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Carolina Story: Virtual Museum of University History

John Sprunt Hill and George Watts Hill

One of the alumni who responded to Venable’s appeal in 1905 for library support was John Sprunt Hill, a 1889 university graduate who had built a fortune in banking, insurance, and real estate. He donated $5,000 to the library, to be used for collecting historical and literary material about North Carolina, an enterprise now known as the North Carolina Collection. When the university opened a new library in 1929, Hill helped convert the former library to a music building by adding an auditorium and furnishing it with a pipe organ. The university then changed the building’s name from Carnegie Hall to Hill Hall. During the 1920s, Hill built the Carolina Inn next to the campus and later donated it and other properties on Franklin Street to the university, stipulating that its profits support the North Carolina Collection. His son, George Watts Hill, pursued similar business interests and presented the university with a $3.5 million challenge grant for a new alumni center, which was named for the younger Hill when it opened in 1993. He also donated a home that is now the chancellor’s residence.