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|Size||3.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 2400 items)|
|Abstract||The university's utilities system began in the 1890s with the construction of a water plant. At that time, the town of Chapel Hill lacked resources to provide complete utilities service to its residents and to the university. Consequently, the university became the developer and eventually the supplier of all utilities to the town. This arrangement continued until 1976-1977, when the university sold its public utilities. After the sale, the university's Utilities Division remained responsible for the maintenance and distribution of utilities on campus. The position of Superintendent of Utilities was created in the 1920s to oversee the operation of the utilities; the title changed to Director of Utilities in 1965. Records include files of the Superintendent, later Director, of Utilities relating to the operation of the university's electric, telephone, and water and sewer utilities. Files consist largely of reports on the status and operation of the utilities. Also included are materials relating to the Regional Solid Waste Task Force, which investigated refuse disposal and recycling in the 1980s.|
|Creator||University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Office of the Director of Utilities.|
|Curatorial Unit||University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. University Archives.|
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The university's system of utilities developed not from any grand design, but from the specific needs of the faculty and students at a time when the town of Chapel Hill could not provide adequate utilities. The first utility was a water plant, built between 1892 and 1894, to pump and filter the water from the university's two wells. Electricity followed in 1895 after the Visiting Committee of the Board of Trustees expressed concern for the safety of the students in unlit dormitories. A committee headed by Professor Joshua Walker Gore, head of the Department of Physics, planned and built an electric power plant, which was operating by the opening of the fall 1895 term. The university added a telephone system in 1925, when the privately owned Chapel Hill Telephone Company announced that its switchboard was irreparably broken and that it had no funds to replace it. To keep the university in touch with the outside world, Business Manager Charles T. Woollen arranged for the university to purchase the company and had an exchange building constructed with a new switchboard.
The university thus became the sole operator of electric, light, and water and sewer utilities in Chapel Hill. Rather than compete with the university, the town granted it a franchise for electric and water lines in 1908. In 1932 University Lake was established as the water source for both the university and the town of Chapel Hill, and in 1938 the university obtained the power and water franchise for the town of Carrboro as well. By 1970, however, many residents of the community had begun to question whether the university ought to be in the utilities business at all. Governor Bob Scott appointed the University of North Carolina Utilities Study Commission in November 1971. The following year the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina System accepted the commission's recommendation to sell the university's utilities. The electric utility was sold to Duke Power in December 1976, the telephone to Southern Bell in January 1977, and the water and sewer to the Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA) in March 1977.
The position of Superintendent of Utilities was created in the 1920s. The first superintendent was probably J. S. Bennett, who in 1926 held the title of Superintendent of University Consolidated Service Plants, Electric and Water Division. By 1937 H. E. Thompson had the title Superintendent of Utilities, which he held until 1946. He was followed by Grey Culbreth, whose title was changed to Director of Utilities in 1965 and who remained in charge of the university's utilities until their sale.
After the sale, the university's Utilities Division remained responsible for the maintenance of the utilities infrastructure on campus as well as the distribution of campus utilities. This included the operation of the University Power Plant, subsequently known as the cogeneration facility. Robert S. Peake succeeded Grey Culbreth as Director of Utilities. The Utilities Division later became administratively part of the university's Physical Plant. Eventually the telephone utility became a separate department, Telecommunications Operations; and the electric and water utilities became Utilities Operations.Back to Top
Records include the files of the University of North Carolina's Superintendent of Utilities, later Director of Utilities, relating to the operation of the university's electric, telephone, and water and sewer utilities. Files consist largely of reports on the status and operation of the utilities. Also included are materials relating to the Regional Solid Waste Task Force, which investigated refuse disposal and recycling in the 1980s.Back to Top
Arrangement: Alphabetical by filename, individual files arranged chronologically.
Electric Utility: Power System Reports to Federal Power Commission: Power System Statements (Annual), 1943-1975
(Reports give number of customers, kilowatts generated, power sold to and purchased from other utilities, and excess power generated. Files also include related correspondence and supporting materials.)