Eagle Hotel once stood on the present site of Graham Memorial Hall on the east side of McCorkle Place. The university's first steward, John "Buck" Taylor, opened a tavern on the site in 1796, which he and his son operated until the 1820s. It was known simply as the Tavern House and, like most such places at the time, was also an inn and gathering place. The property became a hotel in 1823. Sometime in the 1830s Ann Segur Hilliard, known as Miss Nancy, became the proprietor. The establishment was called first the Hilliard Hotel and then the Eagle Hotel. Hilliard added more space and boarded students there, reaching around ninety boarders by 1850. Hilliard ran the establishment with her sister and brother-in-law, Martha and Benton Utley, who enslaved forty-two people. The university paid for trustees to stay there, including their enslaved servants and their horses. As the only place to stay in Chapel Hill, the Eagle was popular with travelers, especially at commencement time. In 1847 Miss Hilliard built an addition to her hotel to welcome U.S. president and alumnus James K. Polk to that year's graduation.
After the Civil War the Eagle Hotel struggled financially. In the 1890s the owners tore down the original tavern building, replacing it with a large Queen Anne—style structure with a large porch. Known as the University Inn, the property did not thrive. The university bought the site in 1908 and used it as a dormitory until it was destroyed by fire in 1921.
In 1993—94 the faculty and students of the UNC Research Laboratories of Archaeology selected the site to conduct an archaeological field school to celebrate the university's bicentennial. The project demonstrated how the labs train undergraduate students in field and laboratory methods in historical archaeology and showcased the work for the public. Several thousand people visited the site during open houses, including hundreds of school children who participated in the excavations. This work provided new evidence and information about the early history of the town and campus.
Date Established: 1796
Date Range: 1796 – 1921