In 1882, the Durham-Greensboro Southern Railway line began offering service to a small, somewhat deserted area west of Chapel Hill, to accommodate travelers to and from UNC. In order not to disturb the scholarly folks who spent their days pondering who knows what, it was decreed that the railroad station was to be built at least a mile from the UNC campus.
Carrboro was born.
It has been widely stated that the first name for Carrboro was West End, as in the west end of Chapel Hill, but we discovered this is not actually true. The first name was West Of, as in West of Chapel Hill. Then it's said our town became known as West Chapel Hill, dropping the "of." After folks complained about this tiny town across the tracks sharing the Chapel Hill name, it eventually became known as West End. I learned this fact at Carrboro Day in 2006, when I was able to sit watch the historically rich video Richard Ellington was playing at the Century Center. I love learning new facts about Carrboro, after all these years. It was also called Lloydville and later dubbed Venable, in honor of UNC President Francis P. Venable.
In the early 1890's the train station, known as the depot, was one of only a few buildings in Venable.
A cotton gin, flour mill, blacksmith, and a couple of houses were the only buildings that existed back in
those days. African-American hack drivers transported folks to Chapel Hill from the trains in Carrboro
on a regular basis, and the community of Venable very slowly began to grow.
In 1898 Tom Lloyd built Alberta, his cotton mill. This mill, Lloyd's pride and joy, nudged forward a period of growth for Venable, turning it into a real town. At the helm was a man who had no formal schooling, but proved himself to be a natural born businessman. With his keen mind, his inability to read and write didn't keep him from becoming the richest man in Chapel Hill.
The mill became part of the Blanche Hosiery Corporation, and then the Durham Hosiery Mills. It became known as #4, now known as Carr Mill Mall, and closed in 1930. Another mill, known as #7, was converted into a munitions plant in 1942. This plant was only operational for 3 years. After that, it was refurbished and used as a cotton mill in 1945. This site now houses the Rescue Squad building and the old Farmer's Market location. The Carrboro Woolen Mills also began operations in a modernized #4 in '45. This company was the main employer in Carrboro during those years. The mills remained operational until the early 1960's.
In 1975, after the mill had been empty for more than 5 years the Carrboro Board of Aldermen decided to have the #4 mill, Tom Lloyd's beloved Alberta, demolished to build a new shopping mall. Community sentiment appealed for the restoration of the mill. After a petition signed by folks too numerous to mention, 2 years of work, and $8.5 million, the mill re-opened it's doors in 1977 as Carr Mill Mall. Over the years Carr Mill Mall has expanded to include Weaver Street Market, a community owned and operated natural foods store and Cafe, and two floors of office spaces above it. The Mall houses many unique businesses for the discerning shopper.
By 1913, Venable had become one the world's largest hardwood cross-tie markets. The town's name was changed to Carrboro in 1914, after the Julian Carr family bought the cotton mill from Tom Lloyd in 1909, and donated electricity and streets to the community.
The 1920 census showed Carrboro's population around 1100 folks. In 1921 the town completed construction on the new brick school house, which now houses Town Hall. When jobs were lost in Carrboro, in the 1930's, the UNC administration tried to provide new jobs for the people who lived here and were out of work due to lay offs at the woolen mills.
In 1923, R.B. Fitch purchased the business of Andrews and Lloyd, starting their family's second lumber company. The first, located in Mebane, operated from 1907 until 1945, when it burned. All business operations were moved to Carrboro and Fitch Lumber Company continues to be operational today at their original location on North Greensboro St., across from Carr Mill Mall.
Trains were very important in Carrboro's history, but cars put Carrboro's passenger trains line out of business, which pretty much happened all over the US. When the train last ran, around 1935, children were invited to make the ride. We were once again invited to ride the train in the spring of 1997, as area officials tried to determine the viablilty of the railway in Carrboro and the surrounding area. History reverses itself today, and hopefully soon we will go back to riding the rails. We've nearly come full circle.
In March of 1945, the Farmer's Exchange was opened in Carrboro. John Sprunt Hill of Durham was known as the father and founder of the Exchange. He provided both financial and moral support for the farmers. Today The Carrboro Farmer's Market thrives and is known as one of the top farmers market in the nation, operating at the Town Commons next to Town Hall on Saturday mornings and Wednesday evenings. The Saturday Market now runs year-round.
Carrboro's current population is around 19,000 people.
We'll have more info as we continue to research Carrboro's history.
Most of the history here was taken from Orange County 1752-1952.
Carr Mill Mall info was taken from Scrapbook of Carrboro.
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