is a county
located in the U.S. state
of North Carolina
. As of 2007, the population was 832,970, making it the second most populated county in the state after Mecklenburg County
. Its county seat
, also the state capital.
Wake County is part of the Research Triangle metropolitan region, which consists of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill and surrounding 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 1,565,223 as of July 1, 2006, with the Raleigh-Cary Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) portion estimated at 994,551 residents.
Wake County is the 9th fastest growing county in the United States, with cities such as Cary and Raleigh being the 8th and 15th fastest growing cities, respectively.
The earliest inhabitants of present day Wake County were the Tuscarora Native Americans
. After the Tuscarora War
in 1711, they were defeated and moved to New York
to join the Iroquois
The 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 place called Wake Courthouse, commonly known as Bloomsbury. In 1771, the first elections and court were held, and the first militia was formed.
Wake County lost some its land area during the subsequent formation of other new counties. Portions were taken by Franklin County in 1787 and by Durham County in 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. In 1792, a commission was appointed to select a site for a permanent state capital. The members of the commission were leaning toward land owned by Colonel John Hinton across the Neuse River, but on 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 was in Lane's favor.
Raleigh was named after Sir Walter Raleigh, and established on purchased from Lane. Sir Walter Raleigh never set foot in the United States, but two centuries earlier he had sponsored the establishment of the first English colony on the North Carolina shore at Roanoke Island. The city of Raleigh became both the state capital as well as the new county seat of Wake County. Raleigh is the only planned state capital in the United States.
Law and government
Wake County is a member of the regional Triangle J Council of Governments
. The county is governed by 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.
Current Commissioners are Joe Bryan (Chair), Betty Lou Ward (Vice-Chair), Lindy Brown, Paul Coble, Kenn Gardner, Tony Gurley, and Harold Webb. David Cooke is the County Manager.
presidential candidates have only won the county in three of the last 12 elections (Kennedy in 1960, Johnson in 1964 and Clinton in 1992), 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%.
Recently, statewide Democrats have fared well here. In the 1998 Senate Race, Democrat John Edwards won in Wake County, which helped him in his defeat of incumbent Republican Lauch Faircloth. In 2000 Democrat Governor Mike Easley won here with 55% of the vote. In 2004, Easley won again in Wake County by nearly 20%, winning with 59% to 40% for opponent Patrick Ballantine. Democratic candidate for US Senate Erskine Bowles won in Wake 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.
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.
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 (2,155 km²) of it is land and 25 square miles (66 km²) of it (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 of the Appalachian range.
Bodies of water that are located in Wake County include Lake Crabtree, Crabtree Creek, the Neuse River, and portions of Falls Lake and Jordan Lake.
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 receives on average of snow in the winter. Freezing rain and sleet occur most winters, and occasionally the area experiences a major damaging ice storm.
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
research, as well as textile development. The Park is home to more than 160 companies employing over 50,000 people. The largest employers in the Park include IBM
(11,000 employees), GlaxoSmithKline
(6,400 employees), and Cisco Systems
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, is located in Cary. Other major companies based in Wake County include RBC Centura, Progress Energy Inc, 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 Unites States, as well as being the area ranked as the best place for business and careers. Also in 2007, CNN ranked the region has the 3rd best area for job growth, the top region for technology workers, and Bizjournals.com ranked it as the 4th best place for young adult job seekers.
| Historical populations
As of the census
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
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
Municipalities, with populations as of July 2006. Municipalities in italics
overlap county borders. These population figures reflect only the part of those municipalities that lie within Wake County.
- Apex, 28,830
- Cary, 122,139
- Fuquay-Varina, 12,913
- Garner, 23,507
- Holly Springs, 17,165
- Knightdale, 8,671
- Morrisville, 13,501
- Raleigh, 352,919
- Rolesville, 1,792
- Wake Forest, 22,628
- Wendell, 5,421
- Zebulon, 4,781
The county is divided into twenty townships
: Bartons Creek
, Cedar Fork
, Holly Springs
, House Creek
, Little River
, Marks Creek
, Middle Creek
, New Light
, Panther Branch
, St. Mary's
, St. Matthew's
, Swift Creek
, Wake Forest
, and White Oak
Wake County is home to seven institutions of higher learning. They include: Meredith College, North Carolina State University, 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
in Wake County is administered by the Wake County Public School System
, the 19th largest public school district in the country with over 134,000 students. 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.
The Wake County Public Library
system operates 19 branches throughout the county. There are nine 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 and periodicals, and recently expanded the collection to include some audio books.
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.
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 located between Washington, D.C.
. In addition to collections of American Art
, European Art
and ancient art
, 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. 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.
The National Hockey League
's Carolina Hurricanes
franchise moved to Raleigh in 1997 from Hartford
. Their home arena, the RBC Center
, also plays host to concerts and other public events. The Hurricanes are the only major league (NFL
) 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 their home field is the WakeMed Soccer Park. The team won the 2007 Southern Derby competition.
The Carolina Mudcats is 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 Florida Marlins major-league club. 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.
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 includes: 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).
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.
- 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 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 the 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.
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.
Parks and recreation
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 Falls Lake
and of woodlands. 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 of woodlands. Jordan Lake Park, which is partially located in Wake County near Apex, contains Jordan Lake and of woodlands. This park is known for being home to bald eagles
County parks and recreation centers
There are 152 city parks, public swimming and public tennis facilities in Wake County. In addition, there are 53 community centers
. Notable parks include Pullen Park
and Yates Mill Park
. The American Tobacco Trail
is a rail trail
project that is located in the Research Triangle Park
region. Fifteeen 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.
Wake County is served by three hospitals, Rex Hospital
, 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.