Cary History

Cary’s Heritage: Rogers Motel

Cary, NC – William “Billy” Rogers died recently, and now the Chatham Street Commercial development group is planning to buy the Rogers Motel building and tear it down for commercial and office space construction.

When the building is lost, the history that took place there does not need to disappear with it. In August of 2000, Billy gave us an oral history interview. Here is what he told us at that time about his family’s businesses.

Billy Rogers

In the 1950s, my father opened a restaurant on East Chatham Street. Then in 1961, he bought this building at 149 East Chatham and moved his restaurant here. In 1966, Barbara and I bought the building from him with the restaurant and a small motel attached, so when we took over the restaurant from Daddy, we also took over the motel. It had seven rooms and an apartment. In 1980, we built five more rooms on the back. Most of them are rented weekly to construction people, but we’ve had lots of people stay here with all kinds of problems. I think we’ve been able to help some of them, while others we think nobody could ever help, but we feel for those people. We sometimes don’t know how to help, but we do the best we can for them.

One man that stayed here for ten or fifteen years had been in prison for 33 years. At that time, his was the longest consecutive sentence of anybody in the North Carolina prison system who had then been paroled. His sister made the arrangements with us. We had a former Cary town manager who lived here for years for lack of a nursing home.

Cary History

Rogers Motel

When he became blind, every morning we’d lead him over to our restaurant for breakfast, then take him back to his room. A young black man and white girl once came to our door looking for a room. They moved to Cary to get away from a segregation problem in South Carolina. He was already working painting houses, while she got a job at Food Lion two days after they arrived. In a few weeks they had saved enough money to rent an apartment. We don’t care what nationality they are or what their problems are, as long as they’re not a problem here. We want to give people a temporary leg-up to improve their lives.  Some of them quickly do a lot better while others have stagnated and stayed on for a long time.

A black lady who was born in 1922 worked with Daddy long before we bought the place and she stayed on working with us.  She lived beyond Carpenter and that was too far for her to come, so in 1974, we bought a lot on Johnson Street and built a rental house for her. She still lives in that house and still works forty hours a week at Biscuit Time. I’d love to sell that house but I never will as long as she lives in it. She’s precious to me.

Story by Peggy Van Scoyoc. Photos by Michael Papich. Much of Cary’s Heritage is taken from the book, Desegregating Cary, published in February, 2010. The book is a collection of oral history interviews conducted between local citizens and Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel. The rest comes from later oral history interviews with local citizens.

10 replies
  1. Vernon Spinks
    Vernon Spinks says:

    The black lady born in 1922, and work there for 33 years was my mother Elizabeth Spinks. Rogers was great Blessing to our family. I’m thankful for Mr & Mrs Rogers. I even remember his dad. Great story!

    • Barbara Rogers
      Barbara Rogers says:

      Vernon, it was the other way around. Your entire family was a BLESSING to us. Billy and I loved your Mother and your entire family.

  2. Jackie Swanson
    Jackie Swanson says:

    What a great story. Enjoyed reading it. It’s nice to learn things about my husbands background. He was given up for adoption, from Amy Gentry & Jim Rogers. Now 40 years later…. So it was AWESOME to read to him, this bit of information of his heritage. We would love to hear\learn more! Maybe…. This will be a way to open that door.

  3. Horace Hodges
    Horace Hodges says:

    Cary was very blessed to have had Billy and Barbara Rogers. They were always helping people who were down and out and needed a helping hand and fullfilled Matthew 25:42-45.

  4. Coleman Poag
    Coleman Poag says:

    In 1993, when the Rogers were ready to retire, there was a plan for Christian Community in Action to acquire the building, rename it “The Carying Place” and continue to help people who needed help at that site. The downtown merchants prevented that use of the building, but The Carying Place program was established and continues to help families escape homelessness.

  5. Brad Emerson
    Brad Emerson says:

    Growing up in Cary I remember going to Roger’s Restaurant with my father in the early morning to start off the day with basically what was a planning session of the days work. Coming thru the front door you were always greeted by a large grey haired man(Mr.Rogers Sr.) And then a slim smiling Mr. Rogers with a very sharp witted good looking waitress ( Mrs.Rogers) Growing up in a small town had it’s advantages because my father would walk in thru the kitchen speaking to everyone. Great memories of the Cary that I remember!/

  6. Brent
    Brent says:

    Thank you Peggy for elucidating the Historic importance of Cary’s Rogers Motel. Sometimes it’s about people and stories, not just architecture.

    That said, I think it would be great if the developers could preserve the “office “ portion of the Motel and integrate it into the new development.

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