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February 2011

Holden Thorp: Help make Chapel Hill first in Fan Favorite vote


Earlier this month, the National Trust for Historic Preservation gave our town and the university a great honor by naming Chapel Hill one of its 2011 Dozen Distinctive Destinations. There was a celebration at the Carolina Inn the day after Valentine's Day; I wasn't able to go, but my wife, Patti, told me how nice it was.

But while we are excited to be named one of the 12 best places to visit by the National Trust, neither Carolina nor Chapel Hill has ever wanted to settle for being "one of" anything. We want to be No. 1, period.

Luckily, the National Trust has provided a way for us to do just that. Immediately after they named their distinctive destinations, they also began an online contest to determine the Fan Favorite among the 12 places. So if you want to make sure that Chapel Hill and Carolina come out on top, go to http://www.preservationnation.org/ddd and vote once a day from now until March 15.

You may have noticed that I keep referring to this honor as one for the town and for the university. That's because you can't really separate the two. They have been linked together since before either existed. On the same day the cornerstone for Old East was laid on Oct. 12, 1793, the university's original trustees carved out 30 lots from part of the land donated for the campus and sold them to the public to build houses and stores. The town and the university have been growing up together ever since. We need each other.

We needed each other to get this award. This is not to say that Chapel Hill, with its lively downtown, active arts and music scene and lovely homes along charming, tree-lined streets, isn't distinctive enough to win on its own. But I have to believe that Carolina's beautiful and historic campus helped to seal the deal.

Since 2000, the university has renovated and restored more than a dozen buildings, including many of our most beloved cultural and academic buildings. These include Old East (the first public university building in the nation and a National Historic Landmark), Old West, Old Playmakers Theater (also a National Historic Landmark), Gerrard Hall, the James Love House, Memorial Hall, the Campus YMCA, Saunders Hall and Murphey Hall.

But it's not just our historic buildings that make Carolina's campus a distinctive destination. As you walk along the red brick sidewalks, beside the low native stone walls, enjoying both the sunshine and the shade provided by towering century-old trees, you see why the Getty Foundation gave us a grant in 2007 to preserve our cultural landscapes like McCorkle Place, Polk Place, Forest Theater, the Bell Tower and Kenan Woods.

Our campus also has much to explore culturally, with the artwork of the Ackland Art Museum and the Hanes Art Center, the dramatic performances by the PlayMakers Repertory Company, the outstanding visiting performers at Memorial Hall, literary readings and events at our libraries and, one of my favorites that just wound up last night, the Carolina Jazz Festival.

Once you add all that up, it's easy to see how Chapel Hill and Carolina teamed up to be a distinctive destination. Now let's continue that teamwork and make sure that all of you who love the Southern Part of Heaven show that love with your votes for Fan Favorite. Vote early and vote often. (But just once a day. We don't want to break any rules.)

As I write this column, Paducah, Ky., is ahead of us, and that will not stand. We definitely don't want to lose to Kentucky, in basketball or in tourism. As Patti told the group at the Carolina Inn, "This is a town that loves competition, especially in March."
 




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