Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Chapel Hill, North Carolina
The Town of Chapel Hill
Franklin Street, Chapel Hill
Nickname: The Southern Part of Heaven
Country United States
State North Carolina
Counties Orange, Durham [1]
Elevation 486 ft (148 m)
Coordinates 35°56′N 79°2′W / 35.933°N 79.033°W / 35.933; -79.033
Area 19.8 sq mi (51 km2)
Population 57,233 (2010)
Density 2,891 / sq mi (1,116 / km2)
Founded 1793
Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt
Timezone EST (UTC-5)
 - summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 27514-27517
Area code 919
FIPS code 37-11800 [2]
GNIS feature ID 1019602 [3]
Location of Chapel Hill in North Carolina
Location of North Carolina in the United States
Website: Town of Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill is a town in Orange County, North Carolina, United States and the home of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and UNC Health Care. The population was 57,233 at the 2010 census[4]; Chapel Hill is the 16th largest city in North Carolina.

Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh make up the three corners of the Research Triangle, so named in 1959 with the creation of Research Triangle Park, a research park between Durham and Raleigh.

In 2003, the previous Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill metropolitan statistical area (MSA) was re-defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, resulting in the formation of the Raleigh-Cary, NC MSA and the Durham, NC MSA.

Durham, North Carolina is the core of the four-county Durham-Chapel Hill MSA, which has a population of 504,357 as of Census 2010. The US Office of Management and Budget also includes Chapel Hill as a part of the Raleigh-Durham-Cary Combined Statistical Area, which has a population of 1,749,525 as of Census 2010. Effective June 6, 2003 the Office of Management and Budget redefined the Federal Statistical Areas and dismantled what had been for decades the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, MSA and split them into two separate MSAs even though the region still functions as a single metropolitan area.



Chapel Hill is located in the southeast corner of Orange County. It is bounded on the west by the town of Carrboro and on the northeast by the city of Durham. However, most of Chapel Hill's borders are adjacent to unincorporated portions of Orange County and Chatham County rather than shared with another municipality.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 19.82 square miles (51.3 km2), of which 19.75 square miles (51.2 km2) is land and 0.07 square miles (0.181 km2) is water[5]


Chapel Hill and its surrounding area have historically been politically liberal. Orange County voted for Barack Obama 72%-27% over John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.[6]

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district, which covers most of the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, along with portions of unincorporated Orange County, is recognized for its academic strengths. East Chapel Hill High School and Chapel Hill High School have received national recognition for excellence, with Newsweek currently ranking East Chapel Hill High as the 77th best high school in the nation, and the highest ranked standard public high school in North Carolina.[7] A third high school, Carrboro High School, opened in 2007.

The town also shares with Carrboro a vibrant music scene. Cat's Cradle in Carrboro a nationally recognized live music club,[8] Local 506 and other Chapel Hill bars (such as the Cave, and Reservoir) often host local, national, and international acts in all genres. Archers of Loaf, Squirrel Nut Zippers, James Taylor, George Hamilton IV, Southern Culture on the Skids, Superchunk, Polvo and Ben Folds Five are among the notable musical acts whose careers began in Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill has also been a center for the modern revival of old-time music with such bands as the Hollow Rock String band, the Tug Creek Ramblers, the Two Dollar Pistols, the Fuzzy Mountain String band, Big Fat Gap and the Red Clay Ramblers.[9] Chapel Hill was also the founding home of now defunct indie label Mammoth Records, as well as now Durham-based Merge Records. Bruce Springsteen has also made a point to visit the town on several tours. His most recent appearance was on September 14, 2003, at Kenan Memorial Stadium with the E Street Band, marking his fourth appearance overall. U2 also performed at Kenan on the first American date of their 1983 War Tour, where Bono famously climbed up to the top of the stage, during pouring rain and lightning, holding up a white flag for peace.

The Sorrell building on Franklin Street has always housed a movie theater (currently called The Varsity Theatre) since its construction in 1927[10].

The Chapel Hill/Carrboro Chambers of Commerce supports a vibrant business community among UNC Chapel Hill's strong academic presence. The town hosts a variety of corporations headquartered in Chapel Hill. Health insurance provider Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is one of the town's ten largest employers at its Chapel Hill headquarters. Technology companies USAT Corp and Realtime Ops have made Chapel Hill their headquarters location. New companies are selecting the town as their base of operations such as the service company Alpha Install.

The Morehead Planetarium was, when it opened in 1949, one of only a handful of planetariums in the nation, and it has remained an important town landmark[11]. During the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, astronauts were trained there[12]. One of the town’s hallmark features is the giant sundial, located in the rose gardens in front of the planetarium on Franklin Street.

Influences of the University are seen throughout the town, even in the fire departments. Each fire station in Chapel Hill has a fire engine (numbers 31, 32, 33, 34, and 35) that is Carolina blue[13]. These engines are also decorated with different UNC decals, including a firefighter Rameses.

UNC has been very successful at college basketball and women’s soccer, and a passion for these sports has been a distinctive feature of the town's culture, fueled by the rivalry among North Carolina's four ACC teams: the North Carolina Tar Heels, the Duke Blue Devils, the NC State Wolfpack, and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. More recently, the town has received regional notice as the site of a large annual Halloween street party, with an attendance regularly exceeding 70,000.

Even though Chapel Hill has a fairly large population, it still has a very small town feel. This can be seen walking through downtown where you will find many large murals painted on the buildings. Most of these murals were painted by UNC alumnus Michael Brown[14]. Also, for more than 30 years Chapel Hill has sponsored the annual street fair, Festifall in October[15]. The fair offer booths to artists, craftsmakers, nonprofits, and food vendors. Performance space is also available for musicians, martial artists and other groups. The fair is attended annually by tens of thousands.

Even the fire trucks in Chapel Hill show support for UNC.

Chapel Hill also has some new urbanist village communities, such as Meadowmont Village[16] and Southern Village.[17] Meadowmont and Southern Village both have shopping centers, green space where concerts and movies take place, community pools, and schools. There is also a traditional style mall with a mix of national and local retailers at University Mall


Hailed as "America's Foodiest Small Town" by Bon Appétit Magazine[18], Chapel Hill is rapidly becoming a hot spot for pop American cuisine. Among the restaurants noted nationally are A Southern Season, Foster’s Market (Martha Stewart’s Living), Mama Dip's (Food Network’s “$40 A Day With Rachael Ray”)[19], Crook's Corner, Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen (The Splendid Table), Caffé Driade (Food Network’s “$40 A Day With Rachael Ray”)[19], and The Lantern Restaurant (Food & Wine Magazine, Southern Living Magazine, etc.)


Home place of early settler William Barbee of Middlesex County, Virginia, whose 1753 grant of 585 acres from the Earl of Granville was the first of two land grants in what is now the Chapel Hill-Durham area. Though William Barbee died shortly after establishing himself and his family in North Carolina, one of his eight children, Christopher Barbee, became an important contributor to his father’s adopted community and to the fledgling University of North Carolina.

There is an area on UNC Chapel Hill named Barbee Mountain; it is closed to the public but is a very old graveyard.The site and cemetery were surveyed by archaeologists from the University of North Carolina in late 1995 and early 1996, and a report was issued that extensively documents the cemetery. Milton D. Forsyth Jr. of the Durham-Orange Genealogical Society visited the cemetery as a guest of the archaeologists in March 1996 and recorded the inscriptions on the stones, which are also given in the report (not readily available) along with photographs of the stones and cemetery.

Only the stones of William and Gaskey Barbee have inscriptions, but there is a clearly a group of some 20 burials indicated by fieldstones and separated from a second group of at least 100. The first group is clearly family burials, and it is reasonable that William's father, Christopher (Kit) Barbee and his wife, are buried here, as this was known as 'Barbee's Mountain' and was their home. The second group of graves are probably slave burials. The State intends to preserve the cemetery. Christopher Barbee was the major donor of land for the university; William was both steward and superintendent of grounds for the university.

A mural at Amber Alley between Franklin Street and Rosemary Street

Chapel Hill, or at least the town center, indeed sits atop a hill which was originally occupied by a small Anglican "chapel of ease", built in 1752, known as New Hope Chapel. The Carolina Inn now occupies the site of the original chapel. In 1819, the town was founded to serve the University of North Carolina and grew up around it. The town was chartered in 1851, and its main street, Franklin Street, was named in memory of Benjamin Franklin[13][20].

In 1968, only a year after its schools became fully integrated, Chapel Hill became the first predominantly white municipality in the south to elect an African American mayor, Howard Lee[21]. Lee served from 1969 until 1975 and, among other things, helped establish Chapel Hill Transit, the town's bus system. Some 30 years later, in 2002, legislation was passed to make the local buses free of fares to all riders, leading to a large increase in ridership; the buses are financed through Chapel Hill and Carrboro city taxes, Federal grants, and UNC student fees. Several hybrid and articulated buses have been added recently. All buses carry GPS transmitters to report their location in real time to a tracking Web site. Buses can transport bicycles and have wheelchair lifts.

In 1993, the Town celebrated its Bicentennial, which resulted in the establishment of the Chapel Hill Museum. This cultural community resource "exhibiting the character and characters of Chapel Hill, North Carolina" includes among its permanent exhibits Alexander Julian, History of the Chapel Hill Fire Department, Chapel Hill's 1914 Fire Truck, The James Taylor Story, Farmer/James Pottery, and The Paul Green Legacy[22].


Chapel Hill uses a council-manager form of government. The community elects a mayor and 8 council members. Mayors serve 2-year terms, and council members serve staggered 4-year terms. Mark Kleinschmidt, a former town council member, is the mayor. He made history by being elected the first openly gay mayor of Chapel Hill.

The town adopted its flag in 1990. According to flag designer Spring Davis, the blue represents the town and the University of North Carolina (whose colors are Carolina blue and white); the green represents "environmental awareness"; and the "townscape" in the inverted chevron represents "a sense of home, friends, and community."[23]

The current version of the town's seal, adopted in 1989, is in the process of being replaced with a similar but simpler version. All versions of the seal, dating back to the 1930s, depict Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and protector of cities.[24]


  • WCHL[25]: local AM radio station (1360AM) providing talk radio, news, and local sports coverage as the flagship station of the Tar Heel Sports Network.
  • WUNC[26]: local public radio station (91.5FM) located on the UNC campus.
  • WXYC[27]: non-commercial student-run radio station (89.3FM) on the UNC campus. In 1994, it became the first radio station in the world to broadcast over the internet.
  • The Daily Tar Heel[28] is the nationally-ranked, independent student newspaper that serves the university and the town. The free daily newspaper is printed Monday through Friday during the academic year and weekly during summer sessions.
  • The Chapel Hill News[29] is a newspaper owned by The News & Observer with a focus on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area that is published twice a week.
  • Carrboro Citizen[30] is a locally-owned community newspaper covering local news, politics and town government of Chapel Hill and Carrboro.
  • The metro area has TV broadcasting stations that serve the Raleigh-Durham Designated Market Area (DMA) as defined by Nielsen Media Research.

Sister cities

Notable people

UNC's wooded campus buffers the town center
The colorful brick wall of Old Fraternity Row alley: one of many murals in Chapel Hill by artist Michael J. Brown[14]




Historical populations
Census Pop.
1880 831
1890 1,017 22.4%
1900 1,099 8.1%
1910 1,149 4.5%
1920 1,483 29.1%
1930 2,699 82.0%
1940 3,654 35.4%
1950 9,177 151.1%
1960 12,573 37.0%
1970 26,199 108.4%
1980 32,421 23.7%
1990 38,719 19.4%
2000 48,715 25.8%
2010 57,233 17.5%

According to the U.S. Census 2010[4], there were 57,233 people in 22,254 households. The population density was 2,891.0 people per square mile (952.4/km²). The racial composition of the town was 72.8% White, 11.9% Asian, 9.7% Black or African American, 6.4% Hispanic or Latino, 0.3% Native American, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 2.7% of other races, and 2.7% of two or more races.

Chapel Hill is North Carolina's best educated city, proportionately, with 77.0% of adult residents (25 and older) holding an associate degree or higher, and 77.0% of adults possessing a baccalaureate degree or higher (2008 Census American Community Survey).

There were 17,808 households out of which 22.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.2% were married couples living together, 7.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 54.3% were non-families. 31.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.22 and the average family size was 2.88.

In the town the population was spread out with 15.1% under the age of 18, 37.1% from 18 to 24, 24.5% from 25 to 44, 15.3% from 45 to 64, and 8.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 24 years. For every 100 females there were 82.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 78.5 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $51,690, and the median income for a family was $91,049.[53] Males had a median income of $50,258 versus $32,917 for females. The per capita income for the town was $35,796. About 8.6% of families and 19.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.6% of those under age 18 and 5.6% of those age 65 or over.

See also


  1. ^ "Tax Payments". Town of Chapel Hill. 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2011. 
  2. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  4. ^ a b "Chapel Hill NC". US Census Bureau. 2011. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  5. ^ "Geographic Comparison Table". US Census Bureau. 2000. Retrieved 29 July 2011. 
  6. ^ "CNN Election Center 2008". 
  7. ^ Top Open Enrollment Schools | US News Best High Schools
  8. ^ "Chapel Hill Nightlife". The New York Times. 
  9. ^ "Red Clay Ramblers". 
  10. ^ "Theaters and Performing Arts". Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership. 2011. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  11. ^ "Morehead History construction". Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. 2011. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  12. ^ "Morehead History Astronaut Training". Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. 2011. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  13. ^ a b "Fun Facts About Chapel Hill and UNC". Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau. 2008. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  14. ^ a b "Murals". UNC The Graduate School. 2004. Retrieved 15 July 2011. 
  15. ^ "Festifall 2011". Town of Chapel Hill. 2011. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  16. ^ "Meadowmont Village". 
  17. ^ "Southern Village". 
  18. ^ Andrew Knowlton (2009). "50 Reasons to Visit America's Foodiest Small Town". Bon Appétit. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  19. ^ a b "$40 A Day". Food Network. 2008. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  20. ^ "MEMORANDUM". 
  21. ^ Nicholas Graham (2004). "This Month in North Carolina History". UNC University Libraries. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  22. ^ "Ongoing Exhibits". The Chapel Hill Museum. 2011. Retrieved 3 August 2011. 
  23. ^ "MINUTES OF A MEETING OF THE MAYOR AND COUNCIL OF THE TOWN OF CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA, MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 1990 AT 7:30 P.M.". Town Hall. 24 September 1990. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  24. ^ "Resolution to Update Town Seal". Town of Chapel Hill. April 11, 2005. 
  25. ^ "About the Station". 2011. Retrieved 6 July 2011. 
  26. ^ "About WUNC". WUNC. Retrieved 6 July 2011. 
  27. ^ "About WXYC". WXYC. Retrieved 6 July 2011. 
  28. ^ "About The Daily Tar Heel". The Daily Tar Heel. 2011. Retrieved 6 July 2011. 
  29. ^ "About The Daily Tar Heel". The News and Observer Publishing Company. 2011. Retrieved 6 July 2011. 
  30. ^ "About The Carrboro Citizen". The Carrboro Citizen. 2011. Retrieved 6 July 2011. 
  31. ^ "Past Exhibits: Saratov: Sister City". The Chapel Hill Museum. 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2011. 
  32. ^ "Sister Cities: Chapel Hill & San Cristobal". Center for Galapagos Studies Development. 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2011. 
  33. ^ "Feeding Young Minds". Independent Weekly. Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  34. ^ "Lewis Black's Official Web Site". Retrieved 2010-08-14. 
  35. ^ "Polvo". Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  36. ^ Faculty Biography at UNC.
  37. ^ "Sarah Dessen Official Web Site"]. Retrieved 2009-07-17. 
  38. ^ Gibson, Dale (2008-07-07). "John Grisham and wife buy home in Chapel Hill". Triangle Business Journal. Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  39. ^ "30 Years of Uncommon Threads". The Chapel Hill Museum. 2007. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  40. ^ Fifteen-501 Magazine, Winter 2008
  41. ^ "Cam Cameron". Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  42. ^ "Underoath Official Web Site". Retrieved 2009-07-15. [dead link]
  43. ^ "East Coast Piedmont Blues". Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  44. ^ "Walter Davis dies at 88". News & Observer. 20 May 2008. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  45. ^ Rob Christensen (8 December 2010). "Elizabeth Edwards' death closes full, public life". News & Observer. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  46. ^ "Biography for Meredith Hagner". IMDB. 2011. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  47. ^ "Career Stats". Major League Baseball. 2011. Retrieved 3 August 2011. 
  48. ^ "Charles Kuralt biography". UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication. 2011. Retrieved 3 August 2011. 
  49. ^ "The Borough of Writers: Betty Smith: ‘Francie or Sophina?’". Retrieved 2009-11-10. 
  50. ^ RoAnn Bishop (2005). "Who Did That Sign Say?". North Carolina Museum of History. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  51. ^ Matt Schroeder (2009). "Rupert B. Vance: Space and the American South". Regents of University of California, Santa Barbara. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  52. ^ Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Vol. 6, William S. Powell, Ed. (1996) at 160-161 (Article by William S. Powell)
  53. ^ Chapel Hill town, North Carolina,

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