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A Brief History of Franklin Street

by Charly Mann

Central Franklin Street was lined with an assortment of poorly constructed stores that looked more like shacks until about 1920. After a fire that destroyed most of the stores on the north side of the street, buildings made of brick began sprouting up. By 1935 Franklin Street achieved the look that it maintained until 1971, when the NCNB Plaza was built and became the main eyesore of downtown.


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Paul Magill      12:07 AM Sun 10/4/2009

The Carolina Theater was split in two in the spring of 1975. Scott Reid was the manager at the time.

D Sloan      3:09 PM Tue 3/17/2009

Carrington Smith managed the Carolina Theater for many decades. He was also Carolina's biggest sports fan. You should write something about him.

J Lambert      11:48 AM Tue 3/17/2009

It is hard to believe that less than 50 years ago black people could not go to a movie in Chapel Hill, even one with all black actors. Things have changed for the better, but I am glad we are being reminded of our past

Dan Price      11:01 AM Tue 3/17/2009

What was the name of the cafeteria in the center of Franklin Street for most of the 50s and 60s? I recall the food was mediocre.

Kay Williams      9:07 AM Tue 3/17/2009

My daughter just sent me a "link" to Chapel Hill Memories. It is delightful. Please do some pieces on the lovely neighborhoods of Chapel Hill.

Tarheel Fred      8:25 AM Tue 3/17/2009

I can't believe that horse drawn cart! Do you remember the ice factory at end of West Franklin Street (It later became a car wash)? I think people were still getting ice there in the late 1950s.

Tammy Brown      8:07 PM Mon 3/16/2009

Thanks so much for this trip through Chapel Hill time. I've always wondered why the University side of Franklin Street looked so different from the other side..

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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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