Story and photos by Brent Miller, President of the Friends of Page-Walker.
Cary, NC – The historic George Upchurch farmhouse in Cary took a short trip last week. After standing at 6101 Collins Road (recently renamed Waldo Rood Boulevard) for more than 100 years, the house was moved across the road to a new site where it will be restored, offered for sale and assured of preservation.
George Upchurch Farmhouse
In the late 19th century, the George Upchurch farmhouse anchored one of two adjacent farms owned by brothers George Upchurch and Rufus Merrimon Upchurch.
The Rufus Merrimon Upchurch farmhouse was moved in the 1990s to make way for the Upchurch Farms subdivision; that house, now beautifully restored, stands at 1600 Jenks-Carpenter Road.
Similarly, the George Upchurch house was moved to accommodate a modern development on the site, to be known as Collins Grove.
During the rezoning process for Collins Grove, Town staff and citizen volunteers raised the possibility of preserving the farmhouse. The property owner and the developer collaborated with Capitol Area Preservation, the Town of Cary and the Friends of the Page-Walker to develop the plan to move the house to an adjacent property. The house’s initial move, a major step in accomplishing that plan, occurred today.
Historic preservationists prefer to preserve structures in their original location, which maintains the historical integrity of the site. Saving a structure by moving it is generally considered a “last resort”, but often is the only practical way to preserve it, and that was the case with the Upchurch house.
Because it was moved to adjacent property, the historical context is maintained and all of the parties involved in this project consider it a win for preservation in Cary.
Home to Cary Mayor Thomas Wilkinson
The house’s long-time owner, Virginia Wilkinson, told CaryCitizen that her father, Richard Wilkinson, bought the house in 1959 from his uncle, John Wilkinson, who in turn had acquired the property in 1902 from Thomas Ferdinand Wilkinson, who was Cary’s mayor in 1902.
Ms. Wilkinson shared a family story: “Daddy used to say that when the house crackled at night, that was George Upchurch walking on the stairs”.
Moving the House
Prior to the move, Gary Roth, president and CEO of Capital Area Preservation, the lead agency in moving the Upchurch house, said, “I’ve got my fingers crossed that we’ll move it across the road” and noted that the house was very large and very heavy, and was being moved completely intact, chimneys and all.
Once the house was successfully settled in its new, but temporary location, where it will be stabilized before being placed on a new foundation, Mr. Roth’s reaction was “Fantastic!” He continued, “This was a great job by the movers. We have lots more work to do, but this was a big, big chapter in this story”.
The mover, Lynn McCrary of McCrary House Movers of Lexington, NC, whose grandfather started that company in 1900, told CaryCitizen that he has moved about 15 houses in this area in the last year. He noted that the Upchurch house “was built better than people thought” and that preserving historic structures “is a benefit to everybody. It preserves history and it’s the ultimate in going green”.
The Town of Cary’s Planning staff was instrumental in developing the plans to move and preserve the house. Phil Smith, long-range planner with the Town, stated, “I’m thrilled! This was a perfect situation. I’m glad that we could help make it happen”. Anna Readling, Town senior planner, stated that she was very happy and noted that the house “looks even prettier” in its bare-bones state that resulted from the move preparations because “you can see the elegance of the house and its design”.
And Virginia Wilkinson, whose family has owned this historic structure for many decades, summed up her feelings in just one word: “Fabulous!”
Video of George Upchurch Farmhouse Move
Visit YouTube to see a short video of the George Upchurch farmhouse move across Waldo Rood Blvd.