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Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Town of Chapel Hill
Franklin Street, Chapel Hill
Franklin Street, Chapel Hill
Flag of Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Official seal of Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Southern Part of Heaven
Chapel Hill, North Carolina is located in North Carolina
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Location in North Carolina
Country  United States
State  North Carolina
Counties Orange (most)
Durham (small part) Chatham (small part)
 • Type Council-Manager
 • Total 21.68 sq mi (56.14 km2)
 • Land 21.53 sq mi (55.75 km2)
 • Water 0.15 sq mi (0.39 km2)
486 ft (148 m)
 • Total 61,960
 • Estimate 
 • Density 2,975.38/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
Primary Airport RDU

Chapel Hill is a town in Orange, Durham and Chatham counties in the U.S. state of North Carolina. Its population was 61,960 in the 2020 census, making Chapel Hill the 16th-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.

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 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.

Silent Sam
Confederate soldier Silent Sam, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill by John Wilson
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, and its main street, Franklin Street, was named in memory of Benjamin Franklin.

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. 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.

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.

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.

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, The Weather Channel (extremes)


Historical population
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%
2019 (est.) 64,051 11.9%
U.S. Decennial Census

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.

2020 census

Chapel Hill racial composition
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 38,678 62.42%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 5,848 9.44%
Native American 151 0.24%
Asian 9,275 14.97%
Pacific Islander 19 0.03%
Other/Mixed 3,255 5.25%
Hispanic or Latino 4,734 7.64%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 61,960 people, 20,369 households, and 10,552 families residing in the town.

2010 census

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.

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.

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.

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. 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.


Chapel hill firetruck
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. Also, for more than 30 years Chapel Hill has sponsored the annual street fair, Festifall, in October. 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.

Varsity Theatre Franklin Street Chapel Hill NC
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. During the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, astronauts were trained there. 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. 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. 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.


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


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. 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. 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. 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.


  • WCHL: local AM radio station (1360AM, 97.9FM) providing talk radio, news, and local sports coverage as the flagship station of the Tar Heel Sports Network.
  • WUNC: local public radio station (91.5FM) located on the UNC campus.
  • WXYC: noncommercial 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 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 is a newspaper owned by The News & Observer with a focus on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area that is published twice a week.
  • The Sun Magazine is an independent, ad-free magazine that for more than 40 years has published personal essays, interviews, short stories, poetry, and photographs.
  • Carrboro Citizen was a locally owned community newspaper covering local news, politics and town government of Chapel Hill and Carrboro. The last issue was published in October 2012.
  • The metro area has TV broadcasting stations that serve the Raleigh-Durham Designated Market Area (DMA) as defined by Nielsen Media Research.

Sister cities


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. 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.

Notable people

UNC's wooded campus buffers the town center
  • Alice Adams, author
  • Emil Amos, musician
  • K. A. Applegate, author
  • Owen Astrachan, Duke Professor of Computer Science
  • George A. Baer (1903–1994), bookbinder
  • Stephen Barrett, retired psychiatrist, webmaster of Quackwatch
  • Lewis Black, stand-up comedian, author, actor
  • Ash Bowie, musician
  • Steve Breedlove, clergyman, bishop in the Anglican Church in North America
  • Sean Bridgers, actor, screenwriter, director, producer
  • Fred Brooks, computer scientist
  • Christopher Browning, historian
  • Cam Cameron, football coach
  • Spencer Chamberlain, musician
  • Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts, band.
  • Fred C. Cole, librarian and historian
  • Elizabeth Cotten, musician
  • Floyd Council, blues singer, the "Floyd" after which Pink Floyd is named
  • Butch Davis, former UNC football coach
  • Hubert Davis, UNC basketball coach, ESPN analyst, former NBA basketball player
  • Walter Royal Davis, North Carolina philanthropist and oil tycoon
  • Anoop Desai, finalist on American Idol, singer
  • Sarah Dessen, author
  • David Drake, science fiction and fantasy novelist and small-press publisher
  • Elizabeth Edwards, late wife of former U.S. Senator of North Carolina John Edwards
  • John Edwards, former presidential candidate
  • Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Beat Generation poet and co-founder of City Lights Book Sellers & Publishers. Earned a B.A. in Journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1941.
  • Ben Folds, musician
  • Paul Green, playwright
  • John Grisham, author
  • Meredith Hagner, actress, portrays Liberty Ciccone on As the World Turns
  • Bernardo Harris, former NFL linebacker
  • Dave Haywood, musician, member of the country music group Lady Antebellum
  • Bunn Hearn, MLB pitcher
  • Jack Hogan, actor, noted for his role as Private William Kirby on Combat! television series, 1962–1967
  • Laurel Holloman, artist and actress. Known for The L Word television series.
  • George Moses Horton, a slave poet, called "the black bard of Chapel Hill"
  • Paul Jones, computer technologist
  • Michael Jordan, six-time NBA champion, basketball hall of famer, national champion at UNC
  • Alexander Julian, fashion designer
  • Michelle Kasold, Olympic field hockey player
  • Charles Kuralt, journalist
  • Kay Kyser, big band leader, entertainer
  • Howard Lee, first black mayor of a predominantly white city
  • William Carter Love, U.S. Representative from North Carolina during the 1800s
  • Mandolin Orange, Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz, a folk/americana duo
  • Mac McCaughan, musician
  • Nick McCrory, Olympic bronze medalist in diving
  • Richard McKenna, novelist, The Sand Pebbles
  • Mark Newhouse, professional poker player
  • Marty Ravellette armless hero
  • David Rees, political satirist, cartoonist of Get Your War On
  • Porter Robinson, electronic music producer
  • Brian Roberts, former MLB second baseman, two-time All-Star
  • Dexter Romweber, rockabilly roots-rocker
  • Aziz Sancar, winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
  • Betty Smith, novelist, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  • Dean Smith, former basketball coach
  • Elizabeth Spencer, author of The Light in the Piazza, currently resides in Chapel Hill
  • Silda Wall Spitzer, wife of former New York governor Eliot Spitzer
  • Chris Stamey, musician
  • Leo Sternbach, chemist and discoverer of benzodiazepines
  • Matt Stevens, former NFL safety
  • James Taylor, musician
  • Blair Tindall, author and musician
  • Richard Trice, blues guitarist, singer and songwriter
  • Willie Trice, blues guitarist, singer, songwriter and record producer. Elder brother of above
  • Karl Edward Wagner, horror writer, editor, and small-press publisher
  • Daniel Wallace, writer, author of Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions
  • Manly Wade Wellman, novelist
  • Roy Williams, men's basketball coach
  • Thomas Wolfe, author. UNC alumnus. Chapel Hill appears as "Pulpit Hill" in his posthumous novel You Can't Go Home Again.
  • Bayard Wootten (1875–1959), photographer and suffragette

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Chapel Hill (Carolina del Norte) para niños

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