August 4, 2023

The Guide to Hillsborough, NC

Park bench during fall in Hillsborough, NCModern Manufactured Home Interior

4 questions to consider before buying a home

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Simple steps to buy a home successfully

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Consider your finance options, and then choose the best one available

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Make an offer with some wiggle room for negotiation

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Which other tips do you recommend when buying a home?

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Hillsborough, NC, is an enchanting blend of the past and the present. While some travelers might overlook this small town in their rush to visit North Carolina's bustling cities, those who take the time to explore Hillsborough will find a treasure trove of historical sites, natural beauty, and a vibrant artistic community. Its downtown historic district, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, boasts more than 100 structures from the 18th and 19th centuries. Hillsborough is more than just a time capsule, though; it’s a hub for artists and writers and a haven for those seeking natural beauty.

Geographically, Hillsborough is advantageously located, offering quick access to North Carolina’s Triad and Triangle cities. Interstates 85 and 40 make it a convenient stop for those traveling through the state. With a rich tapestry of history, stunning scenery, and a thriving arts scene, Hillsborough, North Carolina, is a hidden gem ready for discovery.

The History of Hillsborough, NC

Hillsborough's rich history dates back to the times of Native American settlement. The area was home to three successive Native American villages between about 1000 and 1710 CE, a heritage that still informs the town's character today.

Later, English settlers developed Hillsborough on the site of the former Occaneechi village along the Eno River. The town was officially founded in 1752 and was initially named Orange, after William of Orange. In 1766, it was renamed Hillsborough in honor of the Irish peer William Hill, who was the Earl of Hillsborough and the then secretary of state for the colonies.

Hillsborough was a hotbed of political and cultural activity during the 18th and 19th centuries. William Hooper, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, lived here, and several sessions of the General Assembly were held in the town.

One of the most pivotal moments in Hillsborough's history occurred at the end of the Civil War. The Alexander Dickson house, now the town's visitor center, served as General Joseph E. Johnston's headquarters when he surrendered the largest Confederate army to General William T. Sherman, effectively ending the war.

Throughout the years, Hillsborough has remained a testament to various chapters of American history. From its Native American heritage, colonial-era tensions, and revolutionary contributions to its Civil War ties, Hillsborough has been a silent witness to history's twists and turns. This has shaped the town into a living museum, offering insights into the past while looking forward to a future filled with promise and creativity.

Arts and Culture in Hillsborough, NC

Hillsborough, NC is a treasure trove of arts and culture, bursting with creative energy and a vibrant community spirit. Rooted in a rich history and inspired by the natural beauty of the North Carolina landscape, the town's artistic scene is as diverse as it is dynamic. Whether you're a seasoned art connoisseur or a casual observer, the town offers many opportunities to immerse yourself in the local arts scene and appreciate the profound talent that calls Hillsborough home.

Eno Arts Mill

Housed in the historic Eno Mill, the Eno Arts Mill in West Hillsborough, NC, has become a hub of creativity, providing a welcoming space for residents and visitors to explore various forms of visual, performing, and literary arts. This project, managed by the Orange County Arts Commission, aims to enrich Hillsborough's cultural landscape while simultaneously boosting the economic impact for the local community. Since its opening phases in 2020 and 2021, the Eno Arts Mill has significantly influenced the local arts scene, already celebrating its first successful year in October 2022.

Hillsborough Arts Council

Hillsborough's vibrant arts scene owes much to the Hillsborough Arts Council (HAC), an active entity for over thirty years. HAC develops and offers a variety of arts events, programs, and educational opportunities, reinforcing the bond between Hillsborough’s community and the arts. In addition to its partnerships with local organizations, HAC hosts regular events like The Handmade Parade, The Solstice Lantern Walk, and Last Fridays, a seasonal series of monthly events which feature The Art Walk and Makers Markets. The council also operates a gallery and gift shop showcasing local talents.

Hillsborough Gallery of Art

The Hillsborough Gallery of Art is a unique platform founded in 2006 by local artists. Embracing everything from pottery to paintings to glass-blowing, this gallery epitomizes the artistic diversity in Hillsborough, NC. Featuring artists such as Arianna Bara, Catharine Carter, Marcy Lansman, and Pringle Teetor, among others, the gallery hosts art shows every one to two months, each time highlighting a different artist's collection. Thus, the Hillsborough Gallery of Art is instrumental in promoting local talent and engaging the community in creative discourse.

Places to Visit in Hillsborough, NC

The town of Hillsborough, NC, is not only a cultural hotspot but also a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. With beautiful parks and trails, there's no shortage of outdoor activities to enjoy in this charming locale. 

Blackwood Farm Park

Nestled within Hillsborough, Blackwood Farm Park offers a serene natural setting filled with amenities. Historic farmlands, open fields, and a tranquil pond make this park a delightful spot for relaxation and recreation.

The park features 4 miles of hiking trails, suitable for both leisurely strolls and energetic hikes. Two key trails include Mary's Trail, a 2.3-mile loop, and Alice's Loop, a shorter 1.7-mile trail. Both offer opportunities for birding, fishing, and hiking and are open year-round. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a leash.

In addition to hiking, the park provides picnic areas with tables and shelters and a beautiful fishing pond, creating an excellent destination for a day out in nature.

Eno River State Park

Eno River State Park, despite its proximity to urban centers, presents a quality of wilderness that has earned it recognition throughout the state. Spanning 2700 acres with five access points, the park houses 21 miles of well-maintained hiking trails and a rich history that returns to the Eno Indians.

This state treasure was almost lost to a proposed reservoir in the 1960s but was saved thanks to the dedicated efforts of concerned citizens. Since its induction into the state parks system in 1973, the park has grown from a few hundred acres to its current size.

Visitors to Eno River State Park can enjoy various activities, from hiking and nature study to canoeing and fishing. The park offers both individual and group camping sites, with reservations required for group sites. 

Hikers can explore various trails such as the Buckquarter Creek Trail, a 1.5-mile loop starting at Few's Ford; the easy-going 1-mile Cole Mill Trail; and the challenging 3.75-mile Cox Mountain Trail. The longest trail in the park is the 6.1-mile Laurel Bluffs Trail. For those seeking a more moderate route, the 1.5-mile Pump Station Trail is known for beautiful spring wildflowers and the ruins of an old pump station.

Eno River State Park offers a blend of rich history, diverse natural beauty, and abundant outdoor activities for everyone to enjoy. To visit, access points to the park include Cabe Lands, Cole Mill, Fews Ford, Pleasant Green, and Pump Station.

Exchange Park 

Exchange Park in Hillsborough, NC, offers a mix of developed and undeveloped areas across 15.9 acres. On the developed side, visitors can park their cars to explore the Exchange Club building and baseball fields. Families with young children will especially appreciate the playground designed for kids, along with a picnic shelter and tables perfect for family gatherings. On the undeveloped side of the park, guests can experience a quieter, more serene setting with beautiful wooded land. This park is not just a recreational area but a piece of local history.

The Exchange Club, established in 1947 and committed to community improvement, owns the park, which was opened to the public in 1960. Today, Exchange Park welcomes everyone, from parents with young children to teenagers seeking a hangout spot or individuals looking for a relaxing outdoor environment. Come over, enjoy a picnic, watch a baseball game, or simply breathe in the fresh air of Exchange Park.

Ayr Mount Historic Site

Ayr Mount, a striking historic home located in Hillsborough, North Carolina, stands as a testament to the rich past of this trading town. This grand 1815 Federal masonry home, a first of its kind in the area, showcases classical American residential architecture and the preservation efforts of the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust (CAHPT).

Visitors are invited to explore the estate and delve into the past lives of both enslaved and free people who built, lived in, and occupied this property from 1820 to 2018. With guided tours available multiple times a week, guests can explore the elegant architecture, surrounding landscape, and intricacies of the Ayr Mount estate. The surrounding grounds and Poets Walk, a sanctuary of tranquil beauty, is open daily from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm for all who appreciate nature and history.

Places to Eat in Hillsborough, NC 

All the art and activities in Hillsborough can leave visitors and residents with hearty appetites. Luckily, Hillsborough also has plenty of restaurants where you can indulge. Let’s look at three hometown favorites. 

Saratoga Grill, situated on the second floor of a historic building in downtown Hillsborough, is a delightful spot for a great meal. Patrons have praised the restaurant for its exceptional hospitality, prompt service, and delectable seafood platter. The melt-in-your-mouth scones and in-house salad dressings have won numerous fans, adding to the charming ambiance that makes Saratoga Grill a must-visit locale in the heart of the town.

Antonia's Restaurant, serving exquisite Italian cuisine, is a gem in Hillsborough that will please every palate. From the cozy atmosphere to the attentive service, every aspect of the dining experience here is catered to your satisfaction. Their menu features a wide array of dishes, with the Fettuccini with Shrimp in Al Antonia sauce receiving high praise. The unique cocktails and sumptuous desserts further add to the appeal of this restaurant, making it an ideal spot for a special date or gathering.

The Village Diner offers a nostalgic and cozy dining experience that has become a staple for many in Hillsborough. It's particularly well-known for its Sunday breakfast and brunch offerings, featuring delectable grits and irresistible French toast. But the charm of the Village Diner extends beyond breakfast — it's also a local favorite for dinner, particularly for its mouth-watering pizza. Despite its small size, the Village Diner offers a comforting atmosphere, delicious food, and warm service.

Living in Hillsborough, NC

If you're looking for a vibrant community where small-town charm meets top-tier amenities, Hillsborough, North Carolina, may just be the perfect place for you. Tucked away in the lush landscapes of Orange County and just a stone's throw away from Durham, Hillsborough is a suburb that prides itself on its strong sense of community, top-rated public schools, and the abundance of beautiful parks. Home to 9,000+ residents, this quaint town offers a quiet suburban living experience with a touch of modern flair.

Families and young professionals alike have found a welcoming environment in Hillsborough, marked by a diverse community. One of the most endearing features of Hillsborough is the strong emphasis on education, with highly-rated public schools fostering the next generation of bright minds. It's a town that embraces the joy of learning and provides a nurturing environment for children to grow and thrive.

However, every place has its drawbacks, and for Hillsborough, it's the high cost of homes. With an average house price soaring over $400,000 and a limited supply, homeownership can seem daunting. But don't let that deter you. Many have found a viable solution in manufactured homes and their accompanying communities. These communities are designed with affordability and convenience in mind, making them an excellent choice for young families or those seeking a more cost-effective living arrangement.

A shining example of these communities is Highwoods, managed by MCM Communities. As a premier provider of manufactured homes, MCM Communities prioritizes quality, affordability, and community spirit. Highwoods is an established community set amidst nature's bounty, boasting full-grown trees and ample greenery for a serene living experience. Conveniently located close to downtown Hillsborough and only 11 miles from downtown Durham, Highwoods combines the best of both worlds.

So, if you're looking for a place to call home, consider the welcoming arms of Hillsborough and the inviting ambiance of a community like Highwoods. It’s time to start your new life in the heart of North Carolina!