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Pittsboro Town

Chatham County, North Carolina

Pittsboro Town Hall is located at 635 East Street, Pittsboro, NC 27312.
Phone: 919‑542‑4621.


Beginnings [1]

First settled ca. 1750 by Scotch-Irish and Germans, the town of Pittsboro was established in 1787 with the idea of encouraging "sundry merchants and persons of distinction in the lower parts of the state [who] are desirous that a town shall be erected for the reception of their families in the summer months." This migration of members of established families from the coastal towns of Wilmington and New Bern brought the area well-respected permanent settlers and a wave of summer visitors who carried with them news and ideas from the more urban seaports.

During the; Revolution the Pittsboro area like much of Chatham County was torn by disputes between local Whigs and Tories.

On 6 January 1787 nine commissioners were authorized to purchase one hundred acres one-half mile north of the site of Chatham Courthouse from William Petty." In a much briefer authorization based largely on the plans to settle the Scurlock land, the commissioners were charged with laying out lots and streets. While the county and original courthouse site were named for the first Earl of Chatham (1707-1778) tradition holds that the town was named for the Earl's second son William Pitt the younger (1759-1806) who began his career in 1781 as a zealous reformer." Established in the eighteenth century as Pittsborough, the town was known by the popular abbreviation, Pittsboro at least by 1826. However in more formal usage, such as the postmark or documents, the older spelling was employed until 1893 when the briefer spelling was authorized by the post office. At this time the town joined the ranks, of other North Carolina towns whose formal titles bear the mark and influence of a more expedient late 19th century when tradition often gave way to the forces of progress and practicality.

At the time of the founding of the town of Pittsboro a land survey was undertaken and a map with 125 lots was made. Although the original map has long since disappeared, a copy was made by county surveyor Rufus Clegg in 1889. Clegg added such contemporary landmarks as the railroad and depot but the town plan and its numbered lots apparently correspond to those on the early map. The map depicts an orderly but not perfectly symmetric arrangement of 105 by 210 foot lots which are centered around a public square. The public square at the intersection of four streets was created "by notching out the corners of the adjacent blocks." This type of public square which dramatically emphasized the center lot is known as a Lancaster square, after its first use in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Once quite common in the plans of North Carolina county seats, the Lancaster square has generally been abandoned because of the increased demands of modern traffic. Pittsboro is one of the few North Carolina towns to retain the form. This may be explained by the fact that during the nineteenth century Pittsboro's public square was not located at the town's busiest intersection. Until the road improvements in the 20th century the main east-west route through Pittsboro ran along Salisbury and Thompson Streets to the north of the square and the north-south route ran along Fayetteville Street one block to the west. It has only been the twentieth century road improvements that have brought a steady stream of traffic through the square.

  1. Ruth Selden-Sturgill, Consultant for Survey and Planning Research, North Carolina Department of Archives and History, Pittsboro Multiple Resource Area, nomination document, 1982, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Nearby Towns: Fearrington •