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Hickory, North Carolina
Union Square in Downtown Hickory
Union Square in Downtown Hickory
"Life Well Crafted."
Location in North Carolina
Location in North Carolina
Country United States
State North Carolina
Counties Catawba, Burke,
Caldwell Alexander
Incorporated 1870
 • Type Council–manager
 • City 29.93 sq mi (77.52 km2)
 • Land 29.83 sq mi (77.27 km2)
 • Water 0.10 sq mi (0.25 km2)
1,188 ft (362 m)
 • City 43,490
 • Density 1,453.1/sq mi (561.02/km2)
 • Urban
 • Metro
Time zone UTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
Area code 828
FIPS code 37-31060
GNIS feature ID 0986686

Hickory is a city located primarily in Catawba County, with formal boundaries extending into Burke and Caldwell counties. The city lies in the U.S. state of North Carolina. Hickory's population at the 2020 census was 43,490 (primarily in Catawba County). Hickory is the principal city in the Hickory–Lenoir–Morganton MSA, in which the population at the 2020 census was 365,276 and is located just northwest of the Charlotte–Concord Combined Statistical Area.


In the 1850s, under a huge hickory tree, Henry Robinson built a tavern of logs. The city of "Hickory Tavern" co-founded by "Dolph" Shuford, was established in 1863, and the name was eventually changed to the city of Hickory in 1873.

The first train operated in the city of "Hickory Tavern" in 1859. The first lot was sold to Henry Link for $45.00 in 1858. His house is now known as "The 1859 Cafe," a restaurant (closed in 2011). The community of Hickory was the first for many things in North Carolina, including the council-manager form of government it adopted in 1913. Hickory was also one of the first towns to install electric lights in 1888 and a complete sewage system in 1904.

In 1868, Dr. Jeremiah Ingold, pastor of the German Reformed Grace Charge, established Hickory's first school, the Free Academy.

In 1891, Lenoir–Rhyne University (then Highland Academy) was founded by four Lutheran pastors with 12 initial students.

Hickory is home to one of the oldest furniture manufacturers in the United States that is still located and operated on the original site. Hickory White, formerly known as Hickory Manufacturing Company, was built in 1902 and has been in continuous operation ever since. During World War II, the factory made ammunition boxes for the U.S. military instead of furniture.

Hickory was known in the years after World War II for the "Miracle of Hickory". In 1944 the area around Hickory (the Catawba Valley) became the center of one of the worst outbreaks of polio ever recorded. Residents who were then children recall summers of not being allowed to play outside or visit friends for fear of contracting the disease. Since local facilities were inadequate to treat the victims, the citizens of Hickory and the March of Dimes decided to build a hospital to care for the children of the region. From the time the decision was made until equipment, doctors, and patients were in a new facility, took less than 54 hours. Several more buildings were quickly added. A Red Cross official on the scene praised the project "as the most outstanding example of cooperative effort he has ever seen."

The Claremont High School Historic District, Elliott–Carnegie Library, First Presbyterian Church, Dr. Glenn R. Frye House, Clement Geitner House, Lee & Helen George House, Harris Arcade, Hickory Municipal Building, Hickory Southwest Downtown Historic District, Highland School, Hollar Hosiery Mills-Knit Sox Knitting Mills, Houck's Chapel, Kenworth Historic District, John A. Lentz House, Lyerly Full Fashioned Mill, John Alfred Moretz House, Oakwood Historic District, Piedmont Wagon Company, Propst House, Ridgeview Public Library, Shuford House, Weidner Rock House, Whisnant Hosiery Mills, and Yoder's Mills Historic District are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

City services

Fire department

The Hickory Fire Department provides fire suppression, emergency medical services, public education, hazardous materials (HAZMAT) operations, and fire prevention and inspection with 137 full-time personnel. Seven fire stations are strategically located throughout Hickory to provide a reasonable response time to emergencies.

Law enforcement

The Hickory Police Department is a full-service municipal police agency with 152 full-time officers. This group of professionals provides law enforcement and community services to the citizens of Hickory.

The Hickory Public Works Department provides water, street construction, traffic, maintenance and repair, stormwater management, solid waste and recycling, water treatment, parks and recreation, engineering and fleet maintenance services to the residents of Hickory.

Emergency medical services

Catawba County EMS provides Advanced Life Support transport services throughout Catawba County, including in the City of Hickory. Ambulances stationed at the Hickory, St. Stephens, and Mountain View bases are responsible for covering the city. To reduce wait time for services, the Hickory Fire Department will respond and provide Basic Life Support, until the arrival of an ambulance. The Hickory Rescue Squad can provide transport services, if Catawba County units are unavailable.



The Hickory Regional Airport is located in the western portion of the city and provides general aviation services. The airport is not serviced by a commercial airline given the proximity to larger nearby airports, particularly Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and Piedmont Triad International Airport.

Public transportation

Greenway Public Transportation operates six fixed bus routes around Hickory, Conover and Newton. Greenway also provides paratransit services to these cities and surrounding areas. Greenway Public Transportation provides over 250,000 trips each year to residents living in the Hickory region.


  • I-40
  • US 321.svg U.S. Highway 321
  • US 321.svg U.S. Highway 321 Business
  • US 70.svg U.S. Highway 70
  • NC 127.svg North Carolina Hwy 127

Geography and climate

Hickory is located in western Catawba County at 35°44′16″N 81°19′42″W / 35.73778°N 81.32833°W / 35.73778; -81.32833 (35.737682, −81.328372), and extends westward into Burke County and Caldwell County. Interstate 40 passes through the southern part of the city, leading east 68 miles (109 km) to Winston-Salem and west 75 miles (121 km) to Asheville. U.S. Route 70 (Conover Boulevard) is an older east-west route through the city. U.S. Route 321 passes through the western part of the city, leading northwest 43 miles (69 km) to Boone and south 36 miles (58 km) to Gastonia.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 29.8 square miles (77.2 km2), of which 29.7 square miles (76.9 km2) is land and 0.08 square miles (0.2 km2), or 0.31%, is water.

Climate data for Hickory, North Carolina (Hickory Regional Airport), 1981–2010 normals
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 49.3
Average low °F (°C) 29.6
Precipitation inches (mm) 3.69
Snowfall inches (cm) 3.7
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 8.6 8.8 9.9 9.2 10.9 10.7 11.6 9.7 7.9 7.4 8.5 8.9 112.1
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) .8 .7 .1 .1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .2 1.9
Source: NOAA

Metropolitan area

Hickory is the largest city within the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area). The MSA includes Catawba County, Burke County, Caldwell County, and Alexander County, with a combined population – as of the 2010 Census – of 365,497.

Apart from Hickory, the MSA includes Lenoir, Morganton, Conover, and Newton, along with a number of smaller incorporated towns: Sawmills, Granite Falls, Valdese, Long View, Gamewell, Hudson, Maiden, Cajah's Mountain, Hildebran, and Taylorsville.

Several sizable unincorporated rural and suburban communities are also located nearby: Drexel, Connelly Springs, Glen Alpine, Claremont, Rutherford College, Catawba, Cedar Rock, North Carolina, and Brookford.

Awards and recognition

Hickory has been named an "All-America City" three times. The All-America City Award is given annually to only ten cities in the United States. It is an award that represents a community's ability to work together and achieve critical local issues. Hickory won this award in 2007, as well as 1967 and 1987.

According to the official City of Hickory website, the Hickory Metro area has been named the 10th best place to live and raise a family in the United States by Reader's Digest and the MSA (Hickory, Lenoir, Morganton) has been named 3rd best MSA in the country for business cost by Forbes.

In 2014, Smart Growth America identified Hickory as being country’s most sprawling metro area.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1890 2,023
1900 2,535 25.3%
1910 3,716 46.6%
1920 5,076 36.6%
1930 7,363 45.1%
1940 13,487 83.2%
1950 14,755 9.4%
1960 19,328 31.0%
1970 20,569 6.4%
1980 20,757 0.9%
1990 28,301 36.3%
2000 37,222 31.5%
2010 40,010 7.5%
2020 43,490 8.7%
U.S. Decennial Census

2020 census

Hickory racial composition
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 28,099 64.61%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 5,920 13.61%
Native American 100 0.23%
Asian 1,659 3.81%
Pacific Islander 35 0.08%
Other/Mixed 2,104 4.84%
Hispanic or Latino 5,573 12.81%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 43,490 people, 16,690 households, and 9,834 families residing in the city.

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 40,093 people, 18,719 households, and 9,952 families residing in the city. There were 18,719 housing units at an average density of 640.4 per square mile (227.9/km2). The racial composition of the city was: 74.9% White, 14.3% Black or African American, 11.4% Hispanic or Latino American, 3.2% Asian American, 0.19% Native American, 0.06% Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, 3.08% some other race, and 1.46% two or more races.

There were 18,719 households, out of which 27.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.6% were married couples living together, 12.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.1% were non-families. 32.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.9% 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 city, the age distribution of the population shows 23.3% under the age of 18, 11.2% from 18 to 24, 30.7% from 25 to 44, 21.3% from 45 to 64, and 13.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females, there were 92.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $37,236, and the median income for a family was $47,522. Males had a median income of $31,486 versus $23,666 for females. The per capita income for the city was $23,263. About 8.4% of families and 11.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.8% of those under age 18 and 7.0% of those age 65 or over.

364,759 people live within 25 miles (40 km) of Hickory; 1.8 million people live within 50 miles (80 km) of Hickory.


  • I-40
  • US 321.svg U.S. Highway 321
  • US 321.svg U.S. Highway 321 Business
  • US 70.svg U.S. Highway 70
  • NC 127.svg North Carolina Hwy 127

Lake Hickory

Lake Hickory was created on the Catawba River in 1927 with the completion of the Oxford Dam 11 miles (18 km) northeast of Hickory. The dam parallels the NC Highway 16 bridge over the Catawba River between Interstate 40 and Taylorsville. It is 122 feet (37 m) high, with an overall length of 1,200 feet (370 m). The spillway section of the dam is 550 feet (170 m) long.

Lake Hickory was named after the city of Hickory and runs along its northern edge. The lake covers almost 4,223 acres (17.09 km2) with 105 miles (169 km) of shoreline. Full pond elevation is 935 feet (285 m). Lake Hickory is a reliable source of water for the cities of Hickory and Conover and the town of Longview.

Duke Energy provides five public access areas on the lake in cooperation with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.


Early industries such as wagon-making know-how, proximity to expansive forests, and excellent transportation via two intersecting railroads provided fertile ground for the emergence of the furniture industry. Likewise experience with textile manufacturing and easy access to power drove new industries in both fiber-optic cable and pressure-sensitive tape. Forty percent of the world's fiber optic cable is made in the Hickory area.

Adhesive tape manufacturer Shurtape Technologies and Fortune 500 network infrastructure provider CommScope are based in Hickory.

The furniture industry in Hickory is not as strong as in the decades previous, but still a primary component in the area economy. HSM (company) (formerly Hickory Springs, founded 1944) is a leading manufacturer of mattress coils. It is estimated 60% of the nation's furniture used to be produced within a 200-mile (320 km) radius of Hickory.

The Hickory area is marketed as a data-center corridor and is home to large data-centers operated by Apple and Google. Apple's billion-dollar data-center campus just south of Hickory is one of the world's largest.

Hickory is also home to the corporate headquarters of third-party logistics provider Transportation Insight, a member of North Carolina's top revenue tier of privately held businesses. In 2015, the company relocated its headquarters to the historic Lyerly Full Fashioned Mill in downtown Hickory.

127 northbound
Intersection of 1st Avenue NE and NC 127 near Downtown Hickory

Major Industries

  • Manufacturing
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Retail Trade
  • Professional, scientific, and management
  • Public Administration
  • Transportation
  • Construction

Major Employers

  • CommScope
  • Convergys


Lenoir building2
Lenoir–Rhyne University

Elementary schools

  • Clyde Campbell Elementary School
  • Jenkins Elementary School
  • Longview Elementary School
  • Oakwood Elementary School
  • Snow Creek Elementary School
  • Southwest Primary School
  • Viewmont Elementary School
  • Webb A. Murray Elementary School
  • St. Stephens Elementary School

Middle schools

  • Grandview Middle School
  • Northview Middle School
  • H. M. Arndt Middle School

High schools

  • Hickory High School
  • Challenger Early College High School
  • Hickory Career and Arts Magnet High School
  • St. Stephens High School

Private schools

  • University Christian High School
  • Hickory Christian Academy
  • Hickory Day School
  • Tabernacle Christian School
  • Christian Family Academy
  • Cornerstone Christian Academy (Specialized for students with learning differences)

Colleges and universities

  • Catawba Valley Community College
  • Lenoir–Rhyne University
  • Appalachian Center at Hickory
  • Gardner–Webb University satellite campus

Notable people



  • Tori Amos, musician and songwriter, was born in the area during a family trip
  • James Best, actor
  • Eric Church, country music singer and songwriter
  • Tom Constanten, musician, composer, former member of the Grateful Dead and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
  • Jon Reep, comedian
  • Matthew Settle, actor
  • Drew Starkey, actor
  • Brandon Wardell, comedian
  • Hermene Warlick Eichhorn, composer
  • Machinedrum, aka Travis Stewart, musician
  • The Blue Sky Boys, country music duo

Other notables

  • Cass Ballenger, politician
  • Norma Bonniwell, architect
  • James Broselow, emergency physician, assistant professor, and entrepreneur
  • Teresa Earnhardt, widow of Dale Earnhardt and stepmother to Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  • Gary Glenn, Michigan House of Representatives (2015–18), Associate Speaker of the House Pro Tem and chairman of the House Energy Policy Committee (2017–18)
  • Kenneth Lamar Holland, former Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives
  • Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook
  • E. Patrick Johnson, ethnographer, scholar in critical race theory, queer theory, and performance studies
  • Brock Long, FEMA Administrator
  • J.B. Long, store manager/owner and record company talent scout
  • Douglas E. Moore, Methodist minister and civil rights activist
  • Scott Owens, poet, teacher, and editor
  • William Powlas Peery, pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • Elwood L. Perry, inventor of the form of fishing lure known as the spoonplug
  • Paul Whitener, landscape painter and founder of the Hickory Museum of Art

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