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North Carolina Travel Guide
Hillsborough

Just Another Blustery Day In Hillsborough

Hillsborough TornadoIt was the kind of cloudy day that is great for taking photos. Not too sunny so that you don't find yourself shooting into the sun because you absolutely must have a picture of a particular building, but not so dark that everything looks kind of depressing. So I jumped into my car and took down the top and drove off to Hillsborough where I parked in the new town parking deck right next to Weaver Street Market and the Library. By the time I got there the sky had begun to appear more ominous with dark clouds gathering to the west, so I figured I better hurry if I wanted to get some good shots of the town. After about ten minutes of running around taking photos of everything that looked interesting I walked into the Dual Supply Company on West King Street which is the local old time hardware store. A bunch of locals were waiting to pay owner Wesley Woods while nervously keeping an eye on some red and orange blips on the weather channel which was flashing a banner that said a tornado was spotted five miles west and headed for Hillsborough. I figured since most of the town buildings had been around for at least 100 years I was pretty safe though I wondered about my car in the new parking deck. I supposed it would survive anything but a direct hit but I might want to go and put the top down in case the building leaked, or so one of the farmers told me. So I ran back to the parking deck, taking photos on the way, and by the time I got there the atmosphere seemed pretty electric and I decided to go to the roof and see if I could get a better view. If the tornado came bearing down on me I could always run to Weaver street or cower in one of the stairwells in the deck which seemed pretty solid to me. When I got to the roof it was clear that the tornado was going to miss the town but I managed to take this photo. So while I had not planned to start my page on Hillsborough with a tornado, since it is not something that happens regurlarly around here, I liked the picture so much I figured what the hell? Why not?

Billy Strayhorn plaque, HillsboroughThe early history of North Carolina is documented by the many signs and historical markers which line Churton Street in historic downtown Hillsborough. But the past is the past and after a period of sleep Hillsborough has awakened to become the center of culture, entertainment and education envisioned by Paul Cameron and William Graham a hundred and fifty years ago. Not your ordinary small southern town, Hillsborough has lately been attracting some of the finest minds in the south who have made it their home and some of the best chefs in the state who have opened restaurants to feed them. Located 12 miles from both Durham and Chapel Hill and 38 miles from Raleigh, Hillsborough is convenient to Duke University, UNC-Chapel Hill and Research Triangle Park. The nearest airport is RDU International, just 40 minutes away. Both Interstate 40 and 85 pass within a couple miles of downtown Hillsborough and old NC Highway 86 passes right through it.

History of Hillsborough

Ocaneechi village in Hillsborough, NCThe Occoneechee and other Native Americans had already been on the site of Hillsborough for almost a thousand years, as recorded by explorer John Lawson who visited the area in 1701. These Siouan-speaking people lived along the Eno and Haw rivers in settled villages growing corn, beans and squash and hunting deer, bear, racoon, rabbits and turtles. By 1710 the Occaneechi had joined other related tribes at Fort Christianna, Virginia where Governor Spotswood hoped to convert them to Christianity and teach them the English language and culture and use them as a buffer between the colonists and the Cherokees in the west. By the mid-seventeen hundreds there were over 4000 white settlers in the area and the Native Americans did not begin to return until the late 1700's.

Governor William Tryon of North CarolinaThe town of Hillsborough, was founded in 1754 on the spot where the Great Indian Trading path crossed the Eno River, as a central location for the Orange county courthouse. A center of political activity before and during the Revolutionary war, the Orange County Regulators fought against the oppressive laws of the eastern North Carolina landowners who ruled the colony. Colonel Edmund Fanning, Clerk of the Recorder's Court at Hillsborough, was a prime target as was Governor William Tryon (left), who used taxes to build Tryon Palace in New Bern to be used as his own residence and as a the center of government for North Carolina. Inspired by the Sons of Liberty who resisted the Stamp Act, the Regulators fought a series of skirmishes with the government but were finally defeated in the Battle of Alamance Creek on May 6 1771 and six of them were hanged in Hillsborough. It is believed that the Regulators were precursors of the American Revolution and illustrates the desire for independence many colonists had during this time. In February of 1781 General Charles Cornwallis used the town as his headquarters while he recruited for his militia from the residents of Orange County, some of whom were loyal to the British and others who were revolutionaries. William Hooper, who had been beaten up by the Regulators a few years before served on Thomas Jefferson's committee to compose the Declaration of Independence. Though he was sick on July 4th 1776 his name was added on the 2nd of August.

General Wade Hampton CSAIn 1778 Hillsborough hosted the state's Constitutional convention and the delegates demanded that the Bill of Rights be added to the US Constitution and voted against its ratification. In the mid-nineteenth century Hillsborough was home to the Burwell School for young ladies and the Hillsborough Military Academy and in 1865 General Wade Hampton (right) established the last confederate headquarters and later was at Bennett Place in Durham with General Joseph Johnston to discuss the terms of surrender with General Sherman. By the end of the century Hillsborough rivaled neighboring Durham is the production of tobacco with five manufacturing companies and the town grew as more farmers gave up their fields to live in town and work in the cotton mills that had opened.

In 1973 downtown Hillsborough was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 2004 the town celebrated it's 250th anniversary which if you do the math means in 2023 Hillsborough will be 300 years old.

Visiting Hillsborough

Downtown Hillsborough, NCThere are two ways to approach Hillsborough from Interstate 85 which runs from Petersburg, Virginia to Atlanta, Georgia. If you get off at the exit for old 86 and go north you will find yourself in the typical urban blight of fast-food, used car lots and unattractive shopping centers. You have to get through this gauntlet before you cross the Eno River and find yourself in downtown Hillsborough. If you get off at the exit for new 86 you will make a softer entry past farms, forests (and a massage parlor). Either way once you get onto Churton Street and park your car you can wander around this very walk-able town. If you stop at the Orange County Visitors Center,at 150 King Street in the Alexander Dickson House, which was the last headquarters of the confederacy, you can pick up a map and some brochures and begin the historic tour on your own or with the Guided Tour Service that visits the historic district as well as the former Hillsborough Military Academy, the Burwell School the site of a School for Young Ladies from 1837-1857, and the old textile mills and mill village of West Hillsborough on the second Saturday of every month. (For tour information call 919 732-7741).

Orange County Courthouse, HillsboroughThe Orange County Courthouse (photo)is located here in Hillsborough as anyone from Chapel Hill who has gotten a summons for jury duty knows. It was built in 1844 in the Greek-revival style, designed and built by local builder John Berry. The plaque in front commemorates the location of the Old State House and the fact that an expedition led by Daniel Boone began here in 1776. The metal for the monument came from the USS Maine which if you know your history was blown up in Cuba either by the Spanish or by someone who wanted the US to have an excuse to attack the Spanish.  Behind the Orange County Sheriff's Dept on East Margaret lane is the reconstructed 17th century Occaneechi Village on the banks of Eno River, near where the tribe had an actual village 300 years ago. Within several blocks of the river you will find the Orange County Historical Museum in the old Confederate Memorial Library, Dickerson's Chapel c.1790, which originally served as the Orange County Courthouse from 1790 to 1844, built at the corner of Churton and King Streets. Other historical churches include the First Baptist Church at 201 W King Street which was built between 1860 and 1870 after the congregation moved there from the 1790 courthouse building which had been moved to the corner of Churton and E. Queen Streets. The reason it took ten years to build is because in 1864 the congregation lost their funds when the Hillsboro Savings Institution went bankrupt because of the Civil War.The Hillsborough Presbyterian Church at 102 W Tryon Street was built in 1816, and believed to be the oldest Presbyterian structure in continuous use in North Carolina. The Hillsborough United Methodist Church at 130 W Tryon Street, was begun around 1860 but the Civil War interrupted the completion of this building and new building wasn't fully paid for until 1874. The first St. Matthew's Church was built before 1768 at Tryon and Churton Streets. Damaged during the Revolutionary War, it served as the site of the NC Constitutional Convention of 1788 and as the site of Hillsborough Academy. The present building was erected on land donated by State Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Ruffin in 1825. Among the dozens of historic houses in the neighborhood is the Hillsborough House Inn c.1797 and the Old Slave Cemetery on Margaret Lane.

The Colonial Inn, Hillsborough, NCThe Colonial Inn was built in 1838 as a hotel, and was known to the locals as Spencer's Tavern, but was advertised as the Orange Hotel. Later it became the Occoneechee Hotel, then the Corbinton Inn and finally in 1924 renamed the "Colonial Inn". The Inn was running as recently as 2000 when some friends of mine spent their wedding night there and I can remember when the dining room was full of people. But the owners let the place go and when a new owner bought it in 2002 with the aim of restoring it, he didn't realize how much work had to be done and the bureaucratic land mines he would have to stumble through to get it opened as a restaurant, a B&B or even just a residence. (You can read about owner Francis Henry's attempts to restore the Colonial Inn.) The Colonial Inn is listed on a state register of historically significant structures, meaning that it cannot be demolished without permission from the town's Historic District Commission. But supposedly the building is so far gone that unless something dramatic happens, demolition is inevitable. It's a shame.

In the meantime the Inn at Teardrops has been an inn on and off and on throughout its long history. It was owned by Edmund Fanning until he sold it to Thomas King, an Inn keeper, in 1768. It is currently a B&B and is your best option if you want to be close to downtown. The name comes from the teardrops shaped glass on the front doors and the molding around the eaves of the house.

Art in Hillsborough

Hillsborough Galllery of ArtsHillsborough Gallery of Arts at 121 N Churton Street is owned and operated by local artists. It represents established artists exhibiting modern and contemporary fine art and fine craft. Artworks include painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography, fiber art, jewelry, glass, metal, mosaics, encaustics, enamels, watercolors and wood. The Eno Gallery at 100 S Churton Street  is a unique and intimate exhibition space in the heart of the Hillsborough historic district, offering work from artists of exceptional quality and dedication. It features monthly solo exhibitions as well as selected group shows throughout the year. Both galleries play an important roll in Hillsboroughs Last Friday Art Walk which is held the last Friday of the month. Also taking part is the Hillsborough Artists Cooperative and the Skylight Gallery at 102 W King Street as well as several local businesses. For those who don't mind an extra long walk for their art, even The Depot at Hillsborough Station at 246 South Nash Street takes part though it is recommended that you drive there instead of walking. The Last Friday event which begins in April and goes on into the fall also features live music, food and other festivities at the Courthouse Square.

Antiques, Food and Nightlife in Hillsborough

Billsborough Live Music Club, HillsboroughChurton Street is Hillsborough's main street and is also route 86 which goes north to Virginia adding unnecessary traffic to the town. But if you can ignore it you will find yourself on a picturesque and quaint southern street with a number of restaurants, shops and even a few nightlife spots. Of particular interest to people of my age is the Billsborough Live Music Hall at 106 South Churton Street which in a previous incarnation as the Blue Bayou featured the best in local blues, rock, folk, jazz like Taz Halloween & Robert Griffin and also attracts such national acts as The Nighthawks, Bob Margolin, Jimmy Thackery & the Drivers, Cool John Ferguson and many others. The new owners took over in 2012 and have continued to book quality local and national acts. They also host an open-mike every Tuesday and open Jazz Jam every Wednesday. New owner Bill West used to host the open-mike at the old Blue Bayou and opening the club is a fullfillment of a dream for him. For the forseeable future Billsborough will be the place to hear live bands, singer songwriters, bluegrass, jazz, live comedy, beach music, DJ's, blues, and so much more! And it is one of the only dog-friendly live music bars in the Triangle so if your dog likes the same music as you do bring him along.

Wooden Nickle Pub HillsboroughThe last thing in the world you would expect to find in a small southern town is an English pub. But Hillsborough is no ordinary small town and on Churton Street The Wooden Nickle offers beers and food in the type of place you would be more likely to find in a college town. They feature North Carolina and National micro-brew beer as well as imports and the usual domestics. Monday is $2 domestics, Tuesday is Wing Night-Buy 6, Get 6-(Dine in only), Wednesday is $3.50 pints of everything except Guinness and some rareties and Thursday is Dickel at The Nickel with $3 shots of George Dickel #8 and $4 shots of George Dickel #12. They also have cask takeovers where they will feature a certain brewery and special events to clear their beer cellars of non-sellers called Pull and Pray Nights which is neither as vulgar or as religious as it might sound. With outdoor seating right on Churton Street it is a great place to have a beer and watch the world drive by on Highway 86. Or go across the street to yet another pub that recently opened, this one Irish, called Radius Pizza and Pub, also with outdoor car watching seating.

Gulf Rim restaurant, HillsboroughAt #11 Churton Streetin the old James Pharmacy is Gulf Rim Cafe, which serves American (New), Cajun/Creole, Caribbean, Cuban, Mexican, Southern, Soul food and Sandwich restaurant with an emphasisis on local produce and fresh seafood. NC Swordfish, BBQ Pork Loin, Beef Tenderloin Quesadilla's, Mesquite Smoked Brisket, Blackened Maple Leaf Duck, Housemade Louisiana Herbed Sausages, Pan seared rainbow trout, BBQ pork shanks, sea scallops with home made pesto pasta, Blackened Tilapia Tacos with Corn and Black Bean Salsa, Pork Loin Roulade Stuffed with Mushroom Duxelles and Chilean Blue with Creole Shrimp Sausages in Tomato Basil and Chardonnay Broth and lots of other weekly food and drink specials make this the kind of place that makes people glad they moved to Hillsborough and Chapel Hillians glad they made the drive.

Antonia's Italian Restaurant, HillsboroughAntonia’s Restaurant is named after a very popular restaurant in Key West, Florida that Claudia, Antonia and Phillip owned and operated for 24 years before moving to North Carolina. Antonia’s is a fun, easy,  place where good traditional Italian food is served in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.Dishes are prepared daily with fresh seasonal ingredients using only hormone- and antiboitic-free meats, local beers on tap and old world and new world wines that accompany lunch and dinner menus. Delicious desserts are crafted here daily. On Tuesday nights they have live jazz and through the course of the year they host special wine dinners. Pastasinclude Homemade linguine with large red shrimp, scallops, snapper, mussels, shrimp stock, arugula, fresh tomato, butter and Cognac, to Cappelini ala Putanesca with yellow fin tuna, fresh tomato sauce, capers, black olives, anchovies, olive oil, garlic and a touch of red pepper among other and  are available in half portions. This is not your small southern town Italian restaurant-pizza parlor. This is the kind of Italian restaurant actual Italians like to eat at. The kind of place you find in Trenton New Jersey, Boston, Brooklyn and other areas where Italians have settled. Visit them on the corner of N. Churton and W. King Streets. There is street parking downtown and a parking lot behind the restaurant.

Aaron Vandemark, Panciuto, HillsboroughAaron Vandemark is the chef/owner of Panciuto at 110 S. Churton Street. Opened in 2006, Panciuto serves Italian inspired dinners using Southern ingredients. The menu changes a little bit every day, noticeably week to week, and completely month to month dependent on what the local farmers are harvesting. Aaron Vandemark has been written about in the pages of The New York Times, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Garden & Gun and a host of regional magazines and papers. He was nominated by Food and Wine Magazine as the Best New Chef of 2011, he was a semifinalist for the Best Chef of the Southeast by the James Beard Foundation, and the Raleigh News and Observer has listed it as one of the Best Restaurants in the Triangle. If I have not convinced you that this is a restaurant worth going to how about Duck filled chestnut pasta ravioli alla finanziera with wilted greens, balsamic syrup and pecorino or Pan seared ribeye with fried oysters, arugula, potato gnocchi, tomato butter and parcel aioli or Hand rolled pici pasta with pork Bolognese, smoked farmers cheese, shiitake mushrooms, arugula and carrots or Grilled heritage pork chop with maccheroni di frittata, red eye gravy, wilted greens Goat cheese filled tortelloni in cream with poached egg, mache, apricot-jalapeno jelly, breadcrumbs, radishes and maple bacon, which are just a few samples from Aaron's Italian-Southern Fusion restaurant, not to be confused with Southern-Italian. Still not convinced? I give up. There's a Bandido's right down the street.

Saratoga Grill, Hillsborough, NCKevin and Colleen St. John own and operate Saratoga Grill at at 108 South Churton Street, which opened in downtown Hillsborough in February 1995. The couple came to North Carolina from upstate New York, where Kevin had worked in the restaurant business for 18 years before opening Saratoga. Featuring fresh mesquite and charcoal grilled seafood, and several beef, and steak dishes, Honey Almond Salmon, and a Broiled Seafood Platter featuring mussels, salmon, sea scallops and baked stuffed shrimp. They are famous for their New England Clam Chowder and may be the most popular restaurant for people on Jury Duty. How do I know? I ate here once when I was on jury duty and came again and saw John Edwards eating with a large group and he was on jury duty too, not on trial. But you don't have to wait to be called for jury duty to eat here. You may want to make reservations if you come at night though. They also have burgers, sandwiches and salads including a sort of Greek salad though as far as I know the owners are not Greek or even sort of Greek.

Hillsborough Wine CompanyHillsborough Wine Company at 18 South Churton St is one of the best wine stores around and are actually the cousin or the brother or sister or nephew of the Chapel Hill Wine Company which prides itself on their selection and their colorful descriptions of their wines which are enticing enough to get people to try wines they would not normally be interested in. At least it works on me. "Life’s too short to drink bad wine! We taste thousands of bad wines each year so you don’t have to!" is the philosophy of the folks who work there and Michael Klinger is a Certified Sommelier with papers to prove it. It is worth stopping in just to get your name on their e-mail list to receive their informative and colorful newsletter, but you will probably want to check out their Hillsborough Wine Station which holds 12 bottles of wine, keeping them at the perfect temperature and preserved with Argon gas so every sip is just as fresh as a newly opened bottle. You purchase a card from Jen, pop it into the machine, select your wine and tasting size then relax as you shop. Or you can relax as you relax, in one of the comfortable chairs and Sofas in the front of the shop.

After a few glasses of wine duck around the corner on King Street to Cup-A-Joe's Coffee where you can get fresh roasted coffee, espresso, pastries and conversation. It has to be the most narrow coffee shop in the world but the coffee is good and you can sit outside if you are the type who gets claustrophobic. Then go over to Matthew's Chocolates at 107 N. Churton St and get a bag of home-made gourmet chocolate candy to bring home with you.

Hillsborough BBQ CompanyFor a real southern treat make your way out of downtown heading west on King street and then turn left on Nash street until you come to an old Factory area that has been converted into shops and restaurants. Go to the Hillsborough BBQ Company for Pit Cooked BBQ, Ribs, Chicken, Turkey, and Brisket in a friendly southern setting. This is a serious bbq joint, the kind people pray will one day open in their town. Their baby back pork ribs are smoked in the pit then sauced and grilled while their beef brisket is cooked on the coals for fifteen hours and then served with Texas toast. They also have chopped hickory smoked bbq cooked on the wood fired pit, smoked chicken, fried catfish, and sliced slow-cooked Turkey breast all of which can be eaten in or bought in bulk to take home. Several types of slaw, collards, fried okra, beans, mac n cheese, Brunswick stew(made with rabbit) and of course husbpuppies or fries come as sides or can be ordered separately. For appetisers how about pork nachos, catfish bites, or grilled wedge salad? Sandwiches and po-boys and even hot-dogs are available for lunch and dinner. They also have cocktails, wine and beer including local craft beer by Mystery Brewing Company just down the road where you can go to see them in action or buy ingredients at their beer-making shop and go home and brew your own.

Depot at Hillsborough StationThe Depot at Hillsborough Station used to be a biker bar and a pool hall and at one time a movie theater called The Hollywood Theater. Now it  is a combination general store-bar-live music venue and sits between the Health Center at Hillsborough Station which advertises acupuncture, nutrition and massage and Paws at the Corner, a pet store. Every Wednesday they have open-mic and on  most Tuesdays they have an old time jam. Weekends are usually nights to hear live bands, usually two or three a night. Thursday nights they have music and sometimes trivia. The restaurant serves quiche, biscuits and a variety of sandwiches as well as sweets and deserts like hand dipped Mapleview Ice Cream, local chocolates, truffles, chocolate pretzels, and other goodies and of course coffee and espresso. Oh yes, and they have wine and craft beer from NC like Mystery Brewing Co., Foothills, Olde Hickory, Nantahala, and more. You can click on the above link to see who is playing there.

Belleview Mill, HillsboroughOne of the most exciting projects now taking place in Hillsborough is the renovation of the Belleview Mill at 202 South Nash Street which is just west of downtown in the same little industrial-turned commercial area that hosts the Hillsborough BBQ Company and the Depot. The town Board approved Special Use Permit revisions on June 8, 2009 and the owners have listed the property on the National Register of Historic Places in preparation for turning the historic portion of the former fabric mill building into apartments which will certainly impact the businesses on Nash street in a positive way. Bellevue Manufacturing created fabrics and employed scores of families who lived in the mill houses that still surround it. Now it is set to revitalize the neighborhood again which in the past was known as the wild west because of the heavy drinking and fighting that went on in the area. Across the street is the Eno River Cotton Mill which was first built in 1896 and used the river for power and the railroad for transportation. At it's peak the factory had three shifts a day and employed 600 people, half of them women. The plant closed in 1984 and in December 1986 the around it land was given to the town by Cone Mills to develop a park, which is now Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area, one of the most important natural areas in the Triangle. It is the highest point in Orange County at 867 feet. The Mill itself was sold to the Gold Family who transformed it from a working textile mill to a multi-tenant commercial complex similar to Durham's American Tobacco complex.

Big Barn, Daniel Boone Village, HillsboroughAs you leave Hillsborough and travel south on Old 86 past the American commercial wasteland you will see on your left Daniel Boone Antique Village, one of the largest collection of antique shops in the south, and other attractions including a convention center, a working blacksmith, gift stores, financial and technical services, consignment, clothing, restaurants and more. The Big Barn Convention Center is a Hillsborough landmark with a 300 person capacity, hosting many annual and special events including CD and record conventions, craft shows, auctions, weddings, family reunions and concerts. The Big Barn may have been the last gig for Richard Manual when The Band played there in March of 1986 a few days before his death. It was also where the Neville Brothers played back in the days when lmore popular bands that were too big for the Cat's Cradle but too small for the Carolina Theater or Memorial Hall used to play. But you have to wonder about a convention center that does not have a website or an e-mail address. The Village Diner is the oldest continuously operated restaurant in Hillsborough serving a lunch and dinner buffet plus a regular menu which included barbecue and other southern favorites. 

Weaver Street Market, HillsboroughPerhaps the most important addition to Hillsborough in the last twenty years or so has been Weaver Street Market, the cooperative natural foods store that began in Carrboro before opening in Chapel Hill's Southern Village and then in Hillsborough. When they moved to Hillsborough though they did more than open another store. They also moved the corporate offices here as well as the bakery. Unlike the Carrboro store, Weaver Street Market does not have a big lawn to serve as a community space where people can eat and drink and listen to music while their kids run around. But it does have a parking deck and unlike Carrboro you don't have to worry about being towed by an overly zealous Carr Mill Mall security guard. They do make the most of the limited outdoor space they have and in the summer months they have music on their small lawn from 6:30 to 8:30. Twenty years ago there were probably not enough people in Hillsborough who cared about what they ate to support a health food store the size of Cuppa Joe's, much less a supermarket. So in a way Weaver Street Market is the largest symbol of the changes in Hillsborough.

Hillsborough Events

Last Friday Art Walk Map-HillsboroughHillsborough's Hogg Day, held the third Saturday in June features live music, children's activities, barbecue cook-offs, crafters, merchandise vendors, a petting zoo, games and rides, and the area's largest classic auto show as 36 pig cooking teams from all over the state roll into town and the smell of whole pigs and pork shoulders roasting fills the air. The Carolina Classic Auto Club hosts up to 150 classic automobiles from pre-war through 1975. The festival was known until 2013 as Hog Day but that year they added the extra 'g' to make the festival not just about hogs but to honor James Hogg.  Mr. Hogg was a merchant who left his native Scotland in 1774, moved to North Carolina, and became a partner in the Transylvania Company, a Trustee of the University of North Carolina and a leader in patriot activity as a member of the Hillsborough Safety Committee.  His home was located near River Park, the Hogg Day site, and his grave is two blocks in the other direction!

Other Hillsborough events include the Spring Garden Tour which visit some of the loveliest gardens in town, sponsored by the Alliance for Historic Hillsborough. On the first Sunday in December the Christmas Candlelight Tour visits some of Hillsborough's finest homes.

Of course I already mentioned the last Friday Art Walk which is a great time to come to visit Hillsborough, see the art and then hang out for dinner and drinks before heading home. Watch out for deer. The Last Friday program, of which the Art Walk is only a part of, is held on the last Friday of every month from April through September with musical performances on the Old Courthouse lawn and special events and exhibits in the shops and restaurants as well as on the sidewalks. Winter Fridays is a continuation of this and performances are held indoors. Other events such as Conversations in Jazz and the Hangin' With The Regulators concerts as well as parlor concerts are put on by the all volunteer Hillsborough Arts Council.

Things to Do In and Around Hillsborough

Occoneechee SpeedwayOcconeechee Speedway was one of the first two NASCAR tracks to open and is the only track remaining from that inaugural, 1949 season. The site is now heavily forested the grandstands which once held thousands of fans and the mile–long oval track is still visible. It was at Occoneechee Speedway where such legends as Fireball Roberts, Richard Petty, Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson once spent their Sundays. This site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and you can now walk the 44 acre site with 3 miles of trails. It is located at 320 Elizabeth Brady Road in Hillsborough, NC and is open to the public during daylight hours every day. It is free of charge. If you crave the sound of roaring engines and the smell of carbon monoxide and burning rubber you will have to wait. Orange County Speedway, a 3/8 mile paved oval located near Rougemont, North Carolina shut down in 2003 and is currently for sale.

Eno River HillsboroughThe Eno River begins in northwest Orange County, flowing eastward for approximately 33 miles until it becomes the Neuse and flows into Falls Lake. The Eno River State Park which follows the river offers Camping, canoeing, education and events, fishing, hiking, picnic-ing. The river varies from rocky rapids to a slow meander past historic mill sites, farms, forests and steep bluffs. The Eno River hosts at least 61 species of fish, 12 species of freshwater mussels, many of which are on endangered species lists; seven species of turtles; 14 species of snakes; 15 species of amphibians; and a variety of mammals including beaver, river otter, muskrat, woodchuck, weasel, mink, and white-tailed deer. Over 100 species of trees are in the Eno River State Park. If you want to visit the Eno River and you don't feel like leaving town just go behind the Hillsborough County Government buildings and follow the trails and paths along the river.

Montrose Gardens, HillsboroughNationally known Montrose Gardens at 320 St. Mary's Road, were begun in the 19th Century by Governor and Mrs. William Alexander Graham. Large gardens, specimen trees, rock gardens, woodlands, and several 19th century outbuildings the property has been owned and cared for, for 35 years by Nancy Goodwin and her husband, Craufurd, who teaches economics at Duke University. Montrose is open on certain days in May and September, when plants from the garden are also sold. Gardens on view by appointment only on Tues and Thurs 10am, Sat 10am and 2pm. $10 admission. You can e-mail Nancy Goodwin at montrosegdn@embarqmail.com. I bought some figs here and they are doing wonderfully despite North Carolina not being exactly a Mediterranean climate.

Ayr Mount at 376 St. Mary's Road, is a Federal-style plantation house built in 1815 just outside of Hillsborough. It was the home of William Kirkland and four generations of the Kirkland family for the next 170 years. In 1984, a nephew of the widow of the last direct Kirkland descendant sold the house to Richard H. Jenrette, who has meticulously restored and furnished Ayr Mount with period antiques and decorative arts, including many original Kirkland furnishings. Poets Walk is a mile long trail that meanders through the meadows and woodlands of the property. The path follows the Eno River, passes the ruins of an old tavern, and parallels the Old Indian Trading Path.

Horseshoe In The Dogwood at 417 Saint Mary's Road are beautiful English Gardens with an award winning collection of Iris and peonies and  perennials. They surround a charmingly restored Neo Classic Bungalow. You can visit the gardens by appointment only. Call 919 732-1288.

Shopping in Hillsborough

Dual Supply in HillsboroughLike other small North Carolina towns Hillsborough has lots of galleries and antique shops and places to spend an afternoon browsing for stuff you don't really need but probably want anyway. I have already covered the art galleries so let me just move on to the rest. Dual Supply Company Inc at 115 West King Street is the kind of old fashioned hardware store that is disappearing from America because of places like Lowe's and Home Depot. Owned by Wesley Woods they sell hardware, home outdoor equipment, seeds, they do small engine repair, and in this colorful store that looks like it popped out of the fifties you will find just about every item you need to grow, fix, or build anything. My feeling about these old hardware stores is that you should shop there whenever you can even if you can find what you want for a few bucks cheaper elsewhere. Because one day these small stores won't exist and you won't have any choice except to go to the big stores. Anyway all you need to do is hang out at places like Dual Supply and you realize that it is lot more of a personal experience. They don't have to hire someone to stand at the door and act helpful and friendly, because everybody who works here actually is helpful and friendly.

Lloyd's Pharmacy, HillsboroughThe same goes for the little pharmacy across the street next to Cuppa Joe's. Lloyd’s Pharmacy, Inc. at 118 A West King Street is a small, family owned apothecary shop that has been open since 1940. The owner is involved in town, and is concerned about history, culture, health, and growth of the community and is happy to sit and chat with you or any neighbor that happens to pop in. Compare this with your last experience at CVS or Kerr or at the local Walmart Super Center where you stand in line to give your order and then stand in line again to pick up and pay and they probably take as long as they can to fill your prescription so you will get bored and buy something you don't really need. I would encourage anyone who lives in Hillsborough or anywhere near it, who has been shopping at one of these major drug stores without really thinking about it, to come to Lloyd's to buy whatever drugs you need, and keep this kind of shop alive so your children and grandchildren won't have to buy everything they need at Walmart's.

Hillsborough ShopsOther interesting shops include the Hillsborough Yarn Shop at 114 South Churton Street which specializes in high-quality natural fiber yarns for people who love to hand knit and crochet. Purple Crow Books at 109 West King Street is a literary meeting place that has new and used books and specializes in local authors of which there are many. And being the only book store in town it is also the most likely place to run into one of these local authors. Come in and buy an autographed copy of a book by Lee Smith, Hal Crowther, Jill McCorkle, Anna Jean “A.J.” Mayhew, Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun, Award winning author Craig Nova, Rev. Linda Foster Momsen, James Maxey, Michael Malone, Allan Gurganus, Annie Dillard and others with ties or homes in Hillsborough. Or go to Swanson Violins: Maker and Restorer of Violins, Violas and Cellos at 121 N. Churton St and meet an honest to goodness luthier. Or visit the main showroom: of Callaway Jewelry/Spiral Studios at 115 North Churton Street and see Catherine Callaway's unique line of jewelry or visit Melissa Designer Jewelry at 116 S. Churton Street and see her line. I could go on but hopefully these are enough to get you interested in taking a walk through town to see these and whatever else has opened since I wrote this.

Radius Pizza and PubOr just take a walk down Churton street and admire the old buildings. The beautiful neo-classical bank that was built in 1960 and is now Radius Pizzaria and Pub at 112 N. Churton St and while admiring the architecture maybe stop in for a beer and a pizza made by Mick Carroll who might be the only Irish Born pizza maker in North Carolina. Or see the historic Sawyer Building that is now the home of Yep Roc Records, the label of Chris Stamey, Dave Alvin, Nick Lowe, Greg Brown, Gang of Four, Fountains of Wayne, John Wesley Harding, John Doe, Paul Weller, the Fleshtones, Reverand Horton Heat and Tift Merrit among others. Who knows? If you sit across the street at the Wooden Nickle for long enough maybe you will run into one of your favorite rock stars coming down for a cold one. Rock stars in Hillsborough? Who would have thunk it? This morning my girlfriend told me about a house for sale in Hillsborough. Leave Carrboro? Unthinkable. Leave Carrboro for Hillsborough? Well, maybe. Let me sleep on it. Ten years ago I would have thought she was out of her mind but now it does not seem like such a bad idea. Then again it would have been a lot cheaper to move here ten years ago.

Odds and Ends

Here's some stuff that you will probably find interesting if you are thinking about moving here and not just visiting. Especially if you happen to be a vegetarian, golf playing, ice-skating Hari-Krishna.

Hillsborough Farmers MarketThe Eno River Farmers Market is held behind the Sherriff's Department in the Farmers Market Pavilion on Margaret Lane. The market has farm fresh vegetables and fruit, cheese, pasture raised meat and eggs, a large variety of baked goods, prepared foods, and crafts from local growers and producers. All vendors are selected with great care based on the quality and diversity of their offerings; all vendors must be local (within 60 miles of Hillsborough) and the original producers of their products. The market features live music, storytelling, arts and crafts activities, chef demonstrations and more! Saturday Market Hours: Apr-Oct: 8am-12pm and Nov-Mar: 10am-12pm. Meanwhile the Hillsborough Farmers Market is open Saturdays 8 am-12 pm in the Home Depot parking lot, Hampton Point Blvd (at the intersection with Route 86, near I-85) and they too feature local farmers as well as artisan breads and baked goods, crafts, art and more.

In 1982 the New Goloka Center was founded by his Holiness Bir Krisna Das Goswami in a wooded area on the Eno River. This center would give people the opportunity to understand the Vedic teachings based on Bhagavad-Gita and other Vedic literatures. It has now grown into a spiritual center of the of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) and members of the community can be found feeding the homeless and poor students and chanting Hare-Krishna in Chapel Hill or distributing books at the airport and towns of the triangle. (I still have the Bhagavad-Gita I got from my friend Vinnie Signorelli when I visited the center in 82.)

There are two golf courses nearby if you care about golf, which I don't so I will just barely mention that the Cedar Grove Golf Course north of town on McDade Store Road, is an 18-hole par-71 with a driving range, chipping and putting green and a pro shop. Call 919 732 8397 for rates and times. The Occhoeechee Golf Course at 1500 Lawrence Road, west of Hillsborough is also an 18-hole par-71 with a driving range, chipping and putting green and a pro shop. I don't really know what all that means though I think I know what a pro shop is.

The Triangle Sportsplex at 1 Dann Kidd Drive has an ice-skating rink, three indoor swimming pools, and hosts adult and youth hockey leagues, indoor and out door cycling, a fitness gym with professional trainers, lots of activities for kids and a snack shop. The Triangle SportsPlex is one of North Carolina's largest recreational facilities. With 90,000 square feet of space, the Triangle SportsPlex is one of only two facilities in the United States to offer an ice arena, aquatics center, and a fitness center all under one roof. They also have summer camps for figure skating, ice-hockey, and KidsPlex which is a summer day-camp. The SKS Sports Shop located at the sportsplex carries name brands for all  Figure Skating, Hockey, Swimming, and Fitness needs.

Shangri-laBefore leaving Hillsborough take a drive up 86 towards Yancyville to the very small village of Shangri-la. Henry L. Warren a retired tobacco farmer kept building this collection of leprechaun-sized houses until he died at the age of 84. His wife said that "as long as Henry had a cigarette and a Coca-Cola, he'd keep building" and from 1968 until his death in 1978, he and his neighbor Junius Pennix not only built 28 stone houses but also managed to incorporate 11,000 arrowheads into the walkways of his home. Carved in stone in front of the town are these words: Shangri-la. Let me live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.-  H.L.W. 1972

See also: Hog Day in Hillsborough, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Durham
For Hotels in Hillsborough see
Booking.com's Hillsborough Page

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