By Laurie Paolicelli
In Chapel Hill, history surrounds us like the air we breathe. As William Faulkner said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Details as mundane as street names can reflect the long heritage of past generations. The truth is few of us know the origins or histories that created the towns we live in, but learning the stories of our past can change the way you think about the present.
Missy Julian-Fox is an exception. She knows everything. Missy is a born and bred North Carolinian, and lives in her hometown of Chapel Hill, earning a B.A. degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a M.Ed. from Boston University. She literally grew up in her parents’ legendary clothing store, Julian’s, in downtown Chapel Hill, managing the business for 15 years as she raised her family and advocated for downtown and her community. Missy also served as Director of UNC Visitors Center. She’s now a Hometown Ambassador, leading tours through town, telling all comers about our magnificent history.
Let’s test your knowledge. Can you answer these five questions? Missy Julian-Fox can.
- Both the university and the town share the same birthday back in 1793. Who was the American president at that time when both this country and the university were, if you will, created?
- Speaking of presidents, one U.S. chief executive was an alumnus of Carolina. Name that 1818 graduate.
- Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel is a thinly-disguised autobiographical work of fiction. Some 190 pages of that work detail his time here at Carolina and Chapel Hill. In his book, what literary name did he use for Chapel Hill?
- It was one of the first Mexican restaurants to hit town. It arrived in 1970 and was located on Rosemary Street. It grew as a franchise to several NC cities. The last one was in Blowing Rock but, alas, they’re all gone now. Name the pioneer Mexican restaurant.
- As you enter the parking lot of a Chapel Hill restaurant on Rosemary Street, you can find the following Joni Mitchell lyric carved into the concrete or pavement, “Paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Name the long-standing restaurant.
Hometown Ambassadors Tours leave from the new Welcome Center located at 308 W. Franklin Street. The 60-minute tour is FREE, and donations are encouraged to the Chapel Hill Historical Society. Parking is available at the Welcome Center’s lot.
Visitors can sign up for the tour online at Hometown Ambassadors Walking Tours here: https://heartofthehilltours.com/sign-up-for-a-tour
The upcoming tours, listed below, will be led by Missy Julian-Fox.
- July 15
- July 29
- August 12 (UNC move-in weekend)
- August 26 (home football game)
- September 9 (away game)
- Sept 23 (home football game)
“Tour dates were selected to offer the greatest opportunity for participation and, also, for a variety of helpful insights,” Missy said. “On the following Fridays, I plan to be on site at the Welcome Center at 308 W. Franklin Street at 3 pm and to begin the tour at 3:30 pm and I hope we have a group of fans and friends of Chapel Hill joining us.”
“We are thrilled to be partnering with Missy Julian helping visitors understand where our community has been,” said Laurie Paolicelli, Director of the Visitors Bureau, “also where it’s going and the iconic places that put us on the map,”
As Missy says, the walking tour of Chapel Hill includes facts and observations about our past, present & future. That’s fitting. Because, while we celebrate our past, we’re always keeping an eye on what’s coming next, a future that will become our present, then our past. Nothing stays the same. New development doesn’t stay new, so the decisions we make now will one day find themselves on another tour, somewhere down the road.
Answers to Quiz:
- George Washington
- James Knox Polk, our 11th president
- Pulpit Hill
- Tijuana Fats
- Breadman’s. Breadman’s has since moved, but the lyrics are still there.
Laurie Paolicelli is the Executive Director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau.