The first step in developing a countywide historic preservation program was to identify and document the county's important historic resources. Wake County Planning completed the three-year historic architecture survey in June 1991. Approximately 2,000 historically and/or architecturally significant sites and areas were documented during the survey, which included the county's rural areas and the county's 11 municipalities outside the 1988 Raleigh city limits. Many of the surveyed properties were subsequently added to the state's study list for the National Register of Historic Places. Survey files on each of the recorded sites are stored at the Survey and Planning Branch of the North Carolina Division of Archives and History. Wake County completed an update to the original list in 2008 with a grant from the State Preservation Office.
Survey files, which include photographs, computer data forms, and other historical information, are available to the public in the State Historic Preservation Office. Also available are maps showing the location of surveyed properties, a final inventory list and the final report. A limited number of files are also available from Wake County Planning.
The results of the survey were published in The Historic Architecture of Wake County,
. The publication, which features Wake County's significant historic and architectural resources, serves as an educational and planning tool and calls attention to the unique heritage of the capital county. The publication is available for purchase at the Olivia Raney Local History Library.
Wake County Planning is developing a digital database to include 2,800 surveyed properties. One of the primary uses for the database will be to map historic resources, which will facilitate the use of this information by the county, municipalities, other agencies and citizens.