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The town of Apex was incorporated in 1873, named for its location as the highest point on the Chatham Railroad between Richmond, Virginia and Jacksonville, Florida. Apex grew slowly through the succeeding decades, despite several devastating fires, including a 1912 conflagration which destroyed most of the downtown business district. The town center was rebuilt and stands to this day, now one of the most intact railroad towns in the state. At the heart of town stands the Apex Union Depot, originally passenger station for the Seaboard Air Line Railroad and later home to the locally-supported Apex Community Library. The depot now houses the Apex Chamber of Commerce.
Apex suffered mild setbacks during the Depression-era, but growth began again in earnest in the 1950s. The town's position in proximity to North Carolina's Research Triangle Park spurred additional residential development, yet the town managed to preserve its small-town character.
Neighboring towns include Cary to the north and northeast, Raleigh to the east, and Holly Springs to the south.