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Town and Gown

Primary Documents Arranged by Subtopic:
Boarding Houses
Merchants and Shopkeepers
Taverns and Pubs

The town of Chapel Hill has been shaped by its proximity to the University of North Carolina. The original town lots were part of the lands donated for the site of the university. The university trustees laid out thirty lots, twenty-four of two acres each and six of four acres each. They sold them to the public on 12 October 1793, the very day they laid the cornerstone of the university's first building. Thus began a symbiotic and colorful relationship between Chapel Hill and the university.

In the period covered by "The First Century of the First State University," Chapel Hill was just a village. A re-created 1795 map presented here shows the initial size and layout of the village. Two early nineteenth-century maps and a mid-century map illustrate the modest growth of Chapel Hill in the antebellum period. These maps will orient readers and help them understand why difficulties arose in the relations between local residents and university students and faculty. Many students boarded in homes or boarding houses in the village. Student letters reveal that accommodations ranged from homey and comfortable to miserable. Trustee minutes show repeated efforts to regulate boarding by declaring certain houses off limits and by setting a ceiling on the rates that could be charged. The trustees also attempted to prevent the students from accumulating debts with local merchants. Disorder and vice—especially alcohol—attracted the interest of some students. The trustees battled this on many fronts—by limiting the hours students could be off campus, requiring students to deposit their funds with the bursar, lobbying the General Assembly to prohibit the sale of liquor in and near Chapel Hill, and asking parents to encourage their sons to obey regulations designed to preserve them from temptation. These efforts met with limited success.

Faculty joined with the villagers in hoping for more successful regulation of the students. Faculty shopped in the village, owned homes, and attended the same churches as the villagers. Some of their children married the children of local merchants and landowners, creating familial ties between townspeople and university staff. A community of interests was formed among those who made their livings in the shadow of the university. The letter from Joseph Caldwell to prospective faculty member William Neill shows how early this melding of town and gown interests developed. For many, "Chapel Hill" meant both the university and the town.

The documents in this section are arranged chronologically within the subtopics.

General | Top of Page
Boarding Houses | Top of Page
Merchants and Shopkeepers | Top of Page
Taverns and Pubs | Top of Page