael Unruh decided to apply to have their home on Wendell Boulevard declared a Wendell Historic Landmark. This is a designation administered by Capital Area Preservation (CAP) the staffing arm of the Wake County Historical Preservation Commission. With the assistance of CAP, the landmark designation was received. Working with the owners of this landmark home led to CAP’s interest in Wendell. In early 2007 CAP asked Nora Cambier to help organize a Landmarks Tour in Wendell. At that time the Wendell Historical Society was inactive, but its former president Ray Hinnant agreed to help. Through the efforts of many people, on April 27, 2007 Wendell hosted the first Landmarks Tour in eastern Wake County.
After this event Nora Cambier approached CAP to ask how Wendell Boulevard could be named an historic district. Fortunately, the NC State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) had some years before placed a number of homes on Wendell Boulevard on a National Register study list. This meant that it had historically significant properties appropriate for a district. CAP contacted SHPO and the Wendell Planning Department and after a tour of the area SHPO proposed boundaries for an historic district. A consultant had to be hired to research and write the application. CAP had the funds to hire a consultant; however, local support was also required. In February 2008 Rebecca Spanbauer of CAP and the historical society (recently reactivated) requested three thousand dollars from the town of Wendell to assist in funding the nomination of Wendell Boulevard. The Wendell Board of Commissioners voted to allocate the funds and CAP hired Ellen Turco of Circa, Inc, to prepare the nomination.
During the next year and a half Ms. Turco, aided by members of the historical society, researched the properties in the proposed district. Letters requesting their consent were sent to the property owners and the required public meetings were held. In February 2009 the State Historic Preservation Office approved the application and forwarded it to the U.S. Department of Interior. Then on June 3, 2009 the Keeper of the Register placed the Wendell Boulevard Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places! The Wendell Historical Society and the Town Of Wendell are justifiably proud of this accomplishment as they seek to preserve Wendell’s historic charm.
Nora J. Cambier
Past President, Wendell Historical Society