Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Franklin Street, Chapel Hill
Motto: "The Southern Part of Heaven"
Country United States
State North Carolina
Counties Orange, Durham,[1]Chatham
Elevation 486 ft (148 m)
Coordinates 35°54′47.3″N 79°3′20.9″W / 35.913139°N 79.055806°W / 35.913139; -79.055806Coordinates: 35°54′47.3″N 79°3′20.9″W / 35.913139°N 79.055806°W / 35.913139; -79.055806
Area 21.3 sq mi (55 km2)
Population 57,233 (2010)
Density 2,687/sq mi (1,037/km2)
Founded 1793
Mayor Pam Hemminger
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

Chapel Hill is a city in Orange County, North Carolina (with some eastern portions in Durham County), 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 municipality 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. Chapel Hill is one of the central cities of the Durham-Chapel Hill MSA, which in turn is part of the Raleigh-Durham-Cary Combined Statistical Area, with a population of 1,998,808.[5]


The area was the 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.

A mural at Amber Alley between Franklin and Rosemary Street

Chapel Hill 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,[6] and its main street, Franklin Street, was named in memory of Benjamin Franklin.[7][8]

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.[9] 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.[10]

On February 10, 2015, three college students were killed in their home, Finley Forest Condominiums, next to the Friday Center for Continuing Education, University of North Carolina (UNC).[11] Their next-door neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks, was arrested by police and identified as the main suspect.[12]

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.[13]

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.[14]

Climate data for Chapel Hill, NC (1981-2010 normals)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
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) 11.7 10.1 12.0 9.9 11.4 9.9 10.5 10.0 8.8 7.9 9.8 10.5 122.5
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 1.0 1.3 0.3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.1 0.5 3.2
Source: NOAA,[15] The Weather Channel (extremes)[16]


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 201559,568[17]4.1%
U.S. Decennial Census[18]

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 still 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.[19]

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.[19]

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.[19]

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.[20] 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 city, 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.[21]


See also: List of mayors of Chapel Hill, North Carolina and List of town council members of Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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 Mark Kleinschmidt, a former town council member, was re-elected to a second term in November 2011 and a third term in 2013.[22] Two years prior, in 2009, he had made history by being elected the first openly gay mayor of Chapel Hill, succeeding outgoing four-term Mayor Kevin Foy.[23]

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."[24]

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.[25]

School system

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


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

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.[27] Also, for more than 30 years Chapel Hill has sponsored the annual street fair, Festifall, in October.[28] 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.[29]

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.[30] During the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, astronauts were trained there.[31] 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.[7] 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.[32] 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 no. 3 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.[33]


Hailed as one of America's Foodiest Small Towns by Bon Appétit,[34] 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, Foster's Market (Martha Stewart's Living), Mama Dip's (Food Network's "$40 A Day With Rachael Ray"),[35] Crook's Corner, Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen (The Splendid Table), caffè Driade (Food Network's "$40 A Day With Rachael Ray"),[35] and Lantern Restaurant (Food & Wine magazine, Southern Living magazine, etc.). Many unique lunch spots in Chapel Hill have received rave reviews, including Sandwhich on Franklin Street,[36] Sage on Weaver Dairy Road, and Fiesta Grill on Hwy 54.[37]


Chapel Hill also has a vibrant music scene. Classical composers on the faculty of UNC Chapel Hill include Allen Anderson, Stefan Litwin, and Lee Weisert.[38] In the realm of popular music, Alternative States, Remington Brown, Archers of Loaf, Squirrel Nut Zippers, James Taylor, George Hamilton IV, Southern Culture on the Skids, Superchunk, Polvo, Ben Folds Five, 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, the Tug Creek Ramblers, Two Dollar Pistols, the Fuzzy Mountain String band, Big Fat Gap and the Red Clay Ramblers.[39] 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 famously 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.[40] 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 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 Fetzer Field, home to men's and women's soccer and lacrosse teams.

Many walking/biking trails are in Chapel Hill NC. Some of these include Battle Branch Trail and Bolin Creek Trail.[41]


Sister cities

Notable people

UNC's wooded campus buffers the town center



See also


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