The main street of Chapel Hill is named in honor of Benjamin Franklin for his promotion of education. Students and townspeople famously take over the street to celebrate basketball championships and Halloween. It has been the site for parades and protests, as well as for annual street fairs, including Festifall and Apple Chill. Franklin Street has been there from the beginning of the town in 1793. It grew from a modest path to a tree-lined and often muddy thruway lined by wooden sidewalks, until it was paved in the 1920s. Business establishments have come and gone through the years. Some of the oldest still in business on the street are the Carolina Coffee Shop, Julian's, Sutton's Drug Store, the Varsity Theatre, and the Chapel Hill Tire Company. Two curious markers stood on the south side of Franklin Street near Battle Hall. The one still standing marks the Boone Trail Highway, first erected in 1923 as part of an ambitious plan to raise awareness for the need for better roads in North Carolina. The second marker was for the Jefferson Davis Highway, a transcontinental highway project started by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1913, which was never completed. In 2019 the Davis Highway marker was removed by the Town of Chapel Hill.
Date Established: 1793
Date Range: 1793 – Present