Tobacco Barn Mini Park

Shirley Simmons

Here is the Park as taken in 2023 by Gail Woolard. The first barn of 1938 is one of those endanger of being removed.

Too many times our corporations, governments and citizens seem to opt for erasure of our past instead of preservation, presenting their decisions as necessary to “Progress or Growth.” Another instance of such a possibility was called to the attention of the Friends of the Museums recently in a plan to destroy a portion of our Tobacco Barn Mini Park on Purfoy Road. Mike Matthews, the Facility Manager of T.E.Connectivity, and Don Anderson, formerly of Raychem Corporation, have worked to give us the facts of this park. The North Carolina State Preservation Office Review Coordinator, Renee Gledhill-Earley and Gary Roth of Capital Area Preservation have provided information and suggestions on these historic structures. Both support the effort to preserve these treasures while it can still be possible.

Fuquay Springs Questers visit with Mike Matthews at Tobacco Mini Park to review the site and informational plaques. Nov 7, 2023.

The Fuquay Springs Quester Chapter # 1134 joined with the Friends to try to prevent this crisis for our TOBACCO BARN MINI PARK. We share this story with you believing the interests of the general public, when informed of the facts, would favor preservation.

An industry named Raychem, for which Don Anderson was Facilities Project Manager , purchased 118 acres on Purfoy Road in 1981. At that time the farm was worked by a renter or tenant family who lived on the property which included the barns and machinery in question today. Julius Baker Reality was the agent delivering the sale of the farm acreage to Raychem.

Raychem enlisted the expertise of Al Honeycutt from the Restoration Branch of North Carolina State Historic Preservation (Archives and History Department) to validate and produce the information regarding the barns. Out of his report came the information that these six tobacco barns were not only a rarity in Fuquay-Varina but an almost unheard of treasure within the state or nation. “You would have to drive all over the State of North Carolina to even manage to find barns built 10-15 years apart and here they are all on one farm,” is the way Don Anderson remembers the treasure of structures.

Generally a farmer built a barn, used it or had it suffer a fire calamity, and then constructed a replacement barn. However, on this farm, there were six barns, all determined to be of different time frames manifesting different construction methods and materials and even using different aspects of curing tobacco, the current money crop of that time.

Governor Hunt and Mayor Johnson reviewed one of the plaques at the dedication in 1982 presented by Raychem Vice President. Picture courtesy Don Anderson.

Raychem determined to work to preserve this Tobacco Barn Mini Park on its property leading to a very special dedication on May 10, 1982. Prominent among the attendees was then Governor James Hunt whose remarks included this historic statement, “ A lot of industry leaders would have seen as their first job to knock down the old barns and make way for new buildings.” He continued in his recognition of how the Raychem leaders exhibited “ respect for one another” and that is “what makes North Carolina great.” (Fuquay Independent, May 12, 1982)

Here is photo of barn information plaques placed on each as taken by Gail Woolard for our article.
Barn Park Map as designed by Richard Bell is one of the plaques displayed in the Mini Park.

Plaques were unveiled that day as placed upon each barn. One plaque dates the barn and its structure; the second details the practices of tobacco farming. Among the six barns, Raychem also placed machinery, all found upon the farm at that time as attested by Don Anderson. The barns were determined to have been constructed between 1924-1948, first used in wood curing, then converted to gas.

Article shared by Mike Matthews from White House presentation of Landscape Award.

The site subsequently received outstanding recognition. “Two that are of the greatest significance are the Triangle Development Award which was won in 1983 and the National Landscape Award, which was presented at the White House by Nancy Reagan in 1986,” Anderson shared a scrapbook of materials with the museums containing recognition by the American Association of Nurseryman, Inc. 1986, the Tobacco Institute, Washington, DC 1982, The Planning Department of Wake County 1982, and the Governor’s Business Award 1983.

Don Anderson shared the design of drive to visitors parking by the Mini Barn Park on the right.

All six barns have been preserved as the property owners became Tyco Electronics Corporation in 2006 and T E Connectivity Corporation in 2018. Anderson and Matthews agree that when T E Connectivity management agreed to sell 32 acres of the property to the Town of Fuquay-Varina which proposed to create an industrial mini park on the town’s portion, there was to be preservation of the Tobacco Mini Barn Park structures.

This is one of the barns slated fro destruction which we need to save as part of the park.

A town official told the Friends of the Museums that the three barns on their portion were offered to any takers but no one came forward to move them. Subsequently, when the Town of Fuquay-Varina sold the entire property to one industry, CCL Label, Inc. the plan became “demolish” the three old barns as part of an entrance to the site. Currently, CCL Label has a plant under construction and has been approached as a “good citizen” of our town to save the barns on the site rather than tear them down via a letter from the Friends of the Museums.

Interestingly, where Raychem won the Landscaping Award for preservation, not just of the barns alone, but of the pecan grove (one of a number which used to be found in our area) and of the four 200 year old oak trees, currently when land is sold companies and towns clear cut and everything is removed for “progress.” In 1986, the Raychem site was one of 18 projects chosen from 108 entries for this award. Noted in the article were its value for employee recreation, as an educational resource for public schools and preservation of environmental harmony.

Picture by Betty Vauthan in Nov. 2023 shows barns and the machine display in the park. Barn dated 1934.

Richard Bell, distinguished North Carolina Landscape architect and preservationist, who drew the landscape plan said of Raychem, “They’re very good people. They wanted to fit into the community.”

John Scott of Wake County Planning Department in a letter of April 1, 1982 stated that Raychem, “…went that extra mile at much extra cost’ and gave a showplace. “Now this is the right way to do things.”

Mike Matthews of TE Connectivity confirms that their employees use the mini park for special occasions. They play volleyball, pitch horse shoes and enjoy picnicking there. He states that he has arranged to keep the barns in repair with period wood and tin using expertise of carpentry and will continue to do that. He, too, is contacting the officials of CCL Label, his new neighbor, and suggesting that the two firms can share this site and make it a mutual project.

The Long Leaf Pine which has survived from the days of Navel Stores in our area. It also is in the area which was to be destroyed of the mini park. Photo by Betty Vaughan.

Fuquay Springs Quester Chapter 1134 visited the site with Mike Matthews for their November meeting. Pictures of all the barns, equipment and the site in general were part of the study by the Friends of the Museums and the Questers. Demolishing three of the barns would be tragic for the entirety of the park, cutting right across it. EVEN MORE tragic, is the discovery that that part of the site also includes an historic environmental treasure. A Long Leaf Pine of unknown years, bearing the scoring for collection of sap, still LIVES. This is indeed a RARE find. Preservation by cementing the damages has saved this old species. This representative of our Navel Stores Industry of North Carolina must be saved! The property also has another stump and portion of a tree, long dead, but an example of collecting sap to make turpentine, a valuable part of the history of our area and the state. Matthews is interested in how this can also be preserved.

Raychem, Tyco, and TE Connectivity have all three exhibited the kind of RESPECT which Governor Hunt boasted for North Carolina. Our hope is that CCL, Label will also understand and become a partner in PRESERVING rather than ERASING our Tobacco Barn Mini Park treasures. We believe the citizens of Fuquay-Varina will appreciate and validate such a preservation! Should we be able to convince both landowners to agree, Wake County Historic Preservation Commission might designate the Tobacco Barn Mini Park as a local landmark which has some property tax advantages. Whatever route, let’s PRESERVE not ERASE our history.


Friends of the Museums, Letter to David Leverde and Mike Matthews, July 26, 2023
“First Lady Honors Raychem,” Independent, June 11, 1986.
“Raychem Plant Dedication,” Independent, May 12, 1982
Wake County Real Estate Data
“Raychem Company Tobacco Barn Exhibit,” Survey notes 1969, 2007, 2015, 2023
NC State Historic Preservation Office.
Photos by Gail Woolard, State Quester President and Friend of the Museum, 2023
Photos by Betty Vaughan, Fuquay Springs Quester Chapter and Friend of the Museums, 2023
Interview and Tour by Mike Matthews, November 9, 2023 with Fuquay Springs Quester Chapter #1134
Interview Don Anderson, November 20, 2023 with Shirley Simmons, Volunteer Director, Friends of the Museums
“Raychem plans to preserve aging tobacco barns,” Independent, July 28, 1981.
“Raychem Site Incorporated History,” Independent, April 8, 1981.
Scrapbook materials copied for the archives by Friends of the Museums from donor, Don Anders