Wednesday, March 25, 2015

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill is home to University of North Carolina, forming the “Research Triangle” along with Durham (Duke University) and Raleigh (North Carolina State). Although we’ve been in/around Chapel Hill a few times while living in Greenville, I had never seen the campus. We explored the North Carolina Botanical Gardens one morning a couple weeks ago (operated by the University of North Carolina), and when Roberts was liberated from his work obligations we picked him up and headed to downtown Chapel Hill, a town founded specifically to serve the University.

Coincidentally we picked up a NC jersey at a consignment sale last month

Kenan Memorial Stadium is home to the North Carolina Tar Heels. There has been an unwritten rule since the Stadium opened in 1927; the stadium can never be taller than the surrounding pine trees. With a current capacity of 63,000, the largest number to ever fill the stadium for a game was (before the 2011 expansion) a standing-room-only crowd of 62,000, when the Tar Heels hosted the Florida State Seminoles in 1997.

Specifically chose this picture because you can't see Mikus isn't wearing pants

Adjacent to the stadium is the 172 foot tall bell tower. Dedicated to John Motley Morehead (class of 1891) and Rufus Lenoir Patterson II who funded the bell tower’s construction, the tower was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1931. Up in the belfry are fourteen mechanized bells, which replaced the carillon of twelve manually operated ones some time ago. Traditionally a few days before commencement, seniors get the chance to climb the tower, but on our visit the door was securely locked and we could only imagine the view of campus afforded from the top. Dr. William C. Coker, the first Professor of Botany at the University, designed the hedge and lawn surrounding the tower, with peeks of the stadium down the southeast hedge row.

Continuing north we came to Professor Coker’s legacy, the 5.3 acre Coker Arboretum. The boggy pasture was originally developed as an outdoor classroom for the study of trees, shrubs and vines native to the State, until the 1920’s and following decades when Dr. Coker added many East Asian trees and shrubs. Today the collection ranges from flowering trees and shrubs to bulb and perennial displays, featuring a 300 foot native vine arbor and a Metasequoia (dawn redwood).

After an ice cream stop for the boys we finished our UNC tour at Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery. The pub opened in 1994 and was one of the first microbreweries in the state, and these days is possibly one of the best places to be after a UNC win due to the view of Franklin Street. The infamous “bonfire” celebrations occur when students and fans spill into the street from the bars, restaurants and dorms along Franklin, resulting in occurrences such as after a 1982 game when the street was literally painted blue. In 2009 after winning the men's NCAA championship over 45,000 people crowded Franklin Street.

Top: view from Top of the Hill, bottom: a Franklin Street bonfire (source here)

All three Research Triangle teams are in the tournament this year, and all have fared well so far. Tomorrow UNC (seeded 4th) will face off against  Wisconsin, while Duke (1st seed) plays Utah and NC State (8th seed) upset Villanova for a game against Louisville on Friday. Maybe we’ll see them meet up in the semifinals or finals!

Top of the Hill mascot wearing #23

* A small part of me is cheering on University of North Carolina, just because that’s where my childhood home-town hero played three seasons of basketball. A couple years after his Tar Heels won the national championship in 1982, Michael Jordan joined the Chicago Bulls.

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