The Ground Breaking
In partnership with the Friends, 1990 closed with the Town Council agreeing to assume responsibility for overseeing the remaining phases of construction of the Page-Walker. On Nov. 8, 1990, a contract was signed to frame the addition, complete the first floor of the historic structure and addition, and install landscaping.
By early 1991, great progress had been made as the basement was excavated, the elevator jack hole drilled, and the concrete slab poured for the addition. The original wood flooring on the third floor, site of the many buckets that had lined the rafters eleven years earlier because of a leaky roof, had been repaired. Sprinkler, security and electrical systems were being planned.
Representatives from the Friends joined the weekly site meetings of the contractors, architects (Burnstudio), Town Staff (Wayne Mingis and Rick LeLand), landscape architect (Dick Paton), structural engineer (Dave Fischetti), and the representative from the NC State Department of Cultural Resources (PaulFomberg). It was thrilling to see the focus of the group and the ensuing progress!
1991 was bracketed by two extraordinary celebrations: the Ground Breaking Ceremony and the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony. Even though work had begun on the basement and addition, the Friends and the Town wanted to recognize the "official" beginning of the restoration. On March 11, 1991, the air was crystal clear and the sun was shining as the Friends and the Town launched the Ground Breaking Ceremony.
The Friends, again, were masters for detail! The Cary High School Jazz Band greeted guests as they arrived. Ira David Wood electrified those in attendance with his portrayal of Allison Francis Page. Catherine Bishir, author of North Carolina Architecture, shared her memories of identifying the architecturally significant downtown Cary buildings for the Cary Historical Society in the 1970's. She listed the Page-Walker as one of the two most important structures in the town center area, the Nancy Jones House being the second. She congratulated the Town and the Friends for their efforts to preserve this important building. Miss North Carolina, Scarlet Morgan, and Mayor Koka Booth shared their congratulations and support.
The "Ground Breakers" were Mayor Booth, who, as mayor in 1985, gave invaluable leadership in the purchase of the Hotel; John Salls, Senior vice president of SAS, the largest private donor; Peggy Stamey, from the North Carolina Legislature, which had appropriated generous funding for the project; Vernon Malone, Chairman of the Wake County Commissioners, another public entity that contributed thousands of dollars to the project; and Anne Kratzer, representing the Friends. The event was well covered by area TV broadcasting and newspapers. It was such a memorable day following six exciting and challenging years!
After the Ground Breaking Ceremony, the Friends continued fundraising efforts by selling shirts and Christmas ornaments, as well as participating in the annual "Lazy Daze" festival. Community groups continued to support the effort as seen by the Home Builders of Raleigh/Wake County's donation of proceeds from their Dream House Showcase to the Hotel. In the grant category, the Friends received $20,000 from the Marion Stedman Covington Foundation. The Foundation designated $15,000 of the grant for the purchase of a piano for the gallery. We joked that we now had funds for a piano, but nowhere, at that point, to put it!
In addition to the new piano, the Page-Walker was the beneficiary of an extraordinary and rare 1850's American square piano built by JHW Geib. The piano once belonged to Lucinda Rambo, a former classmate of Frank Page's daughter, Katherine. Ms. Rambo's relatives, John and Patricia Tector, donated the piano. It is now on the second floor of the Page-Walker in the Music Room.
In an effort to keep the Friends involved in the programming for the Page-Walker, an agreement with the Town stated that three members of the Friends would be appointed as voting members of the newly formed Cary Cultural Arts Commission. One of the responsibilities of the Friends was to ensure that the activities and events planned for the Page-Walker reflected the intent for the facility: a place for performance, historic memorabilia, exhibits, celebrations and meetings. The Friends continue to have input in planning for the arts in Cary (see article on page 6).
Another related effort in which the Friends were involved was the moving of the Page Smokehouse from its original Town Hall site (formerly A.F. Page’s home place) to the northeast corner of the Hotel property. The Town, under the direction of restoration specialist Paul Fomberg of Archives and History, restored it, much to the delight of the Friends and supporters of the herb garden, the smokehouse's neighbor to this day.
Strains of Handel's "Hallelujah" chorus could be heard as we met weekly during 1991. Such great progress was made that the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony was set for the evening of Dec. 8th, following the annual Cary Holiday Tree Lighting. Again, the Friends went into full gear to plan the event. The Cary Town Center donated a tree that was trimmed by the Friends with many handmade Victorian ornaments. The Lady Slipper Garden Club helped to decorate the mantles and windows in the gallery and the parlor.
And then it really happened!!! On a magnificent star-filled evening, the first floor of the Page-Walker was formally dedicated. On the front porch, carolers and a brass quartet under the direction of Larry Speakman added a Dickensian flavor as they entertained more than 350 people. After a moving devotion by Dr. Harvey Duke, speeches by Wayne Mingis, Director of Cary's Parks and Recreation Department (now Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department), Mayor Koka Booth, U.S. Representative David Price, former Mayor Harold Ritter, and J. Myrick Howard of
Preservation NC, summarized the pride that all felt with the culmination of a long, but very
The exterior of the Hotel presented a warm invitation to the interior where the works of twenty-five Cary artists were exhibited. To the delight of all, music selections were played on the new Baldwin piano, and the bronze and cast iron plaques recognizing major donors were in place throughout the building. The words of Allison Francis Page, as portrayed the previous March by Ira David Wood, rang true: "Well done, my friends."