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Wake County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolinamarker. As of 2008, the population was 866,410, making it the second most populated county in the state after Mecklenburg Countymarker. Its county seat is Raleighmarker, which is also the state capital.

Wake County is part of the Research Triangle metropolitan region, which consists of Raleigh, Durhammarker, and Chapel Hillmarker and surrounding areas. The regional name originated after the 1959 creation of the Research Triangle Parkmarker, located midway between Raleigh and Durham. The Research Triangle region encompasses the U.S. Census Bureau's Combined Statistical Area of Raleigh-Durham-Carymarker. The estimated population of the Raleigh-Durham-Cary CSA was 1,690,557 as of July 1, 2008, with the Raleigh-Cary Metropolitan Statistical Area portion estimated at 1,088,765 residents.

Wake County is the 9th fastest growing county in the United States, with the Town of Cary and the City of Raleigh being the 8th and 15th fastest growing cities, respectively.


Early history

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 Yorkmarker to join the Iroquois nation.

The county was formed in 1771 from parts of Cumberland Countymarker, Johnston Countymarker, and Orange Countymarker. 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 Countymarker in 1787 and by Durham Countymarker in 1881 and 1911.

During the colonial period of North Carolina, the state capital was New Bernmarker. 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 for a permanent state capital. The members of the commission were leaning toward land owned by Colonel John Hinton across the Neuse Rivermarker, but on the night before the final vote, the committee adjourned to the home of Joel Lanemarker 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 North Carolina, but two centuries earlier he had sponsored the establishment of the first English colony on the North Carolina shore at Roanoke Islandmarker. 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.

19th century

20th century

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 Harold Webb (Chair), Lindy Brown (Vice-Chair), Joe Bryan, Betty Lou Ward, Paul Coble, Tony Gurley, and Stan Norwalk. David Cooke is the County Manager.


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 Raleighmarker, 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 Carymarker and Apexmarker are where most of the swing voters are located and thus where moderates have recently voted Democratic.


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 Beachmarker, North Carolina, by car and four hours east of the Great Smoky Mountains of the Appalachian rangemarker.

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


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 and biotech 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 (3,400 employees).

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 Institutemarker, 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 United 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 ranked it as the 4th best place for young adult job seekers.


Historical populations

1900 54,626
1910 63,229
1920 75,155
1930 94,757
1940 109,544
1950 136,450
1960 169,082
1970 229,006
1980 301,429
1990 426,311
2000 627,846
2008 866,410
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 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


Municipalities, with populations as of July 2007. Municipalities in italics overlap county borders, and these population figures reflect only the part of those municipalities that lie within Wake County.
Map of Wake County, North Carolina With Municipal and Township Labels

Unincorporated communities


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


Higher education

Wake County is home to seven institutions of higher learning. They include: Meredith Collegemarker, North Carolina State Universitymarker, Peace Collegemarker, Saint Augustine's College, Shaw Universitymarker, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminarymarker 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

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. 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.



Performing arts

The Walnut Creek Amphitheatremarker hosts major international touring acts. The Progress Energy Center for the Performing Artsmarker complex houses the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, the Fletcher Opera Theater, the Kennedy Theatre, and the Meymandi Concert Hall. During the North Carolina State Fairmarker, Dorton Arenamarker hosts headline acts. Theater performances are also offered at the Raleigh Little Theatremarker, 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 Amphitheatremarker 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

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.marker and Atlantamarker. 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 Hartfordmarker, Connecticutmarker. Their home arena, the RBC Centermarker, also plays host to 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 Parkmarker.

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 Stadiummarker, is located in Zebulon.

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


North Carolina State Universitymarker, 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 Stadiummarker.

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 and competing in the Eastern Australian Football League , 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 . The Carolina Rollergirls compete at the North Carolina State Fairground's Dorton Arenamarker.

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 Mainemarker-to-Floridamarker U.S. Bicycle Route 1. North Carolina Bicycle Route 5, the Cape Fear run, connects Apex to the coastal city of Wilmingtonmarker, North Carolina.

Parks and recreation

State parks

Wake County is home to three state parks: Falls Lake State Recreation Areamarker, William B.marker Umstead State Parkmarker, and the Jordan Lake State Recreation Areamarker. Falls Lake Park is located in northern Wake County and contains the Falls Lakemarker 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 Parkmarker and Yates Mill Parkmarker. The American Tobacco Trailmarker is a rail trail project that is located in the Research Triangle Parkmarker 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.


Wake County is served by three hospitals, Rex Hospital, WakeMedmarker, and Duke Raleigh Hospitalmarker. 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.


External links

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