Downtown Chapel Hill

Downtown Blog

Old Photos of Downtown Return to Franklin Street

Photo Apr 01, 2 38 35 PM.jpg

This past summer The Carolina Inn’s General Manager Mark Sherburne (and Downtown Partnership board member!) asked me if we wanted old photos of Franklin Street that the Inn had in storage. The photos once adorned the walls somewhere inside the Inn. I quickly jumped at the offer. Thinking the photos might be 8x10s at the most, I was astounded to find a huge stack of 36x24 photos; mounted on foam core board. The photos spanned from the early 1900's to the 1960’s – all of scenes of life on Franklin Street. 

My first thought was to hang them up in our office on West Rosemary Street. But one day after a meeting in our office,  Greg Overbeck  (Chapel Hill Restaurant GroupSpanky’s & 411 West) asked how we came to have them and expressed an interest in hanging them in his restaurant.  What a great idea! We could frame the photos and then loan them out so they could be displayed at Spanky’s and enjoyed by many more people.

Our volunteer Kara graciously took on the project. She researched frames and mat boards; compared costs and -- after a wrong shipment of frames! – framed all the photos. Kara had to do a bit of research too as the tags had long been lost on some of the photos. Mainly using car makes/models and business names she was able to determine the age and locations of several of the scenes.

Last week the 8 framed photos were hung in Spanky's on the 2nd floor. And they look great! They are the perfect complement to the beautifully decorated space.

It is never lost on me that downtown Chapel Hill inspires a special blend of nostalgia in people. We lean towards the future; encouraging entrepreneurial endeavors and hanging on the latest rumors of a new business coming. And yet we all keep one foot firmly rooted in the romantic past that usually has shaped our first impressions of this town. 

For me, seeing the pictures hanging in Spanky’s brought out that special blend of nostalgia. I have a fondness for old photos of anything; so these long-ago scenes of life in downtown Chapel Hill are particularly intriguing. Coupled with memories of holding my wedding rehearsal dinner party in the upstairs room of Spanky’s nearly 15 years ago;  it perfectly ‘framed’ yet another reason why I love downtown!  

And what a great testament too to the nature of our downtown businesses and our agency; working together to make downtown even more special.  Thanks to the Carolina Inn and Spanky’s for always being great partners in everything we do downtown! 

Another great reason to go to Spanky's for lunch, dinner, or after-work drinks with friends. Head upstairs and check out the photos! 

~Blog post by Meg, Executive Director of the Downtown Partnership


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