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Chapel Hill

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From humble beginnings as a rustic settlement formed around a chapel on a hill--New Hope Chapel Hill--in the mid-eighteenth century, Chapel Hill has attained international recognition as one of the foremost centers of education in the United States. Despite the fact that their town is flourishing, Chapel Hillians still think of it as a village, and it is the combination of From humble beginnings as a rustic settlement formed around a chapel on a hill--New Hope Chapel Hill--in the mid-eighteenth century, Chapel Hill has attained international recognition as one of the foremost centers of education in the United States. Despite the fact that their town is flourishing, Chapel Hillians still think of it as a village, and it is the combination of a small Southern town and a concentration of creative, progressive people that makes Chapel Hill special. Although Chapel Hill is known for its ability to move with the times, it is also aware of the importance of the past and the need to preserve local history.


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From humble beginnings as a rustic settlement formed around a chapel on a hill--New Hope Chapel Hill--in the mid-eighteenth century, Chapel Hill has attained international recognition as one of the foremost centers of education in the United States. Despite the fact that their town is flourishing, Chapel Hillians still think of it as a village, and it is the combination of From humble beginnings as a rustic settlement formed around a chapel on a hill--New Hope Chapel Hill--in the mid-eighteenth century, Chapel Hill has attained international recognition as one of the foremost centers of education in the United States. Despite the fact that their town is flourishing, Chapel Hillians still think of it as a village, and it is the combination of a small Southern town and a concentration of creative, progressive people that makes Chapel Hill special. Although Chapel Hill is known for its ability to move with the times, it is also aware of the importance of the past and the need to preserve local history.

13 review for Chapel Hill

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dorothea

    This is the second "Images of America" book I've read. The first one, about Jordan Lake, really disappointed me. I suspected that some of the fault lay with the series, not the author, so I didn't expect very much of this book. I did enjoy reading it, because Chapel Hill is my hometown and I'm always curious about its past, but I was right to keep my expectations low. The "Images of America" series is for local history. The authors collect old photographs and other images (of historic documents, This is the second "Images of America" book I've read. The first one, about Jordan Lake, really disappointed me. I suspected that some of the fault lay with the series, not the author, so I didn't expect very much of this book. I did enjoy reading it, because Chapel Hill is my hometown and I'm always curious about its past, but I was right to keep my expectations low. The "Images of America" series is for local history. The authors collect old photographs and other images (of historic documents, engravings, portraits, maps, etc.) which they use to tell the story of a certain place. The pictures do most of the work, supported by short chapter introductions and shorter captions. The appeal is obvious -- seeing things can bring them to life in a different, sometimes better way than reading about them, and I think only a very un-curious person wouldn't be interested in seeing what a familiar place looked like before they were born. I enjoyed this extremely, as nearly every photograph contained a building I've been to or whose site I can mentally locate, or a name that's now given to a street I've walked down or a university building I've studied in. I had the pleasant experience of learning that the main street is named for Benjamin Franklin (instead of Frank Porter Graham, which I had assumed as a child, and hadn't until just now realized would be impossible because Franklin Street existed nearly 100 years before Frank Porter Graham was born). I've resolved to see whether the crater near the airport that this book (which was published in 1996) says is all that's left of an 1879 hematite mine, is still visible now. Next time I walk down East Franklin Street, I'll probably take this book with me and see if the house called the "Pigeon Box" is still standing. That was fun. What keeps me from raising the book's rating, though, is that like the Jordan Lake one, it's more of a scrapbook than a history book. Chapel Hill does better at presenting a narrative and bringing out some themes, but has the same tendency that most seriously disappointed me in the other book, of avoiding engagement with historically important conflicts. There are a number of photographs dealing with the Civil War. Part of the Confederate army surrendered only a few miles from Chapel Hill, and Vickers gives a lot of attention to this and to tensions in the town and university during Reconstruction. What's not mentioned: the freeing of enslaved people. It's well documented that slaves built many (probably most) of the pre-1865 buildings in Chapel Hill; in some cases we even know their names and what work they did. The book contains lots of photographs of pre-1865 buildings and the names of the white people who paid for them and lived in them, but not their workers' names. There is a photograph of Wilson Caldwell, once enslaved, who opened a school and became town commissioner during Reconstruction; but several black Chapel Hillians are described mainly in terms of how much their white owners loved them. The last chapter, covering Chapel Hill's history since the 1950s, also avoids discussing racism. Its introductory text mentions civil rights demonstrations and desegregation, but the only protest whose photograph is shown in the entire chapter is an antiwar one. There's only one photograph containing black people who are named in the caption, and its purpose is to congratulate the university on overcoming racism enough that black professors like working there. (I suspect the author himself of being too uncomfortable with race to really think about it. I hope that if he had, he would not have written captions that discuss Ku Klux Klan leaders in a completely dispassionate way, and later taken the effort to note that a projected Black Culture Center at the university was "much debated.") The book also gives the impression that Chapel Hill has been inhabited and developed only by affluent white people, enslaved black people during slavery, upwardly-mobile black people after slavery, and students. There are no Native Americans, despite the good opportunity to mention, for example, the Occaneechi, who had temporarily moved elsewhere when the white Morgan family became what the author calls "the first to settle in the area" but whose roads, fields, and buildings surely still shaped the landscape. Chang and Eng, who made a brief visit, are the only Asians or Asian-Americans mentioned. There are no Latinos, despite theirs being the fastest-growing population in Chapel Hill when this book was published. Also, really, there are barely any non-enslaved working-class people of any race. It's kind of weird. Yes, historically the wealthy have been the ones to leave lasting written records and to capture their lives in images, but real history manages anyway. I don't think it even occurred to this author to try. For example, he describes the ownership of the building that is now Carr Mill Mall, and was, in the 1910s and 20s, a cotton mill. Elsewhere, he notes that the main owner, Julian Shakespeare Carr, paid for the installation of electric lights in what is now Carrboro (a smaller town closely attached to Chapel Hill), implying that this was a random act of public-mindedness and the most important reason for Carrboro's name. Well, at that time Carrboro was, like many other North Carolina communities then, mainly a company town. Carr owned the houses in which his millworkers (poor, working-class whites) lived, and putting in electricity was the entirely characteristic act of a paternal Southern mill owner who bought the loyalty of his dependent workers by paying for some improvements in their living conditions while denying them any real voice in wages, hours, or mill operations. Deindustrialization and Southern unwillingness to discuss labor issues make it easy for Chapel Hill and Carrboro residents to forget, ignore, or never even learn about this part of our history -- it's unclear whether the author of this book has ever thought about the people who worked in the cotton mill. But this only makes it more important for writers of genuine history to expose these stories.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lesley Looper

    I enjoyed the pictures and captions, especially of old buildings. A couple of my McCauley ancestors were mentioned! :)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rick

  4. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  5. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Rector

  6. 4 out of 5

    BookDB

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Walls Yao

  8. 4 out of 5

    Emily

  9. 5 out of 5

    Erika

  10. 5 out of 5

    Betty

  11. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ben Wolfe II

  13. 5 out of 5

    rêveur d'art

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