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3 min Read
Published March 15, 2017

Abandoned Cary Neighborhood Takes New Life

As many of you may know, there’s an entire abandoned neighborhood in Cary.

When people first heard the strange story of a completely abandoned suburban neighborhood, overgrown and wasting away right in the heart of an upper middle class Cary community, they immediately began asking the obvious questions: Where are they located? Why were they abandoned? What will happen to them?

Several commenters were appalled at the waste of these beautiful homes, which Zillow values at over $250,000 each. But as it turns out, these idyllic houses–with vaulted ceilings, bay windows, and gazebos–are being given new life thanks to Habitat for Humanity.

Andy Cruickshank, heading up a team of Habitat volunteers that all worked together at Caterpillar, a company that makes construction machinery, invited me to come see the inside of one of these houses–and learn a little about how the materials found in these abandoned homes will soon be polished up and recycled to be sold in the ReStore, with proceeds benefiting the building of new homes for families in North Carolina.


Inside The “Haunted” House

I was fortunate enough to get to explore the house at the end of the cul-de-sac, the same one many fans of the original urban exploration article claimed to see ghosts in. But in fact, this home was alive with activity as volunteers from Habitat for Humanity went to work pulling every useful material from the house.

Even in its deteriorated state, the house is beautiful. With marble countertops, a large tub built directly into the floor, and shelves and drawers built directly into the walls, the entire house is lit by sunlight pouring through wide and intricately designed bay windows. A staircase leads to a second floor, and the back door opens into a solid wood deck with a cozy gazebo and hardy wooden benches. It would be a perfect picnic spot for a family.

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The person who lived here–and this is particularly fascinating for those readers who see “demons” and “ghosts” in the windows–left behind dozens of Christian books, including historical research into the story of the disciples, and a heavy hardback cover of animated Bible stories.

“It’s funny to see the items people left behind,” Cruickshank says, looking through the books. “One house, down at the entrance of the street, left a whole room of toys. You just wonder why they would leave them.”

But the items left behind tell a story of the people who once lived here.


Recycling The Abandoned Houses

For those of you who are fascinated in this story, you will have an opportunity to have a little piece of these houses for yourself, as many valuable pieces of the homes have been harvested to be recycled at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore.

“We can use a lot of this,” Cruickshank explains, gesturing to a 400 lb. sheet of polished marble or granite countertop. “We pulled this out of the kitchen, and we can sell it at the ReStore. Volunteers will saw off pieces and sell it as cutting boards or any number of things. It’s probably $700 worth of material right there.”

How important is that material? Well, Cruickshank explains, the ReStore in Chatham County sells enough materials to build half the houses they provide for families in need each year. The Wake County ReStore sells enough to build around 60 houses. Anyone looking to make home improvements can shop at the ReStore, saving money on building materials–and knowing their money is going towards building a bright future for a family in need.

“One of my favorite stories,” he shares, “Is this family with three sons who got into a Habitat house. The oldest son now has a college degree in Computer Science, and the middle son is in college. They will never need Habitat houses.”

So houses like those from this abandoned neighborhood in Cary can literally help break the cycle of poverty for generations — maybe forever.

Cruickshank shows me the important work members of his team do in harvesting materials. They use every part of the house. One team member pulls the dark brown crown molding from the ceilings and floors. Another member works on the beautiful double-doors, with windows in the middle and burgundy painted trim, that lead to the deck. Some homeowner will buy these at the ReStore and make a fine addition to their own house. In that way, even after its demolished, this home will live on.

And yes, these homes will be demolished, sooner rather than later. But just as their pieces and parts will help rebuild homes for future families, the property will make way for a senior living community, built by Mangum Development, LLC. Mangum Development has ensured the abandoned homes are utilized to help Habitat for Humanity, so nothing goes to waste.


The Tragic Vandalism

Driving down Guernsey Trail today, I was deeply saddened to see how different the houses look than in the photos I took just a few weeks ago. It’s not as beautifully eerie a scene as it was. The windows are busted out, with jagged glass teeth and shards scattered across the driveways. One door, with a lovely frosted window, has been ruined. Inside the house I saw a microwave had been thrown on the concrete. A perfectly useable couch had marker drawn all over it, like a petulant toddler had thrown a tantrum on it.

These items could have been sold at the ReStore, providing funding to families in need. Cruickshank says, “It’s depressing to see the hours of volunteer labor we put into gathering these items together ruined by someone vandalizing them.”

Unfortunately, the popularity of this cool abandoned neighborhood led to some loss of items that could have provided funding for Habitat for Humanity. Dozens and dozens of people enjoyed driving the street, viewing the unique sight of an entire abandoned neighborhood, taking photos and sharing memories — taking only memories, leaving only footprints, as the saying goes.

Therefore, I am asking to turn the story of this neighborhood into a happy one. Let’s not let it end with vandalism and a black mark on the urban exploration community. I’d love to see the good people who enjoyed reading this neighborhood’s story and exploring the streets to come together and undo the bad that happened. To prove the urban exploration community is a force for good in the world. So instead of a pile of vandalized material, let’s leave a pile of donations for the good and amazing people of Habitat for Humanity.

I’ve set up a GoFundMe. All funds will go directly to Habitat for Humanity, who has put in many volunteer hours and worked so hard to gather materials from these homes. If you enjoyed the original article, enjoyed the photos, enjoyed exploring the neighborhood yourself, please consider donating even five dollars. Let’s make this a story of triumph, not vandalism.

After all, that’s what Habitat for Humanity is about — building new hope.

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  • heather


  • I sincerely believe that through the power of storytelling, I can make social issues become more than a set of statistics. My expertise is in community leadership, non-profit work, event coordinating, networking, and storytelling. All my articles.

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