Chapel Hill

Scenic and regularly decked out in “Carolina blue”, Chapel Hill is a lovely college town in North Carolina that makes up the westernmost point of the Research Triangle. The town is the smallest of the Triangle’s three cities, with an influence and pull that belies its size. Based around the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the town caters heavily to the local student population, with plenty of bars and restaurants near the university’s beautiful campus. Immediately to the west of Chapel Hill is the adjacent town of Carrboro, an old mill town now known for its local shops, restaurants and nightlife.

The Old Well, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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The town was originally a small village of a thousand people consisting of mostly Scottish and English immigrants arriving in the area during the 1700s; the village took its name from the New Hope Chapel, which happened to be situated on a hill (the Carolina Inn of Chapel Hill now stands where the chapel once was). The town was founded in 1819 to support the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill and later was incorporated in 1851. The adjacent town of Carrboro was settled in the 1880s around a spur rail line built to serve the university; the town is named for Julian Carr, who purchased a local cotton mill and installed electricity in the town. Today, Carrboro is where many UNC students live, owing to its cheaper rents, and is home to the Weaver Street Market (a local co-op), a popular farmer’s market, plenty of bars and restaurants, and a bunch of festivals.

Like much of the rest of the Piedmont, the landscape is hilly and heavily wooded, becoming very lush and green in the summer months. While much of North Carolina is conservative, Chapel Hill is fairly liberal in comparison. Although legend says that the town became liberal when a Union general married former UNC President Swain’s daughter, Chapel Hill’s liberal politics are similar to many US college towns and are bolstered by nearby Carrboro, which is known for being a bastion of liberalism in the state. It is not uncommon to see a protest in Chapel Hill and/or on the university campus for various liberal causes, with the traditional locus of this being the square in front of the post office on Franklin Street across from the campus.

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