HILLSBOROUGH, N.C., June 10, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The town of Hillsborough was founded in 1754 on the spot where the Great Indian Trading path crossed the Eno River, and though over 250 years have passed since then and much has changed, somehow this small town in the middle of North Carolina has been able to maintain historical luster. Landmarks abound, and sign markers describe many of the important events this town was home to, but there's much more to Hillsborough than that. "We take pride in our landmarks," says Mayor Tom Stevens, who has been mayor of Hillsborough since 2005. "They give us a sense of place, an identity."
And an authenticity as well. Hillsborough is a small town big enough to hold onto to its past while living resolutely in the present. Walk down King St.—one of the three main drags, and you'll see residents and visitors enjoying a latte outside of an organic coffee shop, right next-door to a hunter weighing a turkey at the sport shop.
Though the population hasn't grown much in the last ten years, what has grown is a vibrancy; this town is alive and full of energy. There's energy on the street at night that was almost non-existent a decade ago. "I believe this has come about primarily because of two things - food and arts," says Stevens. North Carolina's (Research) Triangle's locavore movement -- a food network of farms, markets, and restaurants -- has gained national attention and Stevens says Hillsborough residents were on the forefront of this movement. "Local restaurants, sure, but we also sport our own locally roasted coffee, our own local brewery, locally made chocolates, and baked goods."
And of course, no small southern town would be complete without a local BBQ hangout. Hillsborough BBQ, a funky local haunt, is located on South Nash Street, where you can eat and drink outdoors and enjoy the mild southern climate. South Nash Street is a sense of pride for Stevens. Located just minutes from downtown, near the historic former fabric mill area, South Nash Street has morphed into a hipsters hang-out; now home to several businesses including Mystery Brewery Public House which is right beside Nash Street Homebrew down the street from The Depot, a venue for live music.
Under Stevens' leadership and support, the last eight years also brought a flourishing of the arts in Hillsborough, including a number of events that visitors drive in to enjoy, in particular Last Fridays, the town's monthly street-fair, art-walk, and outdoor music celebration, as well as Hogg Day (the two G's are a nod to James Hogg, a prominent Hillsborough resident who was a trustee of the University of North Carolina and a patriot in the American Revolution), the Handmade Parade (dozens of handmade masks, costumes and giant puppets march through the town's main drag) and numerous local food festivals. There's music, somewhere, almost every night of the week, and more fine and famous writers than any town south of New York City. Book and poetry readings are a staple of local offerings.
Stevens points out that downtown Hillsborough and Churton Street has seen more than one- dozen new businesses open in the past seven years alone, including: Matthews Chocolates; Radius Pizza, YepRoc Records, Antonia's gourmet Italian Restaurant, Panciuto where, for the past three years, owner/chef Aaron Vandemark has been a James Beard, best chef nominee, an expanded Melissa's Jewelry Store, Hillsborough Yarn Shop, Eno Gallery, Billsborough night club; Hillsborough Wine Company, Weaver Street Market (an organic corner store with bio dynamic wines and live music several nights of the week), Purple Crow Books, Yellow Dog Creative, Eno Publishers and the list goes on.
One of the most significant projects on the drawing table for Hillsborough—and perhaps the one that most excites Tom Stevens-- is the Riverwalk - a trail along the Eno River (which flows through the middle of town, including alongside the Historic District and Downtown). Riverwalk will connect Occonechee Mountain State Natural Area to various local parks, the Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail, and Ayr Mount—a Federal-style building dating 1815 -- via a trail along the river - all to become part of North Carolina's Mountain to the Sea Trail.
"It's a game changer," says Mayor Stevens. "I think Riverwalk is the landmark of Hillsborough of the 21st century. The river and the mountain — of all things that speak of Hillsborough that are enduring — combined with our community, really give us a sense of place that we call home."
In 1973, the Hillsborough National Register Historic District was established under the National Historic Preservation Act. The District encompasses two and a half centuries of architectural resources, from Georgian- and Federal-style buildings dating to the late 1700s to contemporary construction. The district presents a visual history of Hillsborough's development. "Local historic districts like Hillsborough's are not established to prevent change but rather to ensure that future changes to properties are compatible with the historic and architectural character of the district," says Stevens.
In the years ahead, Stevens said, Hillsborough will become home to bigger connections and landmarks through two key development initiatives:
- University of North Carolina (UNC) Hospitals, which will open a medical facility this summer and a hospital in 2015 in the Waterstone mixed-use development by Interstate 40. This mixed-use development has an approved master plan covering 330 acres of potential development.
- Rail Station. The Rail Station Small Area Plan is a conceptual site and land use plan for the 20-acre tract of land owned by the Town located off of Orange Grove Street. Proposed land uses are a rail station building with space for municipal meetings and a police station; a fire station, and space for a civic arts center. The Rail Station Small Area Plan was adopted by the Town Board on September 9th, 2010.
In the last 250 years, Hillsborough has been a part of the American experience, and has, in its way, helped create it: since the Revolutionary War some of the greatest minds in history, politics and culture have lived or passed through it, and so Hillsborough remains today a small but sustaining light that will never go out, not as long as it continues to nurture the past, present and future in equal measure. And there are no plans for that to change.
For additional information about Hillsborough, NC call the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau toll free at 1-888-968-2060 or visit www.visitchapelhill.org.
SOURCE Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau