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Please Share Your Chapel Hill Memories

by Charly Mann

Outskirts of Chapel Hill
Outskirts of Chapel Hill in 1954 near current location of Eastgate Shopping Center. The highway to Durham was then an uncrowded two lane road.

What makes Chapel Hill great? For me it is three things, the people, the location, and the enduring charm of the campus and downtown.

From its inception the town has been the home of one of most diverse, creative, and often eccentric group of individuals in the nation. As a result Chapel Hill is a thriving community that has a history of innovative one-of-a-kind restaurants, bookstores, bars, and clothing stores. There is also an array of natural and architectural beauty on the campus and downtown that creates an atmosphere that emotionally binds one to the place.

South Building and The Old Well
South Building and The Old Well in May of 1963

Unlike most towns that arise because of commercial consideration, Chapel Hill's location was primarily chosen because of its magnificent forest and scenic terrain. The town is an oasis of ancient trees, historic buildings, and great traditions. It is also home to some of the friendliest people on the planet. The clear blue sky, that is most often overhead, adds another charm to the place.

Chapel Hill has long had a special music in its air that could be heard nowhere else. It goes back to the guitar and mandolin ensembles that were popular on campus in the late 19th century and continued through the enormously successful UNC bands of Hal Kemp and Kay Kyser in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. Since the 1960s Chapel Hill's music scene has been an incubator for great musical talents that have included James Taylor, Arrogance, Mike CrossJim Wann, Bland Simpson, and the Squirrel Nut Zippers.

Chapel Hill guitar players
This is an illustration from 1902 when Chapel Hill was the music capital of the world. Guitar players came from all over the country to live here and join a band. This is a part of Chapel Hill history that very few people have ever heard of today .

More than anything else Chapel Hill is the home to a university where the brightest youth in North Carolina come to improve their minds and body, and often leave with the ability to achieve their dreams.

Chapel Hill logo

Chapel Hill Memories was created so that all former and current Chapel Hill residents can have an opportunity to share their recollections about this wonderful community. We also encourage our readers to do research and conduct interviews with older Chapel Hill residents. Please help preserve the memories of this town. Send your collections to: chmemories@gmail.com.



L Taylor      10:48 AM Tue 2/16/2010

Charly, I would love it if you could do an article on the guitar and mandolin groups of Chapel Hill at the turn of the last century. This is very interesting to me.

Brent Sanders      6:30 PM Mon 2/15/2010

I have several ideas for stories about Chapel Hill restaurants from the 1990s that I will start working on soon.

Ian Golden      1:04 PM Mon 2/15/2010

I have enjoyed this website for a couple of months. That photo of the car coming into Chapel Hill in 1954 is amazing and really tell the story of the enormous growth in town.<br \><br \>I will spread the word that you are looking for contributors.

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Chapel Hill is located on a hill whose only distinguishing feature in the 18th century was a small chapel on top called New Hope Chapel. This church was built in 1752 and is currently the location of The Carolina Inn. The town was founded in 1819, and chartered in 1851.



What is it that binds us to this place as to no other? It is not the well or the bell or the stone walls. or the crisp October nights. No, our love for this place is based upon the fact that it is as it was meant to be, The University of the People.

-- Charles Kuralt



Dark Side of the Hill -- Pink Floyd, the creators of the most popular album in history, Dark Side of the Moon, took the second half of their name from Floyd Council, a Chapel Hill native, and great blues singer and guitarist. He once belonged to a group called "The Chapel Hillbillies".



Check out Charly Mann's other website:
Oklahoma Birds and Butterflies


We need your help. Send your submissions, ideas, photos, and questions to CHMemories@gmail.com.





There would probably be no Chapel Hill if the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees in 1793 had not chosen land across from New Hope Chapel for the location of the university. By 1800 there were about 100 people living in thirty houses surrounding the campus.



The University North Carolina's first student was Hinton James, who enrolled in February, 1795. There is now a dormitory on the campus named in his honor.





The University of North Carolina was closed from 1870 to 1875 because of lack of state funding.





William Ackland left his art collection and $1.25 million to Duke University in 1940 on the condition that he would be buried in the art museum that the University was to build with his bequest. Duke rejected this condition even though members of the Duke Family are buried in Duke Chapel. What followed was a long and acrimonious legal battle between Ackland relatives who now wanted the inheritance, Rollins College, and the University of North Carolina, each attempting to receive the funds. The case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, and in 1949 UNC was awarded the money for the museum. Ackland is buried near the museum's entrance. When the museum first opened, in the early sixties, there were rumors that his remains were leaking out of the mausoleum.



The official name of the Arboretum on the University of North Carolina campus is the Coker Arboretum. It is named after Dr. William Cocker, the University's first botany professor. It occupies a little more than five acres. It was founded in 1903.



Chapel Hill's main street has always been called Franklin Street. It was named after Benjamin Franklin in the early 1790s.



We need your help. Send your submissions, ideas, photos, and questions to CHMemories@gmail.com.



Chapel Hill High School and Chapel Hill Junior High were on Franklin Street in the same location as University Square until the mid 1960s.



The Colonial Drug Store at 450 West Franklin Street was owned and operated by John Carswell. It was famous for a fresh-squeezed carbonated orange beverage called a "Big O". In the early 1970s, I managed the Record and Tape Center next door, and must have had over 100 of those drinks. The Colonial Drug Store closed in 1996.



Sutton's Drugstore, which opened in 1923, has one of the last soda fountains in the South. It is one of the few businesses remaining on Franklin Street that was in operation when I was growing up in the 1950s.



Future President Gerald Ford lived in Chapel Hill twice. First when he was 24, in 1938, he took a law couse in summer school at UNC. He lived in the Carr Building, which was a law school dormitory. At the same time, Richard Nixon, the man he served under as Vice President, was attending law school at Duke. In 1942, Ford returned to Chapel Hill to attend the U.S. Navy's Pre-Flight School training program. He lived in a rental house on Hidden Hills Drive.



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