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Chapel Hill is a town in Orange County, North Carolina, United States and the home of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), the oldest state-supported university in the U.S. The population was 48,715 at the 2000 census; its population was listed at 54,492 in the Census Bureau's 2007 estimates.
Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh make up the three corners of the Research Triangle, so named in 1959 with the creation of Research Triangle Park, a research park between Durham and Raleigh.
Chapel Hill, or at least the town center, indeed sits atop a hill which was originally occupied by a small Anglican "chapel of ease", built in 1752, known as New Hope Chapel. The Carolina Inn now occupies the site of the original chapel. In 1819, the town was founded to serve the University of North Carolina and grew up around it. The town was chartered in 1851, and its main street, Franklin Street, was named in memory of Benjamin Franklin.
In 1968, only a year after its schools became fully integrated, Chapel Hill became the first predominantly white municipality in the country to elect an African American mayor, Howard Lee. Lee served from 1969 until 1975 and, among other things, helped establish Chapel Hill Transit, the town's bus system. Some 30 years later, in 2002, legislation was passed to make the local buses free of fares to residents and visitors alike, leading to a large increase in ridership; the buses are financed through Chapel Hill and Carrboro city taxes as well as UNC student fees.
The intersection of Franklin Street and Columbia Street
In the latter part of the 20th century, the town grew considerably and became wealthier, with affordable housing and combating urban sprawl emerging as major local issues. By the late 20th century, higher proportions of the local population worked at jobs unrelated to the university; town surveys indicated that a majority of people working in the town were no longer able to afford in-town housing, and so many people working for the university itself were not able to afford to live in Chapel Hill, or even Carrboro, that charter bus lines were doing a brisk business in almost nothing but bringing in from nearby counties a workforce of secretaries and others on which the university depended.