National Historic Preservation Month, celebrated in May, was established in 1973 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to “promote historic preservation and community pride in local heritage sites.” Orange County, North Carolina founded in 1752, has a rich history in all three towns of Hillsborough, Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

Read on for a brief history of our three towns and plan a trip to visit our historic treasures today!


Hillsborough Visitors Center

The town of Hillsborough was founded in 1754. The downtown historic section of Hillsborough, including the many streets of homes leading off from Churton Street, have been preserved as they once were years ago. It stands as a testiment to a town who values their beginnings. The Hillsborough Downtown Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, features more than 100 homes, buildings and churches from the 18th and 19th centuries. When visiting Hillsborough, a great starting point is the Hillsborough Visitors Center (pictured above), known as The Alexander Dickson house, which served as Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's headquarters when he surrendered the largest of the Confederate armies to Gen. William T. Sherman at the end of the Civil War; the house was moved from its orginal site to preserve it. A visit to Hillsborough is to step back in time a couple hundred years.

More Historic Points of Interest:

The Burwell  School Historic Site

Orange County Historical Museum

Ayr Mount

Orange County Courthouse

Historic Tour:

Self-Guided Walking Tours



Copy of Horace Williams House.JPG

The Horace Williams House, pictured above, is the home of Preservation Chapel Hill and has a long history of seeking to preserve the local landmarks in Chapel Hill. The Preservation Chapel Hill's Historic Plaque Program recognizes and designates historically and architecturall significatn structures in our community. To date, 40 plaques have been awarded and Preservation Chapel Hill maintains a list of endangered properties in need of saving. Check out their list of homes and buildings that are notably preserved, ones to watch, and ones that are endangered and lost.

Probably the most well-known historic place in Chapel Hill is the The University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill which has the distinction of being the oldest public university in the nation which admitted students in 1795 and UNC became the only public university to award degrees in the 18th century. The town of Chapel Hill subsequently grew up around the school.

More Historic Points of Interest:

The Carolina Inn

Chapel of the Cross

Playmakers Theatre

Historic Tour:

Free Walking Tours of Chapel Hill

Carr Mill Mall - Back Entrance Side View

Carrboro, the smallest of the three towns, was founded in 1882. Carr Mill Mall was  built in 1898 by Thomas F. Lloyd and was formerly a cotton mill called the Alberta Cotton Mill; it remained open until the 1960s when it was shut down. In 1974, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen voted to have the building torn down but the community was opposed to the plan and the mill was renovated and reopened as Carr Mill Mall, now on the National Register of Historical Places and a well-loved part of Carrboro’s history. Also on the National Register is the Carrboro Commercial Historic District and the Thomas F. Lloyd Historic District consisting of 25 buildings developed as housing for textile mill workers.

Historic Tour:

Carrboro Historic Downtown Walking Tour