Historic moments: interns document local history

Believe it or not, the town of Chapel Hill actually does stretch beyond Franklin and Rosemary streets and existed long before Michael Jordan came to school here. Just ask this summer’s interns at Preservation Chapel Hill. These two rising seniors and a 2013 graduate have spent the summer researching and documenting the rich history of the town.

“What is beyond Franklin Street is what makes Chapel Hill special, what gives it that sense of the place that it is,” said Kiever Hunter, who is majoring in political science and Southern studies, with a minor in city and regional planning.

Hunter’s project as a historic preservation intern was to develop a web page [hyperlink: http://www.preservationchapelhill.org/#!preservation-plaques/cj6a] for the 27 buildings that have received “preservation plaques,” octagonal signs with the year the structure was built. He gathered modern and historic photos of the buildings, researched and wrote short histories and developed a clickable Google map to show the location of each one.

“I learned a lot about architectural styles,” he said. “When I started, I didn’t know what Greek Revival meant or what a bungalow was.”

The building he found most interesting was the Old Methodist Church at 201 E. Rosemary St. Originally built for the town’s white Methodists in 1853, the building later housed the first integrated school and church in town, an automotive and airplane garage and the offices of noted architects Jim and John Webb. (Jim was the architect of the Kennedy Memorial in Dallas, and John helped design Research Triangle Park.) And, as Hunter now knows, it’s an example of Greek Revival architecture.

Graham Berkelhammer, a rising senior studying American history with a minor in chemistry, worked on two projects to make history more accessible to the public. One was developing and revising the organization’s Walk This Way! tour series, especially the tour of historic sites in Carrboro.

“A lot of students don’t appreciate the history they are living in,” Berkelhammer said. “It really is interesting to dive into it.”

For instance, Berkelhammer knew that Carr Mill Mall was once a cotton and hosiery mill, but in his research he found out that an even older mill shared the general location – the grist mill built by Carrboro founder Thomas F. Lloyd in 1883 near the train depot.

But his favorite tour is the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery tour.

“I loved giving the cemetery tours,” he said. “It’s awesome to give that tour to freshmen.” His second project was to develop ghostly characters for actors to portray in October’s Voices from the Grave –spooky nighttime cemetery tours. “You’re given a gravestone and you have to bring it to life,” he said, which required “heavy duty research” in newspaper clippings and other documents at Wilson Library.

This was Kaitlyn Vogt’s second internship at Preservation Chapel Hill. As an educational programming intern, she also led walking tours on women’s history and civil rights. But her main project was to develop the Education in Orange County exhibit, which will open at the Horace Williams House in 2015.

Now a graduate student in Southern studies at the University of Mississippi, Vogt focused on four areas for the exhibit: the Burwell and Bingham 19th-century academies in Hillsborough; the Freedmen and Rosenwald schools for African-Americans; desegregation in Chapel Hill; and contemporary education.

She discovered that, despite being home to the nation’s first public university, Chapel Hill didn’t offer many educational opportunities for younger students or, like much of the South, for black students of any age.

The Rosenwald schools, especially, changed that. Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears Roebuck and Co., established a fund that provided architectural plans and matching grants that helped build more than 5,300 schools for African-Americans from Maryland to Texas between the late 1910s and 1932. More than 800 Rosenwald schools were built in North Carolina, more than in any other state. Four of those were located in Orange County.

“I didn’t really know about them, even though I grew up in the area,” Vogt said. “There is so much history here.

Hunter encouraged his fellow undergraduates to explore Chapel Hill beyond Franklin Street. “Take a few minutes to just observe and let it wash over you,” he advised.

Students may apply for spring internships with Preservation Chapel Hill at http://www.preservationchapelhill.org/#!internships/cph6. The deadline to apply is Oct. 17.

By Susan Hudson, Office of Communications and Public Affairs

August 6, 2014.