The change from a non-profit (Friends’) endeavor to a public/private partnership was the only chance for our dream to become reality. It is particularly obvious when viewed from a 2007 perspective. The Friends were certainly relieved and excited that the opportunity to save the Hotel was possible. Yet there was also sadness and a fear that our involvement in the project would be diminished.
Because of the matching funds from the Town, a Town spokesman was appointed to negotiate contracts, representing all parties involved with the renovation. Our fears were short-lived, thanks to the individual who represented the Town: Wayne Mingis, Director of Parks and Recreation. It was with great sadness that I read of Wayne’s passing in March, 2007. He understood the depth of passion of the Friends for the Page-Walker, and assured us, every step of the way, that the Town and he shared our desire to make the Page-Walker the "jewel in the crown." He was a wonderful advocate for the Page-Walker and the Friends.
Three main thrusts existed during the next three years: completing the Capital Campaign, restoring the exterior of the Page-Walker and amending the construction design to include a much needed a basement under the addition (increasing the cost by $100,000), and continuing our effort to raise public awareness of the project through fundraisers.
The Capital Campaign, chaired by Daphne Ashworth and Regina McLaurin, first targeted corporations and businesses. One of the primary components was the Naming Gifts Opportunities program. Each of the rooms, columns and balustrades was assigned an amount as a "suggested contribution." The monetary gifts would receive permanent recognition in the Hotel through plaques. It's heartwarming to tour the rooms of the Page-Walker today and note the numbers of people who cared for the building.
One of my favorite memories of the Capital Campaign involves SAS. I was the "emissary" sent to talk to Patti Sigmond, in charge of gift giving for SAS. This was not a comfortable role for me! I explained the many opportunities to give through the Naming Gifts program, and mentioned that it would be wonderful if SAS would consider funding the Archive Gallery on the third floor (suggested donation, $20,000). Later that week, while I was in the kitchen cooking dinner, Ms. Sigmond called. "You’ll be pleased to hear that SAS will contribute to the naming rights for the Archive Gallery (pause) AND the main gallery on the first floor – bringing the total contribution to $45,000." Pleased was an understatement! What joy, and what wonderful community support from SAS!
Meanwhile, we had raised enough money to begin the restoration of the exterior of the historic structure. We were so fortunate that a Cary resident found a 1918 photograph of the Walker Hotel in her scrapbook. The design of the porch had been changed over the years, and the Friends wanted to restore the facade to its original state, complete with a wooden porch. Ghost marks were found on the brick exterior that confirmed the placement of the columns and porch roof. We raised extra funds to procure solid cypress logs that were tapered and chamfered for the columns. The front doors were re-grained by Rosa Ragan, who is noted for the outstanding restoration job she did with the carousel horses in Pullen Park. Paint research indicated that cream and mahogany were used in 1868, so the woodwork was painted in the same color scheme.
The handsome mansard roof was re-shingled, a new drainage system put in place, chimneys were rebuilt, restoration glass was used on the third floor, and after many consultations with Archives and History, our "mortar was in order" as we re-pointed every brick with the appropriate color mortar. To put the "icing on the cake," so to speak, and, of course to save money, we had a "Bracket-Painting Party" in our garage. Each of the 45 brackets that accents the mansard roof was hand painted by a Friend. Our party was even featured in the social section of the (Raleigh Times) News and Observer!
One of my favorite memories occurred in December 1989. The exterior restoration was complete and a structural steel skeleton stabilized the building. However, nothing had been done to the interior. Bob Godbold, Town Councilman, put temporary lighting at the site. Candles were placed in the windows, wreathes hung on the doors, and spotlights lit the building. After four and a half years, it was wonderful to see the old girl come back to life!
All through the Capital Campaign endeavor and the restoration of the exterior, the fundraisers continued. We rode in four vintage cars during Cary Band Day dressed in turn-of-the-century clothes, sold hundreds of sweat and T-shirts, held our annual "Fabulous Flea" at South Hills, sent out our "Speakers' Bureau" (Linda and Kirk Fuller) to every community group, and, thanks to the generosity of Cherokee Sanford Brick Company, began selling hundreds of named bricks to be placed in the courtyard of the Page-Walker. The Ice Cream Parlor at Lazy Daze continued to be a focal point. The Chamber of Commerce held a Reverse Car Raffle for the Hotel, and Cary Village Mall (now Cary Towne Center) sponsored an Attic Boutique and Raffle. The Page-Walker Golf Classic was held at the Lochmere golf course, and the Home Builders Association chose the Page-Walker to benefit from its Dream House Showcase. The community was involved!
The summer of 1990 marked an important event. After five years from the inception of the Friends, the bids for construction of the Page-Walker Arts & History Center were opened on August 30, 1990. The bids were competitive but $200,000 higher than anticipated. We were $70,000 shy of having the funds even to phase the project. The Friends realized that further delays would only increase the cost. The Board voted to ask the Town to assume the project and begin the construction process. Our partner didn't disappoint, and on October 25, 1990, the Town authorized the Nov. 8 contract signing. Owing to Town budget constraints, the restoration would be phased. The addition would be constructed, and the first floor of the entire facility would be finished for public use. The Friends were excited, relieved, re-energized, wiser and thankful!
Yes, it was finally time for a groundbreaking ceremony!