The Chapel Hill Historical Society, located on the ground floor of the library, brings periodic talks and presentations about past places, events, and cultural milestones that make up our town’s unique character.

  • Jones Ferry: A Road to the Past
    September 18, 2016
    3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
    - We’ve all been on Jones Ferry Road, but we probably know nothing about Jones Ferry. Why were the road and the ferry there? Join us as we explore why and how the road came about with a talk by Richard Ellington. Meeting Room B. Click here for more details.
  • Coker Hills
    October 16, 2016
    7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
    - Jill Ridky-Blackburn presents the past of the neighborhood where the library itself is situated. Meeting Room B.
  • Brent Glass
    October 20, 2016
    7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
    - The public historian who pioneered influential oral history and material culture studies and was Elizabeth MacMillan Director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History from 2002-2011 returns to Chapel Hill. At Flyleaf Books.
  • Impact of Slavery on Education
    January 21, 2017
    11:00 am - 12:00 pm
    - Former leaders and officers will relate how the Society changed, grew, prospered or struggled during their time in office. What important events occurred during that time? How has the Society helped the community understand local history? After the discussion, join us for a festive reception and displays of historic materials.

    Learn more here. Meeting Room B.
  • 50th Anniversary Celebration
    January 22, 2017
    3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
    - Former leaders and officers will relate how the Society changed, grew, prospered or struggled during their time in office. What important events occurred during that time? How has the Society helped the community understand local history? After the discussion, join us for a festive reception and displays of historic materials.

    Learn more here. Meeting Room B.
  • Four Chapel Hill Writers
    April 23, 2017
    2:30 pm - 5:00 pm
    - Dr. Patrick Horn and Dr. Valerie Yow present the stories of four local authors - George Moses Horton, Caroline Lee Hentz, Paul Green, and Betty Smith - whose work influenced each other in unexpected ways. The speakers will present the words of these four writers and the ways they helped other writers and people who were fighting injustice.

    Learn more here. Meeting Room B.
  • African-American Families Remembered
    February 19, 2017
    2:30 pm - 5:00 pm
    - Kim Smith re-introduces remarkable members of the largely forgotten Smith, Fitzgerald, Morphis, Kirby, and Toole families through the Reverend Dr. Pauli Murray’s memoir Proud Shoes: The Story of an American Family Their captivating narratives reveal how freed African-American families lived in post-Civil War North Carolina.

    Learn more here. Meeting Room B.
  • Town Treasures
    October 15, 2017
    3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
    - Join us in recognizing individuals and couples for their contributions to the Towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro over the years. Learn more here. Meeting Room B.
  • Time of Death
    November 19, 2017
    3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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    The true tale of a quest for justice in 1960s Chapel Hill, a presentation by Nora Gaskin.

    Time of Death explores an unsolved murder in Chapel Hill. Lucille Rinaldi was found dead in an apartment on North Street in 1963. Her husband Frank was charged and tried in the case. In this talk, Gaskins examines the impact the crime had on the town, as well as the people intimately involved. It looks at the cultural and social factors that contributed to this search for justice.

    Nora Gaskin grew up in Chapel Hill in the 1950s and ‘60s, went to Carolina, and has lived mostly in Durham and Chapel Hill. After a career as a financial planner and stock broker, she returned to her first love, story-telling. She published a novel, Until Proven, inspired by the events she wrote about in Time of Death. Nora’s next novel, The Worst Thing, will appear in early 2018.
  • Integrating the Navy
    February 18, 2018
    3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
    - B-1: How NC A&T and UNC Integrated the Modern US Navy Presentation by Alex Albright, Eastern Carolina University When the Navy established a Pre-Flight Training School at UNC during World War II, a 45-piece band of music students from NC A&T played for the raising of colors, drill practice in the TinCan, and marching the white cadets to their classes. It was the first meaningful integration of the modern Navy. But because of strict segregation laws and customs, the bandsmen had to find quarters in Northside with the local black community. Every day they marched to campus, then returned for lunch in full uniform, playing. The local black community embraced these talented musicians and what they represented. Alex Albright will explain the complicated racial dynamics of North Carolina and the integration of the military. His presentation will include period documents and recordings from the band. Learn more.
  • Dromgoole: Twice Murdered
    March 18, 2018
    3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
    - Dromgoole: Twice-Murdered. Unraveling a Southern Legend Presentation by E. T. Malone, Jr. Peter Pelham Dromgoole’s mysterious disappearance in 1833 from the UNC campus in Chapel Hill created a legend that he had been killed in a midnight duel on Piney Prospect. Inspired by this tale, a secret society, the Order of Gimghoul, constructed massive Gimghoul Castle on the spot in 1925. The legend, repeated to every generation of Carolina students, has inspired poems, short stories, and novels, plus reams of newspaper, radio, television, and internet features. E.T. Malone, Jr., UNC MA 1975, journalist, illustrator, folklorist, and local historian, lives in Warrenton, NC. His recently published book, Dromgoole, Twice-Murdered, reveals the true fate of Peter Pelham Dromgoole. Malone has spent decades tracing the many and varied threads of this fascinating story, from abandoned Virginia plantation houses, to the National Archives, to its culmination among the swaying palms and coquina walls of St. Augustine’s Castillo de San Marcos.
  • The Carolina Playmakers
    January 21, 2018
    3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
    - The Carolina Playmakers and the Federal Theatre Project, a Presentation by Cecelia Moore, UNC Historian Learn about one of the most interesting periods of The Carolina Playmakers as they celebrate the 100th anniversary of the company’s founding. During the Depression, how did the federal government help keep the arts alive and playwrights employed? UNC’s own Frederick Koch and Paul Green had already begun a successful folk drama program. Their program became the model for the Federal Theatre Project, making live theatre relevant to local audiences. Cecelia Moore is the University Historian and the Project Manager for the Chancellor’s Task Force on University History. She has earned degrees in Theatre and Public History, and a PhD in History. She will discuss her new book, The Federal Theatre Project in the American South: The Carolina Playmakers and the Quest for American Drama.
  • Women and the Telegraph
    May 12, 2018
    3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
    - Bringing the News to Chapel Hill: Women and the Telegraph in North Carolina, a Presentation by Thomas C. Jepsen

    When and how did Chapel Hill become part of the Global Village? What role did the telegraph play in re-opening the University in 1875? And what role did women telegraph operators play in bringing the news to Chapel Hill and reporting on sporting events in the mid-20th century? Thomas Jepsen, Chapel Hill author and historian, will discuss the history of the telegraph in North Carolina, the little-known story of women telegraph operators in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the important role they played in the Chapel Hill community.

    Thomas Jepsen’s previously published books on the history of telegraphy include Ma Kiley: The Life of a Railroad Telegrapher (El Paso, TX: Texas Western Press, 1997), and My Sisters Telegraphic: Women in the Telegraph Office, 1846-1950 (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2000).

    Free and Open to the Public. Call or email the Chapel Hill Historical Society for information 919-929-1793

    Meeting Room A
  • From Seed to Sapling
    July 22, 2018
    2:30 pm - 4:00 pm
    - From Seed to Sapling and Beyond: The History and Future of the North Carolina Botanical Garden

    Join Garden Director, Dr. Damon Waitt, and special guests for a presentation and panel discussion celebrating the past, present and future of the North Carolina Botanical Garden. This joint program by the Chapel Hill Historical Society and the North Carolina Botanical Garden will recreate Garden history through the lens of the plants and people that make the Garden what it is today and what it aspires to be in the future: the most significant botanical resource in the southeast and the model for what it means to be a conservation-focused, 21st century botanical garden.

    Dr. Damon Waitt is Director of the North Carolina Botanical Garden and Professor of the Practice in Biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As Director, Waitt has broad responsibility for overall leadership and management of the North Carolina Botanical Garden and for ensuring that the Garden fulfills its mission to inspire understanding, appreciation, and conservation of plants in gardens and natural areas and to advance a sustainable relationship between people and nature. Waitt holds a Ph.D. in Botany from the University of Texas in Austin, an M.S in Botany from Louisiana State University Baton Rouge and a B.S. in Biology from Tulane University.

    Free and Open to the Public. Call or email the Chapel Hill Historical Society for information 919-929-1793

    This event will be at the NC Botanical Garden. Click here for directions.

We frequently take photos and videos at our events. Here's what we do with them.