A Seed Begins to Sprout
In the fall of 1983, when it appeared that no one would purchase the hotel and use it as a place of business, Preservation NC (Myrick Howard) and the Preservation Committee of the Cary Historical Society made an offer to purchase the hotel and one acre for $50,000. A letter of intent was signed, and the Preservation Committee began to identify funds for a tarp for the roof to impede further water damage.
Other interested Cary citizens who heard about the effort joined the expanded Preservation Committee, which was renamed “Friends of the Walker Hotel”. This was an exciting time, with the infusion of new people, new resources, and renewed energy and enthusiasm. Many Saturday clean-up days were organized to prune vegetation and remove debris. Fake owls and snakes were placed on the roof to deter the pigeons.
The Friends began interviewing architects. The estimated cost of restoration was $250,000. Although the Friends were still trying to identify ways to raise money for the tarp, enthusiasm remained high and the restoration goal seemed attainable. We were on a roll!
In the spring of 1984, Bob Strother informed the Friends that he had a prospective buyer for the hotel and therefore could not honor our letter of intent. Our immediate reaction was tremendous disappointment. The spirit of the hotel and the community effort to preserve it had captured our imagination. Myrick Howard encouraged us to look at this change in a positive light. This building that had become the object of considerable passion would be saved.
Disappointment can foster character formation. In the case of the hotel, disappointment taught us the importance of resilience and perseverance. In the spring of 1984, the Friends’ dream for the hotel appeared to be derailed. A few months later, though, we seemed to be back on track. The buyer withdrew his offer for the hotel. The “bucket brigade” resumed its role; Myrick Howard offered the same proposal as before; Bob Strother declined but presented a counter offer that was, sadly, beyond our means.
1984 ended with the restoration effort in financial limbo. The stars must have aligned in 1985. In January, a Salisbury Appearance Commission member visited Cary and spoke to the Town Council. He had seen the deteriorating hotel during his visit and told the Council that Salisbury “would kill to have the Walker Hotel”, because it was such an architecturally significant structure. The Council indicated that it would be willing to listen to a proposal for its restoration and preservation.
The Friends took the Council up on its offer. Mr. Strother had indicated that the situation needed to be resolved quickly if the building was to be saved. Mayor Harold Ritter and I discussed an idea that Myrick Howard had proposed: the Town would purchase the hotel and land and lease the hotel and one acre to Preservation NC. As soon as the Friends received non-profit, tax exempt status, the lease would be assigned to the Friends to develop a plan for the use of the Hotel, guide the restoration effort and raise funds for the project.
Mayor Ritter was supportive of historic preservation and with his leadership, the Council approved the proposal. On June 13, 1985, the Town Council purchased the building and land for $235,000, and on August 29, a lease agreement was signed with Preservation NC. The Friends were beside themselves with joy!