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Carolina Story: Virtual Museum of University History

Choosing the Site of the University

William R. Davie laying the cornerstone of East Building, 12 October 1793

In 1792, the board of trustees voted to locate the university near the center of the state. They solicited offers of land in that area and accepted a gift of about 1,390 acres in Orange County. The name of the site—Chapel Hill—came from an abandoned chapel of the Anglican Church of England located there. Legend has it that Davie and a group of trustees met under a poplar tree and, charmed by the beauty of the area, selected it as the site. In fact, Davie was not an official member of that committee, and there is no record to verify the story. Nevertheless, a giant tulip poplar on campus has been called the "Davie Poplar" since the nineteenth century.