Chapel Hill is a town in Orange and Durham counties in the U.S. state of North Carolina. Its population was 57,233 in the 2010 census, making Chapel Hill the 15th-largest city in the state. Chapel Hill, Durham, and the state capital, Raleigh, make up the corners of the Research Triangle (officially the Raleigh–Durham–Chapel Hill combined statistical area), with a total population of 1,998,808.
The town was founded in 1793 and is centered on Franklin Street, covering 21.3 square miles (55 km2). It contains several districts and buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and UNC Health Care are a major part of the economy and town influence. Local artists have created many murals.
The area was the home place of early settler William Barbee of Middlesex County, Virginia, whose 1753 grant of 585 acres from John Carteret, 2nd Earl Granville was the first of two land grants in what is now the Chapel Hill-Durham area. Though William Barbee died shortly after settling there, one of his eight children, Christopher Barbee, became an important contributor to his father's adopted community and to the fledgling University of North Carolina.
Chapel Hill has developed along a hill; the crest was the original site of a small Anglican "chapel of ease", built in 1752, known as New Hope Chapel. The Carolina Inn now occupies this site. In 1819, the town was founded to serve the University of North Carolina and developed around it. The town was chartered in 1851, and its main street, Franklin Street, was named in memory of Benjamin Franklin.
In 1969, a year after the city fully integrated its schools, Chapel Hill elected Howard Lee as mayor. It was the first majority-white municipality in the South to elect an African-American mayor. Serving from 1969 until 1975, Lee helped establish Chapel Hill Transit, the town's bus system. Some 30 years later, in 2002, the state passed legislation to provide free service to all riders on local buses. The bus operations are funded through Chapel Hill and Carrboro town taxes, federal grants, and UNC student fees. The change has resulted in a large increase in ridership, taking many cars off the roads. Several hybrid and articulated buses have been added recently. All buses carry GPS transmitters to report their location in real time to a tracking web site. Buses can transport bicycles and have wheelchair lifts.
In 1993, the town celebrated its bicentennial and founded the Chapel Hill Museum. This cultural community resource "exhibiting the character and characters of Chapel Hill, North Carolina" includes among its permanent exhibits Alexander Julian, History of the Chapel Hill Fire Department, Chapel Hill's 1914 Fire Truck, The James Taylor Story, Farmer/James Pottery, and The Paul Green Legacy.