Have you ever heard of Fuquay-Varina, NC? Most people have not. Yet Fuquay-Varina is the third most populous area immediately around Raleigh and the only one that is not just an extension of Raleigh. Fuquay-Varina is a town 15 miles south of Raleigh, NC that is home to 17,910 people (as of 2009) and several manufacturing businesses (US Census Bureau). Fuquay-Varina’s business sector has powered this little town’s incredible population growth for the last hundred years and it will continue to do so for a long time.
Fuquay-Varina was founded in the 19th century by David Fuquay, not as Fuquay-Varina but as Fuquay Springs. Fuquay-Varina was Fuquay Springs until 1972, when the township of Varina merged with Fuquay-Springs. The name Fuquay Springs was perfect for the town because it celebrated the main two parts of the town: Stephen Fuquay and the natural springs. Stephen was the great grandson of David Fuquay and owned much of the land in and around Fuquay Springs (“History and Background”). The natural springs, known as the Fuquay Springs, produced mineral water that was thought to have medicinal powers. This magical spring was the starting point for industry in Fuquay and attracted many visitors from Raleigh.
Fuquay Springs had perfect conditions for industry and population growth in the early 20th century. Fuquay-Varina’s population was incredibly small until industry found its way to the town. Fuquay Springs’ population was 157 in 1915, the first year that tobacco production took place in Fuquay Springs (Fuquay Pub. Co. 1-16). Five years later, Fuquay Springs’ population was 555 (Fuquay-Varina Planning Board 4). The result of this massive population growth was the large potential for industrialization in the area. Not only had a train line to Raleigh, Fayetteville, and Charlotte (complete with station) been built in Fuquay in 1912, but also the natural springs were purchased and marketed to people in surrounding areas. A great example of this marketing is when John Mills fitted several open rail cars with seats and advertised tourists to ride the train cars at night to the springs on these so called “Moonlight Excursions” (“History and Background”). The influx of tourists from the train and the spring visitors caused many hotels to be built in the area as well as various little shops to accommodate these visitors. Additionally the land was well suited to tobacco farming and there were several wealthy businessmen who built three large tobacco sheds in Fuquay to process the tobacco. One farm owner named H. W. Wells grew a crop of tobacco worth $1,804.78 in the first year tobacco was grown in Fuquay, 1915 (Fuquay Pub. Co. 7). Fuquay Springs’ population continued to grow at an accelerated rate for the next sixty years, with an average percent change of 58%. Fuquay Springs’ population grew incredibly fast because people could find work there, whether it be working in a store or hotel for the spring or farming tobacco.
Fuquay Springs’ population stopped increasing rapidly at the same time that it changed its name to Fuquay-Varina. The tobacco industry started to stabilize in the area and the popularity of the spring had declined. There were different kinds of industry in the area at this point, such as drug stores and phone companies and things of that sort. The town population became somewhat stable at this point in the mid-seventies. Then the potential for industry within Fuquay-Varina was seen once again in the 1990s. Several manufacturing plants were built in the area, specifically Tyco, John Deere, and Bob Barker (Friedberg 21). This together with the growth of the Research Triangle Park and its housing prices has allowed for Fuquay-Varina to grow at a rate similar to the one seen in the 1910s. The increase in size of the Research Triangle Park has created a large number of jobs in that area, but these new workers cannot afford or find housing in the area immediately around the Research Triangle Park. These workers have found their way to the “little” town of Fuquay-Varina (Friedberg 48). Several new suburbs have been built on the same tobacco fields that caused the first increase in population. These new suburbs hold Fuquay-Varina’s latest population boom, which consists of both workers from Fuquay and RTP. Fuquay-Varina’s potential for industry has allowed the town to grow yet again.
Fuquay-Varina is on the rise again thanks to this new industry, but there are fears and concerns from some with this round of growth. Fuquay-Varina’s citizens enjoy the small town atmosphere that it has had for the last hundred years and they fear that an influx of people with no real connection to the town will kill that atmosphere (Friedberg 48). Additionally, if the growth continues at the current rate, major reconstruction efforts will be necessary for both the road and water systems in the area (Friedberg 48). Ironically, this will require specialized workers which will further increase the economic draw of new population to the area. While these problems are a concern, Fuquay-Varina has never turned its back on progress and expansion.
There are problems that must be addressed as Fuquay-Varina’s population increases quickly yet again, but they will be dealt with as the problems that faced with the previous growth were. The first expansion of Fuquay did not come without the same issues such as water shortages and traffic congestion, but this did not stop the first growth and it will not stop this one. Roads were mostly dirt during the time of the first population boom, but water and power were considerable issues. Carolina Power & Light Co. had a power line 3 miles from Fuquay-Varina in 1915 (Fuquay Pub. Co. 1-16). From this line, other lines were built to Fuquay gradually. Fuquay-Springs did not even have water tower in 1915, but the spring supplied enough for their small population (Fuquay Pub. Co. 1-16). As the town grew, water towers were built and gradually increased in size to a tower capable of 1,500,000 gallons daily in 1980 (“Classified buyer’s guide” 1-16). Fuquay Springs was able to overcome these problems with planning and gradual implantation, so Fuquay-Varina should be able to so the same.
The problems with the currently with the population growth in Fuquay-Varina and the problems expected in the near future can and will be solved with proper planning. The problems already facing Fuquay-Varina include traffic congestion and school overcrowding. Fuquay has been steadily building additions to the schools since the early 2000s and a bypass was designed and built that goes around the town and eases traffic congestion. The main problem expected in the near future is water shortages. Luckily, Fuquay has time to plan and an additional water tower that could be renovated for use again. Fuquay-Varina will continue to grow whether proper planning is done or not, but Fuquay shows precedent of dealing with these issues before they become serious problems and will do so yet again.
In this time of economic turmoil in America, the country should turn to the example of Fuquay-Varina. This town continues to grow in the face of a recession thanks to its business and its firm grasp on the proper use of the land in the area. Fuquay-Varina takes the opportunities available and utilizes them for the good of the town. Fuquay-Varina’s grasp on business allows it to grow no matter the circumstance and the rest of America should take example.
Friedberg, Pearl. Fuquay Varina, Wake County : A Community Diagnosis Including Secondary Data Analysis and Qualitative Data Collection. [Chapel Hill, NC]: Dept. of Health Behavior and Health Education School of Public Health U of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, . Print.
Fuquay Pub. Co.. Fuquay Springs, North Carolina: its springs, tobacco, mercantile and social interests and manufacturing opportunities. Fuquay-Varina, NC: 1915. 1-16. Print.
Fuquay-Varina Chamber of Commerce. “History and Background of Fuquay-Varina.” The Town of Fuquay-Varina. Fuquay-Varina Chamber of Commerce, 2009. Web. 31 Mar 2011.
Fuquay-Varina Chamber of Commerce. Classified buyer’s guide and membership directory. Fuquay-Varina, NC: 1976. 1-16. Print.
About the Author
Samuel Neal is a Freshman student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill majoring in Pre-Pharmacy