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Carolina Story: Virtual Museum of University History

Old East

Old East, ca. 1797

Chapel Hill’s Old East was the first building erected on a state university campus. The trustees chose its location in 1792, laid the cornerstone in 1793, and hoped to make it the first section of a three-part structure. They did not hire an architect but relied on a local contractor to plan and construct it. It was plain and modest: a two-story building with a hallway and two rooms on either side. The next five buildings continued this pattern of simple design and construction. They were Steward’s Hall, a dining facility; a president’s house; Person Hall, a chapel; South Building, a classroom and residence hall; and the preparatory school. The trustees deliberately kept the buildings austere to save money and avoid aristocratic pretensions.