Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Town of Chapel Hill
Franklin Street Chapel Hill NC.jpg
Franklin Street, Chapel Hill
Coat of arms
Southern Part of Heaven
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Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Location of Chapel Hill in North Carolina
Coordinates: 35°54′47.3″N79°3′20.9″W / 35.913139°N 79.055806°W / 35.913139; -79.055806 Coordinates: 35°54′47.3″N79°3′20.9″W / 35.913139°N 79.055806°W / 35.913139; -79.055806
CountryUnited States
StateNorth Carolina
Counties Durham, Orange [1]
  Total21.68 sq mi (56.14 km2)
  Land21.53 sq mi (55.75 km2)
  Water0.15 sq mi (0.39 km2)
486 ft (148 m)
(2019) [3]
  Density2,975.38/sq mi (1,148.81/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (EST)
  Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
Area codes 919, 984
FIPS code 37-11800

Chapel Hill is a town in Orange and Durham counties in the U.S. state of North Carolina. Its population was 57,233 in the 2010 census, making Chapel Hill the 15th-largest city in the state. Chapel Hill, Durham, and the state capital, Raleigh, make up the corners of the Research Triangle (officially the Raleigh–Durham–Cary combined statistical area), with a total population of 1,998,808. [4]


The town was founded in 1793 and is centered on Franklin Street, covering 21.3 square miles (55 km2). It contains several districts and buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and UNC Health Care are a major part of the economy and town influence. Local artists have created many murals.


The area was the home place of early settler William Barbee of Middlesex County, Virginia, whose 1753 grant of 585 acres from John Carteret, 2nd Earl Granville was the first of two land grants in what is now the Chapel Hill-Durham area. Though William Barbee died shortly after settling there, 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.

A mural at Amber Alley between Franklin and Rosemary streets Back-of-Franklin-St.jpg
A mural at Amber Alley between Franklin and Rosemary streets

Chapel Hill has developed along a hill; the crest was the original site of a small Anglican "chapel of ease", built in 1752, known as New Hope Chapel. The Carolina Inn now occupies this site. In 1819, the town was founded to serve the University of North Carolina and developed around it. The town was chartered in 1851, [5] and its main street, Franklin Street, was named in memory of Benjamin Franklin. [6] [7]

In 1969, a year after the city fully integrated its schools, Chapel Hill elected Howard Lee as mayor. It was the first majority-white municipality in the South to elect an African-American mayor. [8] Serving from 1969 to 1975, Lee helped establish Chapel Hill Transit, the town's bus system. Some 30 years later, in 2002, the state passed legislation to provide free service to all riders on local buses. The bus operations are funded through Chapel Hill and Carrboro town taxes, federal grants, and UNC student tuition. The change has resulted in a large increase in ridership, taking many cars off the roads. 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 and founded 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. [9]

In addition to the Carolina Inn, the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity House, Chapel Hill Historic District, Chapel Hill Town Hall, Chapel of the Cross, Gimghoul Neighborhood Historic District, Alexander Hogan Plantation, Old Chapel Hill Cemetery, Old East, University of North Carolina, Playmakers Theatre, Rocky Ridge Farm Historic District, and West Chapel Hill Historic District are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. [10]

Geography and climate

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 and Durham Counties rather than shared with another municipality. According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 21.3 square miles (55.1 km2), of which 21.1 square miles (54.7 km2) is land and 0.15 square miles (0.4 km2) is covered by water. [11]

Climate data for Chapel Hill, NC (1981–2010 normals)
Record high °F (°C)80
Average high °F (°C)49.6
Daily mean °F (°C)39.1
Average low °F (°C)28.6
Record low °F (°C)−8
Average precipitation inches (mm)3.92
Average snowfall inches (cm)1.7
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)11.710.112.09.911.49.910.510.
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)
Source: NOAA, [12] The Weather Channel (extremes) [13]


Historical population
1880 831
1890 1,01722.4%
1900 1,0998.1%
1910 1,1494.5%
1920 1,48329.1%
1930 2,69982.0%
1940 3,65435.4%
1950 9,177151.1%
1960 12,57337.0%
1970 26,199108.4%
1980 32,42123.7%
1990 38,71919.4%
2000 48,71525.8%
2010 57,23317.5%
2019 (est.)64,051 [3] 11.9%
U.S. Decennial Census [14]

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, though the region functions as a single metropolitan area.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 57,233 people in 20,564 households resided in Chapel Hill. The population density was 2,687 people per square mile (1037/km2). The racial composition of the town was 72.8% White, 9.7% African American, 0.3% Native American, 11.9% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 2.7% some other race, and 2.7% of two or more races. About 6.4% of the population was Hispanic or Latino of any race. [15]

Of the 20,564 households, 51.1% were families, 26.2% of all households had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.2% were headed by married couples living together, 8.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 48.9% were not families. About 30.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 2.98. [15]

In the town, the population was distributed as 17.4% under the age of 18, 31.5% from 18 to 24, 23.6% from 25 to 44, 18.4% from 45 to 64, and 9.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 25.6 years. For every 100 females, there were 87.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.6 males. [15]

According to estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau, over the three-year period of 2005 through 2007, the median income for a household in the town was $51,690, and for a family was $91,049. [16] 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.

Chapel Hill is North Carolina's best-educated municipality, proportionately, with 77% of adult residents (25 and older) holding an associate degree or higher, and 73% of adults possessing a baccalaureate degree or higher. [17]


Chapel Hill uses a council-manager form of government. The community elects a mayor and eight council members. Mayors serve two-year terms, and council members serve staggered four-year terms. Mayor Pam Hemminger, a former board of education member, was elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2017. [18] She defeated incumbent Mark Kleinschmidt, who in 2009 had been elected the first openly gay mayor of Chapel Hill, succeeding outgoing four-term Mayor Kevin Foy. [19]

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." [20]

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. [21]


The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district covers most of the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, along with portions of unincorporated Orange County, and is recognized for its academic strengths. East Chapel Hill High School, Carrboro High School, and Chapel Hill High School have all received national recognition for excellence, with Newsweek in 2008 ranking East Chapel Hill High as the 88th-best high school in the nation, and the highest-ranked standard public high school in North Carolina. [22] The small portion of Chapel Hill located in Durham County is part of Durham Public Schools.

There are several private K-12 schools in Chapel Hill, including Emerson Waldorf School.

The state's main youth orchestra, Piedmont Youth Orchestra, is based in Chapel Hill.


Chapel Hill fire truck, painted with the colors of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel hill firetruck.jpg
Chapel Hill fire truck, painted with the colors of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Though Chapel Hill is a principal city of a large metropolitan area, it retains a relatively small-town feel. Combined with its close neighbor, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area has roughly 85,000 residents. Many large murals can be seen painted on the buildings. Most of these murals were painted by UNC alumnus Michael Brown. [23] Also, for more than 30 years, Chapel Hill has sponsored the annual street fair, Festifall, in October. [24] 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 by tens of thousands each year.

The Sorrell building on Franklin Street has housed a movie theater (currently called the Varsity Theatre) since its construction in 1927. Varsity Theatre Franklin Street Chapel Hill NC.jpg
The Sorrell building on Franklin Street has housed a movie theater (currently called the Varsity Theatre) since its construction in 1927.

A variety of corporations are headquartered in Chapel Hill. Health insurance provider Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina was one of the town's 10 largest employers. Technology companies USAT Corp and Realtime Ops have made Chapel Hill their headquarters location. Journalistic, Inc., the publisher of the nationally acclaimed magazines Fine Books & Collections, QSR, and FSR recently relocated from Durham to Chapel Hill. New companies are selecting the town as their base of operations such as the service company Alpha Install.

The Morehead Planetarium was the first planetarium built on a U.S. college campus. When it opened in 1949, it was one of six planetariums in the nation and has remained an important town landmark. [26] During the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, astronauts were trained there. [27] 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. [6] These engines are also decorated with different UNC decals, including a firefighter Rameses.

Chapel Hill also has some new urbanist village communities, such as Meadowmont Village and Southern Village. [28] Meadowmont and Southern Village both have shopping centers, green space where concerts and movies take place, community pools, and schools. Also, a traditional-style mall with a mix of national and local retailers is located at University Place.

In 2009, Chapel Hill ranked number three on Newsmax magazine's list of the "Top 25 Most Uniquely American Cities and Towns", a piece written by current CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg. According to the magazine, Greenberg based the rankings on a variety of features, such as quality of schools and proximity to medical care, as well as culture, hospitality, and scenic beauty. [29]


Hailed as one of America's Foodiest Small Towns by Bon Appétit , [30] Chapel Hill is rapidly becoming a hot spot for pop American cuisine. Among the restaurants noted nationally are Al's Burger Shack, A Southern Season (now closed), Foster's Market (Martha Stewart's Living), Mama Dip's (Food Network's "$40 A Day With Rachael Ray"), [31] Crook's Corner, Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen (The Splendid Table), caffè Driade (Food Network's "$40 A Day With Rachael Ray"), [31] Lantern Restaurant ( Food & Wine magazine, Southern Living magazine, etc.), and Vimala's Curryblossom Cafe. [32]


In the realm of popular music, James Taylor, George Hamilton IV, Southern Culture on the Skids, Superchunk, Polvo, Archers of Loaf, Ben Folds Five, The Kingsbury Manx, Spider Bags and more recently Porter Robinson, are among the most notable musical artists and acts whose careers began in Chapel Hill. The town has also been a center for the modern revival of old-time music with such bands as the Ayr Mountaineers, Hollow Rock String band, Mandolin Orange, the Tug Creek Ramblers, Two Dollar Pistols, the Fuzzy Mountain String band, Big Fat Gap and the Red Clay Ramblers. [33]

Chapel Hill was also the founding home of now Durham-based Merge Records. Bruce Springsteen has made a point to visit the town on four occasions. His most recent appearance was on September 15, 2003, at Kenan Memorial Stadium with the E Street Band. U2 also performed at Kenan on the first American date of their 1983 War Tour, where Bono climbed up to the top of the stage, during pouring rain and lightning, holding up a white flag for peace. The 2011 John Craigie song, "Chapel Hill", is about the singer's first visit there. [34] One song from Dirty , a Sonic Youth album, is named after the town.


The University of North Carolina 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 Tobacco Road 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.

The two largest sports venues in the town both house UNC teams. The Dean Smith Center is home to the men's basketball team, while Kenan Memorial Stadium is home to the football team. In addition, Chapel Hill is also home to Carmichael Arena which formerly housed the UNC men's basketball team, and currently is home to the women's team, and to the new Dorrance Field, home to men's and women's soccer and lacrosse teams.

Many walking/biking trails are in Chapel Hill. Some of these include Battle Branch Trail and Bolin Creek Trail. [35]




Chapel Hill has intercity bus service via Chapel Hill Transit. Go Triangle provides connection to the rest of the Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, and Hillsborough), of which the Hillsborough service is operated by Chapel Hill Transit, and supplemented mid-day by a county shuttle.

Light rail

The Durham–Orange Light Rail line, which would have run between Chapel Hill and Durham, entered planning and engineering phases in August 2017. The project was discontinued in April 2019. [42]

Sister cities

Notable people

UNC's wooded campus buffers the town center McCorkle-Place.jpg
UNC's wooded campus buffers the town center

See also

Related Research Articles

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Public university in North Carolina, U.S.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a public research university in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The flagship of the University of North Carolina system, it is considered to be a Public Ivy, or a public institution which offers an academic experience equivalent to an Ivy League university. After being chartered in 1789, the university first began enrolling students in 1795, making it one of the oldest public universities in the United States. Among the claimants, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the only one to have held classes and graduated students as a public university in the eighteenth century.

Orange County, North Carolina U.S. county in North Carolina

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Tar Heel, North Carolina Town in North Carolina, United States

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Carrboro, North Carolina Town in North Carolina, United States

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Research Triangle Geographic region of North Carolina, U.S.

The Research Triangle, commonly referred to as simply The Triangle, is a region in the Piedmont of North Carolina in the United States, anchored by three major research universities: North Carolina State University, Duke University, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, located in the cities of Raleigh and Durham and the town of Chapel Hill, respectively. The nine-county region, officially named the Raleigh–Durham–Cary combined statistical area (CSA), comprises the Raleigh–Cary and Durham–Chapel Hill Metropolitan Statistical Areas and the Henderson Micropolitan Statistical Area.

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center is located on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It is one of the oldest and largest planetariums in the United States having welcomed more than 7 million visitors by its 60th anniversary in 2009. As a unit of the university, Morehead receives about one-third of its funding through state sources, one-third through ticket and gift sales, and one-third through gifts and grants.

<i>Silent Sam</i> Bronze statue of a Confederate soldier on the University of North Carolina campus from 1913 to 2018

The Confederate Monument, University of North Carolina, commonly known as Silent Sam, is a bronze statue of a Confederate soldier by Canadian sculptor John A. Wilson, which stood on the historic McCorkle Place of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) from 1913 until it was pulled down by protestors on August 20, 2018. Its former location has been described as "the front door" of the university and "a position of honor".

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Woody Durham

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Chapel Hill Transit

Chapel Hill Transit operates public bus and van transportation services within the contiguous municipalities of Chapel Hill and Carrboro and the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the southeast corner of Orange County in the Research Triangle metropolitan region of North Carolina. Chapel Hill Transit operates its fixed route system fare free due to a contractual agreement with the two towns and the university to share annual operating and capital costs.

Franklin Street (Chapel Hill)

Franklin Street is a prominent thoroughfare in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Historic Franklin Street is considered the center of social life for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as the town of Chapel Hill.

Culture of North Carolina

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Monrovie Jones Angell IV, known professionally as Jones Angell, is the current “Voice of the Tar Heels,” the play-by-play radio announcer for the North Carolina Tar Heels football and men’s basketball programs.

Jonathan Howes was an American politician and urban planner. He served as the Director of the Center for Urban and Regional Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1970 until 1993. Howes began his political career as an elected member of the Chapel Hill Town Council from 1975 to 1987. He was then elected Mayor of Chapel Hill for two consecutive terms from 1987 to 1991. In 1991, North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt appointed Howes as Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, a state cabinet position he held from 1992 to 1997.

Mark J. Kleinschmidt is an American lawyer, teacher, and politician. He served as the Mayor of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, from 2009 until 2015.

Pamela Somers Hemminger is an American Democratic politician serving as mayor of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, since December 2, 2015. The owner of a small real-estate company, Hemminger previously served on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education and the Orange County Board of County Commissioners.

Lydia E. Lavelle is an American academic and politician. She is the mayor of Carrboro, North Carolina, and a professor of law at North Carolina Central University. She was first elected mayor in 2013, after serving on the Board of Aldermen of Carrboro for six years from 2007 to 2013. When she was elected, she became the first openly-lesbian mayor in North Carolina. She serves on the board of the North Carolina Metropolitan Mayors Coalition and on the North Carolina Commission on Inclusion, to which she was appointed in 2018. As a law professor, she has researched the effects of anti-discrimination laws on LGBT people. In 2014, she and her wife, Alicia Stemper, were the first gay couple to receive a marriage certificate in Orange County, North Carolina, after having two previous ceremonies of union prior to the legalization of gay marriage in North Carolina. In 2015, after receiving their marriage certificate, they held a public celebration of their marriage.

Joan Dunlap-Seivold is an American former soccer player who played as a forward, making four appearances for the United States women's national team.


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