Youngsville and Franklinton Offer Room to Grow
Featured Photo: Winston Ridge; Photo courtesy of The Jim Allen Group
By Kelly McCall Branson
We all know the Triangle is a popular place to call home. With all it has to offer — a mild climate, award-winning schools, abundant job opportunities, world-class healthcare, a reasonable cost of living, rich cultural offerings, diverse dining venues and the great Carolina outdoors — it’s no wonder that some 60,000 newcomers move here every year. In fact, the Research Triangle was the number two destination in the nation for relocation in 2021.
But there’s one problem with all these folks moving here: space for thousands of new households each and every month. Land is finite, and just as the Triangle’s population grows, so too must its boundaries. One of the areas that more and more Triangle residents are beginning to call home is in its northernmost region and the once remote little towns of Youngsville and Franklinton, just beyond Wake County’s border, in neighboring Franklin County.
As buildable land becomes ever-more scarce (and expensive!) in the Triangle, local developers are turning to the rolling hills north of Wake Forest that used to grow cotton and tobacco and the small railroad towns that served that rural population. “Here’s where you can come just a little further out from the center and get more house and maybe more room for your money,” says Tim Overby of Mungo Homes. “This area has a reputation for being safe and friendly, taxes are lower, prices are lower, and it can be a great middle point for dual income households, where one person works in RTP and the other in Raleigh.”
Incorporated in 1875, the town of Youngsville was originally named Pacific. But after businessman Jack Young donated land for the town’s railroad station, local leaders spent the next 12 years getting the name officially changed to Youngsville. Jack and his brother Wiley would also donate property for both the Baptist and the Methodist church.
Cotton and tobacco were the big cash crops in early Franklin County, and the town of Youngsville grew quickly thanks to the number of cotton gins and tobacco and cotton warehouses built before the turn of the century. By the year 1900, Youngsville was one of the largest tobacco markets in the entire South. You can still see some of the distinctive murals painted on the brick siding during the town’s turn-of-the-century heyday.
Much of this charming downtown, that grew up to serve the area’s farmers, is preserved and now houses more modern-day conveniences to serve a new population — from cafes and desserteries to gift shops, a pharmacy, insurance agents, pet care, hair salons and more.
Now with a population just over 2,500, the thing you hear most about Youngsville is how friendly everyone is. A trip downtown almost guarantees running into someone you know. That friendly, small-town atmosphere, along with some of the Triangle’s most reasonable new-home prices, is attracting a variety of home buyers, from young professionals to families to active retirees to the Youngsville area.
And there’s plenty to do, in this small town. Locals rave about the hand-dipped ice cream and milkshakes at Scoops on Main. Barrett’s Produce is a Youngsville mainstay, offering vegetables, fruits and eggs right from the neighborhood. Listen to live music or sip a cold one at Wine & Beer 101 or the Yacht Club. Or grab a grilled “Ultimate Reuben” at the much-loved Charron’s Deli & Café.
And if you’re thinking there’s no diversity in this small-town dining scene, think again. The food truck scene in Youngsville is Global. Venezuelan cuisine, as well as Korean, Mexican and good old New England Maine lobster are just a few of the varied food truck offerings here.
If outdoor pursuits are what you’re looking for, Youngsville’s Hill Ridge Farms offers 80 acres of petting zoos, hayrides, train rides, a corn maze and more farm-themed family fun. Their Fall Pumpkin Festival and holiday Festival of Lights are legendary with locals. Named North Carolina’s best haunted attraction, the Haunted Forest at Panic Point will get your scare on with the Haunted Forest Trail and the Stalkers Farm creepy corn maze, among other ghoulish scenes.
Or for a more serene outing, the Falls Lake Recreation area is just a 20-minute drive from Youngsville and offers a variety of boating, fishing, hiking, camping and picnicking opportunities. And, of course, golf courses abound in this area of the Triangle.
Local developers are answering the demand and building new neighborhoods for folks to call home in the northernmost reaches of the Triangle. Winston Ridge, just north of downtown Youngsville, will ultimately encompass some 550 homes. This new Mungo Homes community features bungalow-style homes — all with the primary bedroom on the main floor, and many with dual master bedrooms — and a community clubhouse, pavilion and pool. “This is a great suburban neighborhood,” says Mungo’s Overby, “that’s very close to Wake Forest and all the shopping and services you can find there.”
Indeed, Youngsville is a quick 10-minute drive to Wake Forest where you can find all the big-box stores, as well as a wide variety of dining and entertainment options and services. Triangle Town Center and its plethora of upscale shopping is just 15 miles away. Downtown Raleigh is a 30-minute drive away, and it’s 35 minutes to Research Triangle Park and 40 minutes to Durham.
Just north of Youngsville, Franklinton, named for Ben Franklin and originally called Franklin Depot, was incorporated in 1842. Textiles were a big part of Franklinton’s history. The historic Sterling Cotton Mill, founded in 1895 by Samuel C. Vann (and also once a Fruit of the Loom mill), still stands in Franklinton and has recently undergone extensive renovation and conversion to loft condos. The well-known textile and fabric manufacturer Burlington Industries, was also once located in Franklinton.
You’ll find mom-and-pop shops and restaurants in this small town of around 2,500. Vino & Vine offers daily wine tasting, wine-related gifts and home décor. The truly unique Slammer Speakeasy is a private, Prohibition-era style lounge and bar housed in the old Franklinton jail (really). There’s live music, sandwiches and pizza at Owl’s Roost Brewery and authentic burritos, tacos and tequila cocktails at Toros, Tacos y Tequila.
Gill Farm, just south of Franklinton, is a new neighborhood by Mungo Homes. With floorplans ranging from 1,500 to 2,800 square feet, the oversized lots at Gill Farm offer room to spread out and a more rural feel.
“One of the trends we’re seeing come out of the pandemic,” says Mungo’s Overby, “is that many people can live anywhere and do their job largely from home.” Overby believes this has fueled a resurgence in interest in living in more bucolic settings, removed from urban hubs.
Mungo Homes is meeting the demands of this new breed of home buyer by incorporating flex rooms into its designs — main floor rooms that can serve as either a home office or a bedroom.
In addition to its affordability in the flaming-hot real estate market that is the Triangle, this northern territory of Youngsville and Franklinton is kind of the best of both worlds — living-in-the-country wide-open spaces and small town charm — right on the doorstep of all the world-class opportunities that the greater Triangle has to offer.