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HARRY'S RESTAURANT (1926 - 1972)

by Charly Mann

1926 saw the birth of famous Tarheel Andy Griffith, as well as Fidel Castro, Marilyn Monroe, and Hugh Hefner. Also in 1926, Chapel Hill welcomed the opening of the first restaurant that offered food that was not traditionally Southern. The name of the restaurant was HARRY’S, and the owner was Harry Stern. Though not an authentic deli or coffee shop, its culinary offerings had a combination bohemian and New York City flare.

HARRY'S ad from 1936 when it was owned by original owner Harry Stern

The first location of HARRY'S was across the street from where Four Corners restaurant is now located. In 1927 it moved down Franklin Street next to the Carolina Theater (now the location of The Gap). Harry Stern's brother-in-law Harry Macklin bought the restaurant in 1939, and conveniently its name still fit. This was a challenging time to get into the restaurant business with the Depression in full swing and most males leaving Chapel Hill after 1942 to serve in World War II. Macklin sold the restaurant in 1944, and it had one more owner after that until it finally closed in 1952.

HARRY's ad from 1943 just before Harry Macklin sold  the business in 1944

In 1954 Harry Macklin reopened HARRY'S on the north side of Franklin Street just a few doors west of the Post Office. In 1960 it moved just a few doors east to the location most of us remember as HARRY'S at 175 East Franklin Street next to the downtown Post Office. Throughout the sixties HARRY’S was the intellectual and radical hub of Chapel Hill. It was at its booths that protest leaders planned demonstrations against segregation, the war in Vietnam, and the Speaker Ban Law which forbid anyone to speak at UNC who had a connection to any left wing organization that was deemed subversive.

HARRY'S in 1957, then in the location that became the Fireside in 1960  

I started eating at HARRY'S when I was eleven in 1960. It was the favorite restaurant of my Godfather, Bob Pace, and had one of the least expensive menus in town. I recall my first meal there being a disappointment though. I saw on the menu something called Salisbury steak which I wrongly assumed was similar to T-Bone steak. Sadly, as I learned, Salisbury steak is much more like plain hamburger. Over the next ten years I was involved in civil rights marches, sit-ins, and even became a UNC campus leader of the anti-war movement. HARRY'S is the only place I ever recall going for a meal with like-minded individuals in those days.

As the 1960's came to a close Harry Macklin's son, Ralph Macklin, became co-manager of the restaurant. Ralph has an effusive personality and a had great gift for culinary creativity. Under his guidance the food at HARRY'S got significantly better and  the sandwiches rivaled those of the best New York City Delis. During this time the patrons became more upscale, and  the long-haired-types began to be replaced by sorority girls, especially from the nearby Alpha Chi Omega house, as well as local architects, and students and faculty from the UNC Department of City and Regional planning.

HARRY'S from 1966

All good things come to an end, and HARRY’S closed its doors in April of 1972. If you want a small taste of HARRY'S make yourself a sandwich that Ralph invented called The High Rise. Just get five slices of your favorite bread and place a slice of ham, a slice of corned beef, and a slice of American cheese on one layer, then place some hot pastrami, chicken salad, and a slice of chopped liver on another. Finally place some tuna salad and a slice of Swiss American cheese on the last level.

See the following article for a profile of the Harry Macklin family:  http://www.chapelhillmemories.com/cat/2/75



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Ann Walston      11:04 AM Wed 5/18/2011

I used to bicycle to Harry's before an 8 oclock class in Alumni. And order a chopped liver sandwich on white bread with a coke in a deep southern drawl. The sophisticated waiters thought that was a hoot. It's been many years (45 yrs), but I remember Harry's so fondly that I named my latest dog Harry.

Larry Howell      10:26 AM Mon 10/26/2009

I am reading this website for the first time today; what a great throwback!! I had almost forgotten ab outg Harry's. I remember one night as a freshman in 1966 a fight that broke out in front of Harry's between two guys in wheelcairs who were both drunk. They were hnitting each other with canes. At the time, I didn't know whether I should laugh or be appalled. Of course, a lot of crazy things were going on in Chapel Hill at this time. I am still amazed most of us came out of it alive and intact.

David Katz      4:35 PM Sat 6/27/2009

I grew up in Chapel Hill and consider HARRY'S a landmark in the progessive growth of Chapel Hill. I think the Town of Chapel Hill should place an informative marker on the building where it was located.

J Carter      8:26 AM Thu 6/25/2009

I moved with my family to Chapel Hill in 1996. Since then I&#39;m read several books about Chapel Hill and the history of the University, but found them all a bit bland. This website really connects me to the people and places that make this town great.<br \>I wish I had been alive in the days of HARRY&#39;s. I think it would have been one of my favorite places to eat in town.

Kay Blanton      8:50 PM Wed 6/24/2009

Thank&#39;s for giving HARRY&#39;S its due. No other place in North Carolina in the 1960&#39;s had such a stimulating atmosphere.

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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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