Capital Area Preservation, Inc. (CAP) traces its beginnings to the first stirring of a grass roots preservation movement in the Raleigh and Wake County of the late 1960s. Many American communities faced threats to their historic resources from large-scale urban renewal initiatives and Raleigh was no exception. One of the sparks that lit the flame was the potential loss of Raleigh’s eighteenth-century Mordecai House. At the insistence of the Raleigh Historic Sites Commission (now the Raleigh Historic Development Commission) and a cross section of Raleigh residents, the City of Raleigh purchased the Mordecai House from the last Mordecai descendant to live in the house, Burke H. Little, for the purpose of establishing a city park.
In 1972, many of the individuals who had been instrumental in saving the Mordecai House founded CAP’s predecessor organization, the Mordecai Square Historical Society (MSHS). Although the Society’s attention during its first ten years was largely focused on the new Mordecai Park, the founder’s shared a broader vision of service to Wake County and its neighbors. In the Articles of Incorporation, dated June 2, 1972 the founders stated the purpose of the organization to be to “undertake, encourage and promote research, study and education relating to sites and buildings of historical interest in and around Wake County, North Carolina; to acquire, preserve and restore buildings of historical, architectural, cultural or aesthetic interest; to collect and preserve records, relics and other things of historical interest; to foster and promote public interest of local historical, architectural and aesthetic sites and buildings through publications, meetings, seminars, forums, panels, lectures, tours, and other appropriate means; to aid the Historic Sites Commission of the City of Raleigh, North Carolina, in furtherance of its objectives.”
In January, 1983, the Society accepted its first historic preservation easement on the Montgomery House in downtown Raleigh. This was followed by a second easement on the Gray-Fish Richardson House in March, 1983 and three others in 1985. In recognition of the organization’s growing preservation efforts in Raleigh and Wake County, the Board of the Mordecai Square Historical Society voted unanimously to change the name “to reflect the purpose as stated in the Charter.” The past presidents of MSHS, many of whom were founders of the organization, announced their unanimous endorsement of this name change in October 1988 saying that it would “reflect a better understanding of the full purpose of the organization.” After the consideration of a variety of names, the Board officially adopted the name “Capital Area Preservation” on July 11, 1989.
Through the decade of the 1990s, CAP’s preservation program continued to expand. From 1994 to 1999, CAP added five more historic preservation easements to its growing portfolio, including the Burt-Utley House in Fuquay-Varina, the first outside the City of Raleigh. CAP’s growth has continued into the new century with the addition of ten more new easements during the first five years, including four outside Raleigh. Perhaps the most significant event of the new century has been the establishment of a preservation partnership with the Wake County government. Under the partnership arrangement, signed by the County government and CAP in 2003, CAP operates the county’s preservation program and provides staffing services to the Wake County Historic Preservation Commission (WCHPC). Since assuming responsibility for the program, the number of landmarks in the jurisdiction of the WCHPC has increased from 23 to 75. With its increased focus on the needs of Wake County, CAP, with the concurrance of the City of Raleigh, ended its daily operation of Mordecai Historic Park in 2005. CAP continues to support the Park through the loan of its collection of art and artifacts for the enjoyment of the public.
Threats to our area’s dwindling historic resources continue. As an organization, CAP has committed itself to strengthening its efforts on behalf of our region’s vanishing historic properties. Just as Mordecai House faced destruction almost forty years ago, there are literally hundreds of other historic buildings and landscapes that are now threatened with the same fate in and around Wake County. Today, however, historic preservation is not just limited to the protection of individual structures. Communities across America have identified historic preservation as a key facet of economic development, through initiatives such as downtown revitalization, neighborhood improvement and cultural tourism. Capital Area Preservation continues to meet the challenges that growth presents by working closely with local municipalities in order to make preservation an integral part of future growth and community development. Proud of our heritage, but never complacent, CAP looks forward to the challenges and opportunities ahead. CAP counts on the support of corporations and individuals across and beyond Wake County. Please take a moment to join us today.