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The Decline of Community in Chapel Hill

by Charly Mann

Over the last two decades I have heard from dozens of current and former Chapel Hillians about their declining connection to the people and places in town. This may partly be a consequence of our internet age. We e-mail, text, twitter, talk on our cell phones, play computer games, but are more socially isolated from one another. From the 1920s through the 1970s Chapel Hill neighborhoods were filled with children, every church in town was overflowing on Sunday, neighbors regularly had other neighbors over for dinner, and downtown was the prime destination for dinning, entertainment, and shopping. Most of us had a strong sense of belonging to a community then. Where ever we went we ran into people we knew and almost always took the time to converse with them for a few minutes. More remarkably many of us also delighted in talking to strangers we would meet around town.


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Karen P.      2:35 PM Fri 2/3/2012

In 1993 my boyfriend and I were robbed at gunpoint across from the Pyewacket on West Franklin Street. Two years later a neighbor who was a UNC professor was severely beaten and robbed on Cameron Avenue. Over the last two decades I have watched in horror as more incidents like this, as well as senseless murders, continue to occur downtown.

Bill A      12:37 PM Fri 2/3/2012

Hmm. While it would be great for Chapel Hill to avoid the negative affects of our current economy, social networking and the decline of mainline religions, tough to achieve. Panhandlers are everywhere these days, so certainly nothing unique for a town that touts itself as rather cosmopolitan. Sorta comes with the territory. <br \> <br \>Having said the above, the suggestion made about parking garages has merit. I live in a suburban midwestern city of 150,000 that has excellent downtown shopping and a lively night life - because people care and work to make the town an attractive place to spend time. And we have multiple parking decks that are free, as is on-the-street parking. Good mix of local and franchise businesses, a healthy approach to serving the needs of an upscale community. Oh, yes, almost forgot - a college with on campus enrollment of perhaps 3,000 1-2 blocks from the center of town. All good stuff!

Paula Mitchell      9:42 AM Thu 2/2/2012

I think three or four strategically located parking garages along Rosemary could greatly benefit all of West and East Franklin Street. Parking should be “free” for two hours for those who had proof of eating or shopping downtown. For others, like students, who might want to park for more time the rates could be as high as needed.

Terry Andrews      1:58 PM Wed 2/1/2012

Downtown Chapel Hill is plagued by an image of crime and lack of good restaurants and stores. I hope your article inspires residents to work on attracting better downtown merchants and forcing the city to make Franklin Street safe.

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Bite Sized Facts Link for Useful facts, financial success, universal truths, and great health info

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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