Apex History

The definition of the word Apex means "the highest point, the pinnacle, or the very top of something."

Here in Apex, North Carolina and the Research Triangle, it's fair to say that residents can reasonably assume the name was given to the town because we are constantly recognized for our amazing quality of life.  Experts are quick to say that Apex is an outstanding place to live, raise a family, grow a business, spend a childhood and call home. Apex is consistently recognized as one of the fastest growing, most vibrant and progressive towns in the Triangle area.  Apex truly seems to be a special place where people and businesses have the opportunity to reach their highest potential.  “Apex” seems to be a very fitting town name.

However, the town was named for more mundane reasons. Its location lies on the highest point of the Chatham County Railroad which extends between Richmond, Virginia and Jacksonville, Florida. Apex is one of the most pristine railroad towns in the state to this day.

The downtown Apex area of today reflects the history of our community while combining aspects of the old and new. A population growth began back in the early 1900s due to a tremendous amount of farmers relocating from the Garner and Greenville areas to the new, untouched parcels of land on the outskirts of Apex that were quickly valued as being very suitable for tobacco production.

The town experienced two major fires during this time period; a number of frame commercial buildings were destroyed, the Farmer’s bank was burned down, and a majority of the old frame stores along Salem Street were lost. The end result of these tragic occurrances can be seen today in downtown Apex’s signature look, which includes pressed fireproof brick buildings.  This is the background behind our downtown's historic, rustic, and “small town” feel in the heart of our main urban area.

As the tobacco industry slowed by the 1930s, so did the population. It wasn’t until the 1960s when Apex’s population began to rise, mirroring the overall growth taking place throughout the Raleigh-Durham Research Triangle.  By the 1990s the town's latest boom was steady, along with neighboring communities in the rest of the Triangle area. We evolved from being a quiet crossroads with less than 10,000 residents. 

Ever since then, Apex has flourished.  Town and businesses leaders have focused on managing our collective growth, space and prosperity in order to benefit all of our people, businesses, and activities.  One example of this approach can be seen in Peak Plan 2030.  This planning document, created and authored by community leaders, include Apex BRG Executive Tom Colhoun, lays the groundwork for managed growth in our community over the next few decades.  It considers factors such as population growth, housing, economic development, public services, transportation, environmental impact, recreational & open areas, and town history & culture.

The opening of our second public high school, Apex Friendship High School, in August 2015 is yet another example of the dynamic activity taking place here in the greater Apex community.

Apex’s history shaped the growth and progression of what the community has become. The town has existed since the late 1850s and continues its evolution today, growing as an even more lively and dynamic place with every passing day.
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