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Wake County, North Carolina
Seal of Wake County, North Carolina
Map of North Carolina highlighting Wake County
Location in the state of North Carolina
Map of the U.S. highlighting North Carolina
North Carolina's location in the U.S.
Founded 1771
Seat Raleigh
Largest city Raleigh
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

857 sq mi (2,220 km²)
832 sq mi (2,155 km²)
25 sq mi (65 km²), 2.95%
 - (2010)
 - Density

1,041/sq mi (402/km²)

Wake County is a county in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2010 census, the population was 900,993,[1] making it North Carolina's second most populated county. Its county seat is Raleigh,[2] which is also the state capital.

Wake County is part of the Research Triangle metropolitan region, which encompasses the cities of Raleigh and Durham, the towns of Cary and Chapel Hill, and their surrounding suburban areas. The regional name originated after the 1959 creation of the Research Triangle Park, located midway between Raleigh and Durham. The Research Triangle region encompasses the U.S. Census Bureau's Combined Statistical Area (CSA) of Raleigh-Durham-Cary. The estimated population of the Raleigh-Durham-Cary CSA was 1,749,525 at the 2010 census, with the Raleigh-Cary Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) portion at 1,130,490 residents as of April 1, 2010.

Wake County is the 9th fastest growing county in the United States,[3] with the town of Cary and the city of Raleigh being the 8th and 15th fastest growing cities, respectively.[4] It is governed by the Wake County Board of Commissioners.

History[edit | edit source]

Early history[edit | edit source]

The earliest known inhabitants of present-day Wake County were the Tuscarora Native Americans. They were defeated in the Tuscarora War in 1711, and moved to New York to join the Iroquois nation.[5]

Wake County was formed in 1771 from parts of Cumberland County, Johnston County, and Orange County. It was named for Margaret Wake, wife of Governor William Tryon. The first courthouse was built at a village originally called Wake Courthouse, now known as Bloomsbury. In 1771, the first elections and court were held, and the first militia units were organized.

Wake County lost some its territory through the formation of other counties. Parts were included in Franklin County in 1787, and in Durham County in both 1881 and 1911.

During the colonial period of North Carolina, the state capital was New Bern. For several years during and after the Revolutionary War there was no capital, and the General Assembly met in various locations. Fayetteville was the state capital from 1789 to 1793, when Raleigh became the permanent state capital. In 1792, a commission was appointed to select a site to build a permanent state capital. The commission members favored land owned by Colonel John Hinton across the Neuse River, but the night before the final vote the committee adjourned to the home of Joel Lane for an evening of food and spirits. The next day, the vote went in Lane's favor.

Raleigh was named after Sir Walter Raleigh and established in 1792 on 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) purchased from Lane. Raleigh had never set foot in the North Carolina, but he had sponsored the establishment of the first English colony in North America on North Carolina's Roanoke Island in 1585. The city of Raleigh became both the state capital and the new seat of Wake County.

Law and government[edit | edit source]

The county is governed by the Wake County Board of Commissioners, a seven-member board of County Commissioners, elected at large to serve four-year terms. Terms are staggered so that, every two years, three or four Commissioners are up for election. The commissioners enact policies such as establishment of the property tax rate, regulation of land use and zoning outside municipal jurisdictions, and adoption of the annual budget. Commissioners meet on the first and third Mondays of each month.[6]

Current members of the Wake County Board of Commissioners are Paul Coble (Chair), Phil Matthews (Vice-Chair), Joe Bryan, Tony Gurley, Ervin Portman, Betty Lou Ward, and James West.[7]

David Cooke is the County Manager.[6]

Wake County is a member of the regional Triangle J Council of Governments.

North Carolina State Capitol

Politics[edit | edit source]

While North Carolina is historically a conservative state, Wake County is more of a swing voting area.

Although Democratic presidential candidates have only won the county in four of the last 13 elections (Kennedy in 1960, Johnson in 1964, Clinton in 1992 and Obama in 2008), the races have almost always been close, such as in 1980, when Ronald Reagan won by a landslide nationwide, but by a mere 1% in Wake County. Recently, Republican George W. Bush won the county in 2000 with 53% and defeated John Kerry in 2004 by a slim 51% to 49%. In 2008 Democrat Barack Obama defeated John McCain 56-43%.

Recently, statewide Democrats have fared well here. In the 1998 Senate race, John Edwards won in Wake County, which helped him defeat incumbent Republican Lauch Faircloth. In 2000 Mike Easley won the governor's race here with 55% of the vote. In 2004, Easley won again, winning with 59% to 40% for opponent Patrick Ballantine. Democrat Beverly Perdue won Wake County in the 2008 Governor's election by a 51%-45% margin. Democratic candidate for US Senate Erskine Bowles won the county with 52 percent, despite losing statewide to Richard Burr by the same margin. In 2002, however, Republican Elizabeth Dole defeated Bowles with 55% of the vote here, and won by a large margin statewide. In 2008 Kay Hagan defeated Dole 56-40%.

Democratic voters are mainly located in the city of Raleigh, while Republicans are the majority in the rural areas in the north and western parts of the county. The outskirts of Raleigh, and the cities of Cary and Apex are where most of the swing voters are located and thus where moderates have recently voted Democratic.

Geography[edit | edit source]

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 857 square miles (2,220 km2), of which 832 square miles (2,150 km2) is land and 25 square miles (65 km2), or 2.95%, is water.

Wake County is located in the northeast central region of North Carolina, where the North American Piedmont and Atlantic Coastal Plain regions meet. This area is known as the "fall line" because it marks the elevation inland at which waterfalls begin to appear in creeks and rivers. As a result, most of Wake County features gently rolling hills that slope eastward toward the state's flat coastal plain. Its central Piedmont location situates the county about three hours west of Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, by car and four hours east of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Bodies of water that are located in Wake County include Lake Crabtree, Crabtree Creek, Lake Johnson, the Neuse River, and portions of Falls Lake and Jordan Lake.

Climate[edit | edit source]

Wake County enjoys a moderate subtropical climate, with moderate temperatures in the spring, fall, and winter. Summers are typically hot with high humidity. Winter highs generally range in the low 50s°F (10 to 13 °C) with lows in the low-to-mid 30s°F (-2 to 2°C), although an occasional 60°F (15°C) or warmer winter day is not uncommon. Spring and fall days usually reach the low-to-mid 70s°F (low 20s°C), with lows at night in the lower 50s°F (10 to 14°C). Summer daytime highs often reach the upper 80s to low 90s°F (29 to 35°C). The rainiest months are July and August.

The county, at the National Weather Service in Raleigh, receives on average 7 inches (180 mm) of snow in the winter. Freezing rain and sleet occur most winters, and occasionally the area experiences a major damaging ice storm.[8]

Economy[edit | edit source]

Wake County's unemployment rate is much lower than the national unemployment rate as of July 2010.

Wake County's economy is heavily influenced by the Research Triangle Park (RTP), located between Durham and Raleigh. RTP is the country's largest industrial park and a primary center in the United States for high-tech and biotech research, as well as textile development. The park is home to more than 160 companies employing over 50,000 people.[9] The largest employers in the Park include IBM (11,000 employees), GlaxoSmithKline (6,400 employees), and Cisco Systems (3,400 employees).[10]

Wake County's industrial base includes electrical, medical, electronic and telecommunications equipment; clothing and apparel; food processing; paper products; and pharmaceuticals. The agriculture industry is visible in rural areas of the county, with tobacco, cotton, wheat, soybeans and corn being the most common products grown.

SAS Institute, one of the largest privately held software companies in the world,[11] is located in Cary. Other major companies based in Wake County include RBC Centura, Progress Energy Inc, Dex One, 3Dsolve, Carquest, Bear Rock Foods, Cotton Incorporated, Epic Games, Lord Corporation, Lenovo Group (U.S. headquarters), Tekelec, Red Hat, Golden Corral and Martin Marietta Materials.

In 2007, Forbes magazine listed Raleigh and Cary among the best cities to find jobs in the United States,[12] as well as being the area ranked as the best place for business and careers.[13] Also in 2007, CNN ranked the region has the 3rd best area for job growth, the top region for technology workers,[14] and ranked it as the 4th best place for young adult job seekers.[15]

Demographics[edit | edit source]

Historical populations
Census Pop.
1790 10,192
1800 13,437 31.8%
1810 17,096 27.2%
1820 20,102 17.6%
1830 20,398 1.5%
1840 21,118 3.5%
1850 24,888 17.9%
1860 28,627 15.0%
1870 35,617 24.4%
1880 47,939 34.6%
1890 49,207 2.6%
1900 54,626 11.0%
1910 63,229 15.7%
1920 75,155 18.9%
1930 94,757 26.1%
1940 109,544 15.6%
1950 136,450 24.6%
1960 169,082 23.9%
1970 228,453 35.1%
1980 301,327 31.9%
1990 423,380 40.5%
2000 627,846 48.3%
2010 900,993 43.5%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census[16] of 2000, there were 627,846 people, 242,040 households, and 158,778 families residing in the county. The population density was 755 people per square mile (291/km²). There were 258,953 housing units at an average density of 311 per square mile (120/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 72.40% White, 19.72% Black or African American, 0.34% Native American, 3.38% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 2.48% from other races, and 1.64% from two or more races. 5.41% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 242,040 households out of which 34.00% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.50% were married couples living together, 9.80% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.40% were non-families. 25.70% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.10% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.51 and the average family size was 3.06.

In the county the population was spread out with 25.10% under the age of 18, 10.70% from 18 to 24, 36.50% from 25 to 44, 20.40% from 45 to 64, and 7.40% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 98.40 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.50 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $54,988, and the median income for a family was $67,149. Males had a median income of $44,472 versus $31,579 for females. The per capita income for the county was $27,004. About 4.90% of families and 7.80% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.60% of those under age 18 and 8.90% of those age 65 or over.

Cities and towns[edit | edit source]

Municipalities[edit | edit source]

Municipalities, with populations as of the 2010 census. Municipalities in italics overlap county borders, and these population figures reflect only the part of those municipalities that lie within Wake County.[17]

Map of Wake County, North Carolina with municipal and township labels

Unincorporated communities[edit | edit source]

Townships[edit | edit source]

The county is divided into twenty townships: Bartons Creek, Buckhorn, Cary, Cedar Fork, Holly Springs, House Creek, Leesville, Little River, Marks Creek, Meredith, Middle Creek, Neuse, New Light, Panther Branch, Raleigh, St. Mary's, St. Matthew's, Swift Creek, Wake Forest, and White Oak.

Adjacent counties[edit | edit source]

Education[edit | edit source]

Higher education[edit | edit source]

Memorial Bell Tower at North Carolina State University

Wake County is home to eight institutions of higher learning. They include Meredith College, North Carolina State University, Campbell University's Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law, Peace College, Saint Augustine's College, Shaw University, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Wake Technical Community College.

The State Library of North Carolina is an institution which serves North Carolina libraries, state government employees, genealogists, and the citizens of North Carolina. There are two locations in Raleigh.

Primary and secondary education[edit | edit source]

Public education in Wake County is administered by the Wake County Public School System, the 18th largest public school district in the country with over 134,000 students.[18] There are 20 high schools, 30 middle schools, 93 elementary schools and 8 specialized schools. In addition, nine charter schools and 31 private schools are located in the county. Wake County is ranked the #1 school district in the country for certified teachers.[19]

Libraries[edit | edit source]

The Wake County Public Library system operates 20 branches throughout the county. There are 10 facilities in Raleigh. Cary, Morrisville, Apex, Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina, Garner, Wake Forest, Zebulon, Knightale, and Wendell each have one library facility. The Wake County library system keeps books, periodicals and audio books and has recently expanded the selection to include downloadable e-books.[20]

Culture[edit | edit source]

Museums[edit | edit source]

Performing arts[edit | edit source]

The Walnut Creek Amphitheatre hosts major international touring acts. The Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts complex houses the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, the Fletcher Opera Theater, the Kennedy Theatre, and the Meymandi Concert Hall. During the North Carolina State Fair, Dorton Arena hosts headline acts. Theater performances are also offered at the Raleigh Little Theatre, Theatre in the Park and Stewart Theater at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Applause! Cary Youth Theatre, Cary Players Community Theatre, Sertoma Amphiteatre at Bond Park, and Koka Booth Amphitheatre are located in Cary. Other theatre and performing arts locations include The Halle Cultural Arts Center in Apex and Garner Historic Auditorium in Garner. Local colleges and universities add to the options available for viewing live performances.

Wake County is home to several professional arts organizations, including the North Carolina Symphony, the Opera Company of North Carolina, the North Carolina Theatre, and Carolina Ballet.

Visual arts[edit | edit source]

The North Carolina Museum of Art, occupying a large suburban campus on Blue Ridge Road near the State Fairgrounds, houses one of the premier public art collections between Washington, D.C. and Atlanta. In addition to collections of American art, European art and ancient art,[21] the museum recently has hosted major exhibitions featuring Auguste Rodin (in 2000) and Claude Monet (in 2006-07), each attracting more than 200,000 visitors.[22][23] Unlike most public museums, the North Carolina Museum of Art acquired a large number of the works in its permanent collection through purchases with public funds. The museum's outdoor park is one of the largest such art parks in the country.[24]

Sports[edit | edit source]

Professional[edit | edit source]

The National Hockey League's Carolina Hurricanes franchise moved to Raleigh in 1999 from their temporary home of Greensboro, after having departed Hartford, Connecticut, in 1997. Their home arena, the RBC Center, also hosts concerts and other public events. The Hurricanes are the only major league (NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB) professional sports team in North Carolina to have won a championship, winning the Stanley Cup in 2006, over the Edmonton Oilers.

The Carolina Railhawks of the United Soccer Leagues are located in Cary and play at the WakeMed Soccer Park.

The Carolina Mudcats are a minor league baseball team located in eastern Wake County. The team, which plays in the Southern League, is the Double-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. Their ballpark, Five County Stadium, is located in Zebulon.

The Research Triangle region has hosted the Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) Nationwide Tour Rex Hospital Open since 1994, with the current location of play at Raleigh's Wakefield Plantation.

N.C. State basketball game at the RBC Center

College[edit | edit source]

North Carolina State University, which is a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I, plays their home basketball games at the RBC Center and home football games at Carter-Finley Stadium.

Other institutions of higher learning that compete in competitive sports include St. Augustine's College (NCAA Division II, Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA)), Meredith College (NCAA Division III and USA South Athletic Conference), Peace College (NCAA Division III and USA South Athletic Conference), and Shaw University (NCAA Division II, CIAA).

Amateur[edit | edit source]

The North Carolina Tigers, an Australian Rules football club in the United States Australian Football League (USAFL) and competing in the Eastern Australian Football League (EAFL), are based in Raleigh.

Wake County is also home to the Carolina Rollergirls, an all-women flat-track roller derby team that is a competing member of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA). The Carolina Rollergirls compete at the North Carolina State Fairground's Dorton Arena.

The USA Baseball National Training Complex is located in Cary.

Transportation[edit | edit source]

Passenger[edit | edit source]

An American Airlines Boeing 777 from London Gatwick, lands at RDU.

  • Air: Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) is located in northwestern Wake county off I-40. The airport offers service to more than 35 domestic and international destinations.[25] The airport currently serves more than 9 million passengers a year.[26]
  • Wake County is served by Amtrak with facilities in Raleigh and Cary.
  • Local bus: The Triangle Transit Authority operates buses that serve the region and connect to municipal bus systems in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill.
  • Regional Rail - Plans are being made for a light rail system that would be built over the next 10 to 20 years.[27]

Roads[edit | edit source]

  • I-40 is the only major Interstate that runs through the county. It offers direct access to RDU, Morrisville, Cary, Raleigh, and Garner. It has two spur routes in Wake County:
    • I-440 is a beltway that encircles most of downtown Raleigh. The southern portion of the beltway is I-40.
    • I-540/NC-540 is a 66-mile (106 km) partially completed loop that will connect the satellite towns of Wake Forest, Knightdale, Garner, Apex, Cary, Morrisville, Rolesville, and Fuquay-Varina. The completed portions are called the Northern Wake Expressway in northern Wake County and the Western Wake Parkway in western Wake County.
  • Major highways that run through Wake County include US 1, US 64, US 264, US 70, and US 401. Other highways include NC 55, NC 42, NC 50, 751, NC 39, NC 98, and NC 231.

Bicycles[edit | edit source]

The "mountains-to-the-sea" North Carolina Bicycle Route 2 travels through Wake County, as does the Maine-to-Florida U.S. Bicycle Route 1. North Carolina Bicycle Route 5, the "Cape Fear run", connects Apex to the coastal city of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Falls Lake

Parks and recreation[edit | edit source]

State parks[edit | edit source]

Wake County is home to three state parks: Falls Lake State Recreation Area, William B. Umstead State Park, and the Jordan Lake State Recreation Area. Falls Lake Park is located in northern Wake County and contains the 12,000-acre (49 km2) Falls Lake and 26,000 acres (105 km2) of woodlands.[28] Umstead Park is situated between Raleigh and Cary near RDU. Located right off I-40, it is divided into two sections, Crabtree Creek and Reedy Creek, and contains 5,579 acres (22.577 km2) of woodlands.[29] Jordan Lake Park, which is partially located in Wake County near Apex, contains 13,940-acre (56.41 km2) Jordan Lake and 46,768 acres (189.263 km2) of woodlands. This park is known for being home to bald eagles.[30]

County parks and recreation centers[edit | edit source]

There are 152 county parks, city parks, public swimming and public tennis facilities in Wake County. In addition, there are 53 community centers.[31] Notable parks include Pullen Park and Yates Mill Park. The American Tobacco Trail is a 22-mile (35 km) rail trail project that is located in the Research Triangle Park region. Fifteen miles of the trail is located in Wake County and is open to pedestrians, cyclists, equestrians (in non-urban sections), and other non-motorized users.

Hospitals[edit | edit source]

Wake County is served by three hospitals, Rex Hospital, WakeMed, and Duke Raleigh Hospital. In addition to WakeMed's primary facility, the hospital also operates seven satellite locations throughout the county. These locations include North Raleigh, Cary, Fuquay-Varina, Zebulon, Wake Forest, Apex, Wake Forest Road, and Brier Creek.[32]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. ^ United States Census Bureau. "2010 Census Data". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^ Christie, Les. "Wake County, North Carolina". CNN. Retrieved May 27, 2010. 
  4. ^ "The 258 fastest growing U.S. cities". CNN. June 27, 2007. Retrieved May 27, 2010. 
  5. ^ Powell, William. Encyclopedia of North Carolina. University of North Carolina Press. pp. 1172–1173. ISBN 0807830712. 
  6. ^ a b "Commission Facts.". Wake County. Retrieved 11 January 2012. 
  7. ^ "Wake County Board of Commissioners & Elected Officials". Wake County. Retrieved 11 January 2012. 
  8. ^ - Wake County Facts & Numbers
  9. ^ The Research Triangle Park
  10. ^ The Research Triangle Park
  11. ^ About SAS | SAS
  12. ^ Clark, Hannah. "By The Numbers: The 25 Best U.S. Cities For Jobs -". Forbes. 
  13. ^ "#1 Raleigh NC -". Forbes. April 5, 2007. 
  14. ^ "America's best jobs in the hottest markets". CNN. Retrieved May 27, 2010. 
  15. ^ "bizjournals: Rank of large metros for young adult job seekers". 
  16. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  17. ^ American FactFinder North Carolina 2010 Census
  18. ^ | Wake school enrollment in top 20
  19. ^ Accolades
  20. ^ - Library Locations
  21. ^ "Raleigh Attractions". The New York Times. Retrieved May 27, 2010. 
  22. ^ ARTSCAPE: Dr. Lawrence Wheeler, Director, North Carolina Museum of Art, 8-25-06
  23. ^ Monet Exhibit Sets New Attendance Record at N.C. Museum of Art ::
  24. ^ North Carolina Museum of Art - The Museum Park
  25. ^ Raleigh-Durham International Airport
  26. ^ Raleigh-Durham International Airport
  27. ^ Panel: Sales Tax Could Pay for Regional Transit ::
  28. ^ N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation: - Welcome to Falls Lake State Recreation Area
  29. ^ N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation: - Welcome to William B. Umstead State Park
  30. ^ N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation: Jordan Lake State Recreation Area - Ecology
  31. ^ - Links
  32. ^ Locations/Maps

35. ^ 36. ^

External links[edit | edit source]

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Coordinates: 35°47′N 78°39′W / 35.79, -78.65

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