Hillsborough is a small town with a big history. The downtown historic district — listed on the National Register of Historic Places — features more than 100 homes, churches, schools, and other structures from the 18th and 19th centuries. Among those buildings open to the public is the Visitors Center, which served as Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s headquarters when he surrendered the largest of the Confederate armies to Gen. William T. Sherman, leading to the Civil War’s end. Homes for sale in Hillsborough are in high demand because of its charm and short ride to happenings in the Triangle.
Today, Hillsborough is a tourist destination, a haven for artists and writers, and a wonderful place to live. The town is centrally located in North Carolina with quick access to the Triad and other Triangle cities. Interstate 85 runs through the town, and Interstate 40 is just south of its limits.
Barbecue lovers descend on the town each May for the annual Hog Day, and the downtown comes alive Friday evenings with arts and entertainment during Last Fridays celebrations. In addition to Revolutionary War reenactments and guided tours of the historic district, Hillsborough is home to Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area and several other trails. New parks and public spaces are making this historic town even richer. Come see what is happening and why homes for sale in Hillsborough sell fast!
History of Hillsborough, NC
The Town of Hillsborough was established in 1754, two years after the formation of Orange County, where the Great Indian Trading Path crossed the Eno River. For many years Hillsborough was a leading town in its region of North Carolina and many significant historical events occurred here. There remain more than 100 late eighteenth and nineteenth century structures that illustrate this history. In addition, there are numerous secondary buildings, bridges, millsites and dams along the Eno, and Native American relics from the locations of ancient towns stretching back thousands of years.
Where Did Hillsborough Get It’s Name?
William Churton first laid out the town of Hillsborough, then called Orange, on 400 acres granted by the Honorable John Earl Granville. He provided for spacious public squares at each intersection of main streets. In 1766, however, this plan was abandoned, and in spite of the hilly situation of the town, the familiar checkerboard-and-cross street plan was employed by surveyor and town founder William Churton. Hillsborough took its present name in 1766 after the Irish peer, William Hill, Earl of Hillsborough, Secretary of State for the Colonies from 1768 to 1772 under George III. The street names – Tryon, Wake, King, Queen, Churton – still recall this early history.
Hillsborough’s Political History
Hillsborough was a center of political activity during the colonial and Revolutionary period. Several royal and elected governors lived here, as did a signer of the Declaration of Independence, William Hooper, whose house still stands. The War of the Regulation (1766-1771) ended here. The town hosted the third Provincial Congress (1775); the state’s Constitutional Convention of 1788, which demanded that a Bill of Rights be added to the U.S. Constitution; and five General Assemblies (1778, 1780, 1782-1784). Hillsborough was the base of operations for the Continental Army led by Revolutionary General Horatio Gates. Later, General Cornwallis raised the Royal Standard here during his stay in February 1781. Hillsborough remained a political and cultural center in the nineteenth century. It was from temporary headquarters near town that General Joseph E. Johnston rode out to surrender the largest of the Confederate armies to General Sherman in 1865. The farmhouse where this took place has since been moved into downtown Hillsborough and serves as the Orange County Visitor Center.
The Hillsborough Visitors Center
Hillsborough Visitors Center The Hillsborough Visitors Center is located at 150 East King Street (right next to the Hillsborough Post Office!) in the Alexander Dickson House. It is open daily for visitor information: Monday – Saturday 10:00AM – 4:00PM and Sunday 12:00AM – 4:00PM. The Visitors Center provides information on local attractions, shopping and dining information, events, and help for people who have relocated to the Hillsborough area. Complimentary brochures, guides, and maps are available.
The Alliance for Historic Hillsborough is a non-profit organization that operates the Hillsborough Visitors Center. Its mission is to preserve, promote, and enhance the historical, cultural, and natural environment of Hillsborough for residents and visitors. The Alliance coordinates the efforts and activities of its seven member organizations to promote Hillsborough and its variety of events, preserve Hillsborough’s assets, raise funds for the benefit of its historic sites, organizations and community projects, and create educational and cultural programs for residents and visitors, adults and children. If a small town with a rich history is attractive to you, homes for sale in Hillsborough is what you should be searching. Please read more about the Alliance member organizations below:
- Historical Foundation of Hillsborough and Orange County is the organization that operates the Orange County Historical Museum.
- Hillsborough/Orange County Chamber of Commerce is a strong advocate our local businesses and sponsors popular annual events such as the Holiday Homes Tour.
- Hillsborough Historic District Commission works with residents to maintain the appearance and integrity of the properties in the Historic District.
- The Hillsborough Arts Council has nurtured the development of a growing art community in Hillsborough and sponsors such events as Last Fridays and Parlor Concerts.
- The Preservation Fund of Hillsborough is an organization which identifies and supports the preservation of historic properties that lend their unique character to Hillsborough.
- The Downtown Merchants of Historic Hillsborough is dedicated to the vitality of the town of Hillsborough.