Chapel Hill’s Eagle Hotel

As I was looking through some mid-nineteenth century issues of the Hillsborough Recorder, I noticed the following advertisement:

Have you ever heard of the Eagle Hotel or Miss Nancy Hilliard? If not, see below:

Ann Segur Hilliard (1807-1873), known as “Miss Nancy,” came to Chapel Hill in about 1814 with her parents. After they died, she bought from Elisha Mitchell a lot on Columbia Street and began to board students in 1825. Over the years she gained an excellent reputation for her hospitality and cooking, and in 1846 she bought the Watts Hotel property on Franklin Street for $1250, renaming it the Eagle Hotel. She operated this inn and boarding house until she sold it to Hugh B. Guthrie in 1853. Then she built a large two-story house just east of the hotel and continued to serve students meals in her large basement until after the Civil War. Destitute by 1869, the court sold her remaining household goods for $484.25 to pay some of her creditors. She died penniless in 1873 and was buried in the village cemetery. Cornelia Phillips Spencer solicited contributions from alumni to purchase a gravestone, which reads in part, “ERECTED 1886, By certain alumni of this University, in grateful remembrance of her unfailing kindness and hospitality” (Vickers, James, Thomas Scism, and Dixon Qualls. Chapel Hill: An Illustrated History. Carrboro, NC: Barclay Publishers, 1985. pp. 61, 78). [Sketch of “Miss Nancy” found in “True and Candid Compositions: The Lives and Writings of Antebellum Students at the University of North Carolina.”]

6 thoughts on “Chapel Hill’s Eagle Hotel”

  1. Archibald Henderson, in his 1949 book, “The Campus of the First State University,” says that the Eagle Hotel Annex was built “for the express purpose of entertaining and accommodating President (James K.) Polk and his cortege.” The President visited the campus for the 1847 commencement ceremonies. The plate over the door reads: “Erected To Receive Pres. Polk On The Occasion of His Visit To His Alma Mater.” (Pages 95-96)

    The photograph that Elizabeth describes has often been published in history books relating to Chapel Hill and UNC.

    “The First State University” by William S. Powell (Third Edition, 1992) Page 66

    “The University’s Living Room: A History of the Carolina Inn” by Kenneth Joel Zogry (1999) Page 14

    “A Pictorial History of Chapel Hill” by Steven Stolpen (1978) Page 31 (The picture in this book identifies the woman in the doorway as Miss Nancy Hilliard.)

    Henderson adds, “At the Eagle Hotel. for years, board was usually $8 per month…” (Page 175)

  2. How can I get a copy of picture of ancestor Richard Saunders on page 55 of Chapel Hill an Illustrated History?

  3. Rick:

    The image in question is credited to the North Carolina Collection, so the best thing to do is to email us at Our reference staff will take a look at it and get back to you soon.

    [I’ve got your email address from you comment, so no need to do it for this one! We’ll be in touch regarding the image.]

  4. A comment on the historical content at the top. In the April 1, 2013 edition of the Burlington Times News, there is a story about the Railroad Hotel, a sumptuous hotel that was built by the railroad company in Burlington, which was then merely called “Company Shops”, because it was a huge railroad center. Anyway, the hotel was built in the 1840’s (at twice the budgeted cost!) and Miss Nancy Hilliard, evidently well known for her great cooking, was hired to run the hotel. She excelled there, but came back to Chapel Hill in the early 1860’s. So if the Times/News article is correct, then she did not sell the Eagle Hotel and continue serving students at her new house as the above states. Just fyi.

  5. I wanted to correct something from the above. The Railroad Hotel wasn’t opened til 1858, so it did leave several years for Miss Nancy to have served “students at her new house” until moving to Burlington for evidently about 7 years, returning to CH in 1865.

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