Hickory is a city located primarily in Catawba County, North Carolina , with parts in adjoining Burke and Caldwell counties. The city's population at the 2010 census was 40,010, [2] with an estimated population in 2015 of 40,374. Hickory is the principal city in the Hickory–Lenoir–Morganton MSA , in which the population at the 2010 census was 365,497 and is included as part of the Charlotte–Concord Combined Statistical Area .


In the 1850s, under a huge hickory tree, Henry Robinson built a tavern of logs. The city of "Hickory Tavern" co-founded by "Dolph" Shuford, [4] was established in 1863, and the name was eventually changed to the city of Hickory in 1873. [4]

The first train operated in the city of "Hickory Tavern" in 1859. The first lot was sold to Henry Link for $45.00 in 1858. His house is now known as "The 1859 Cafe", a restaurant (closed in 2011). [5] The community of Hickory was the first for many things in North Carolina, including the council-manager form of government it adopted in 1913. Hickory was also one of the first towns to install electric lights in 1888 and a complete sewage system in 1904. [6]

In 1868, Dr. Jeremiah Ingold, pastor of the German Reformed Grace Charge, established Hickory's first school, the Free Academy. [7]

In 1891, Lenoir–Rhyne University (then Highland Academy) was founded by four Lutheran pastors with 12 initial students. [8]

Hickory is home to one of the oldest furniture manufacturers in the United States that is still located and operated on the original site. Hickory White, formerly known as Hickory Manufacturing Company, was built in 1902 and has been in continuous operation ever since. During World War II, the factory made ammunition boxes for the U.S. military instead of furniture.

Hickory was known in the years after World War II for the "Miracle of Hickory". In 1944 the area around Hickory (the Catawba Valley) became the center of one of the worst outbreaks of polio ever recorded. Residents who were then children recall summers of not being allowed to play outside or visit friends for fear of contracting the disease. Since local facilities were inadequate to treat the victims, the citizens of Hickory and the March of Dimes decided to build a hospital to care for the children of the region. From the time the decision was made until equipment, doctors, and patients were in a new facility, took less than 54 hours. Several more buildings were quickly added. A Red Cross official on the scene praised the project "as the most outstanding example of cooperative effort he has ever seen."

The city also came to national attention when the remains of Zahra Baker were found leading to a police investigation where Zahra's stepmother, Elise Baker, was found guilty of second-degree murder. The Zahra Baker All Children's playground, located in Kiwanis Park, is named in her honor.

National Register of Historic Places

The Claremont High School Historic District , Elliott–Carnegie Library , First Presbyterian Church , Dr. Glenn R. Frye House , Clement Geitner House , Lee & Helen George House , Harris Arcade , Hickory Municipal Building , Hickory Southwest Downtown Historic District , Highland School , Hollar Hosiery Mills-Knit Sox Knitting Mills , Houck's Chapel , Kenworth Historic District , John A. Lentz House , Lyerly Full Fashioned Mill , John Alfred Moretz House , Oakwood Historic District , Piedmont Wagon Company , Propst House , Ridgeview Public Library , Shuford House , and Whisnant Hosiery Mills are listed on the National Register of Historic Places . [2] [10] [2] [12] [13]


Hickory is located in western Catawba County at (35.737682, −81.328372), [3] and extends westward into Burke County and Caldwell County. Interstate 40 passes through the southern part of the city, leading east 68 miles (109 km) to Winston-Salem and west 75 miles (121 km) to Asheville . U.S. Route 70 (Conover Boulevard) is an older east-west route through the city. U.S. Route 321 passes through the western part of the city, leading northwest 43 miles (69 km) to Boone and south 36 miles (58 km) to Gastonia .

According to the United States Census Bureau , the city has a total area of 29.8 square miles (77.2 km 2 ), of which 29.7 square miles (76.9 km 2 ) is land and 0.08 square miles (0.2 km 2 ), or 0.31%, is water. [2]

Metropolitan area

Hickory is the largest city within the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area). The MSA includes Catawba County , Burke County , Caldwell County , and Alexander County , with a combined population – as of the 2010 Census – of 365,497. [3]

Apart from Hickory, the MSA includes Lenoir , Morganton , Conover , and Newton , along with a number of smaller incorporated towns: Sawmills , Granite Falls , Valdese , Long View , Gamewell , Hudson , Maiden , Cajah's Mountain , Hildebran , and Taylorsville .

Several sizable unincorporated rural and suburban communities are also located nearby: Drexel , Connelly Springs , Glen Alpine , Claremont , Rutherford College , Catawba , Cedar Rock , and Brookford .


Climate data for Hickory, North Carolina ( Hickory Regional Airport ), 1981–2010 normals
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 49.3
Average low °F (°C) 29.6
Average precipitation inches (mm) 3.69
Average snowfall inches (cm) 3.7
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 8.6 8.8 9.9 9.2 10.9 10.7 11.6 9.7 7.9 7.4 8.5 8.9 112.1
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) .8 .7 .1 .1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .2 1.9
Source: NOAA [40]



The Hickory Regional Airport is located in the western portion of the city and provides general aviation services. The airport is not serviced by a commercial airline given the proximity to larger nearby airports, particularly Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and Piedmont Triad International Airport .

Public Transportation

Greenway Public Transportation operates six fixed bus routes around Hickory, Conover and Newton . Greenway also provides paratransit services to these cities and surrounding areas. Greenway Public Transportation provides over 250,000 trips each year to residents living in the Hickory region.



Historical population
Census Pop.
1890 2,023
1900 2,535 25.3%
1910 3,716 46.6%
1920 5,076 36.6%
1930 7,363 45.1%
1940 13,487 83.2%
1950 14,755 9.4%
1960 19,328 31.0%
1970 20,569 6.4%
1980 20,757 0.9%
1990 28,301 36.3%
2000 37,222 31.5%
2010 40,010 7.5%
Est. 2016 40,567 [35] 1.4%
U.S. Decennial Census [13]

As of the census of 2010, there were 40,093 people, 18,719 households, and 9,952 families residing in the city. There were 18,719 housing units at an average density of 640.4 per square mile (227.9/km²). The racial composition of the city was: 74.9% White , 14.3% Black or African American , 11.4% Hispanic or Latino American , 3.2% Asian American , 0.19% Native American , 0.06% Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander , 3.08% some other race , and 1.46% two or more races .

There were 18,719 households out of which 27.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.6% were married couples living together, 12.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.1% were non-families. 32.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 2.98.

In the city, the age distribution of the population shows 23.3% under the age of 18, 11.2% from 18 to 24, 30.7% from 25 to 44, 21.3% from 45 to 64, and 13.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 92.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $37,236, and the median income for a family was $47,522. Males had a median income of $31,486 versus $23,666 for females. The per capita income for the city was $23,263. About 8.4% of families and 11.3% of the population were below the poverty line , including 14.8% of those under age 18 and 7.0% of those age 65 or over.

364,759 people live within 25 miles (40 km) of Hickory; 1.8 million people within 50 miles (80 km) of Hickory.


The City of Hickory operates under a Council–manager form of government, the first city to do so in North Carolina. [38] The City Council is composed of six aldermen and a mayor. The City Manager is appointed by City Council and is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the city. The city employs over 650 staff across 45 departments, divisions, and offices to carryout its governmental functions.


Elementary schools

  • Clyde Campbell Elementary School
  • Jenkins Elementary School
  • Longview Elementary School
  • Mountain View Elementary School
  • Oakwood Elementary School
  • Snow Creek Elementary School
  • Southwest Elementary School
  • Viewmont Elementary School
  • Webb A. Murray Elementary School
  • St. Stephens Elementary School

Middle schools

  • Grandview Middle School
  • Northview Middle School
  • H. M. Arndt Middle School

High schools

Private schools

  • University Christian High School
  • Hickory Christian Academy
  • Hickory Day School
  • Tabernacle Christian School
  • Christian Family Academy
  • Cornerstone Christian Academy (Specialized for students with learning differences)

Colleges and universities


The Hickory area historically competed in new industries and technologies by applying old strengths and favorable geography to new opportunities. In this way, wagon-making know-how, proximity to expansive forests, and excellent transportation via two intersecting railroads provided fertile ground for the emergence of the furniture industry. [20] Likewise experience with textile manufacturing and easy access to power drove new industries in both fiber-optic cable [20] and pressure-sensitive tape. [21]

The furniture industry in Hickory is not as strong as in the decades previous, but still a primary component in the area economy, and includes HSM (formerly Hickory Springs, founded 1944), a leading manufacturer of mattress coils .

Currently the area is home to many leading manufacturers of furniture, fiber optic cable, and pressure-sensitive tape . [21] It is estimated 60% of the nation's furniture used to be produced within a 200-mile (320 km) radius of Hickory. Forty percent of the world's fiber optic cable is made in the Hickory area. [22]

The Hickory area is additionally marketed as a data-center corridor [23] and is home to large data-centers operated by Apple and Google . Apple's billion-dollar data-center campus just south of Hickory is one of the world's largest. [24]

Hickory is the retail hub of the foothills and Unifour region, and is home to the largest shopping mall in the region Valley Hills Mall .

Hickory is home to the corporate headquarters of third-party logistics provider Transportation Insight, a member of North Carolina's top revenue tier of privately held businesses. [40] In 2015, the company relocated its headquarters to the historic Lyerly Full Fashioned Mill in downtown Hickory. [41] [42]


Hickory is home to the Hickory Crawdads , a Class-A South Atlantic League minor-league baseball affiliate of the Texas Rangers . The Crawdads play in L.P. Frans Stadium located in the western portion of the city, near the Hickory Regional Airport.

Hickory is also home to the Hickory Motor Speedway , nationally known as the Birthplace of the NASCAR Stars . The speedway was opened in 1951 and features a 1/2 mile track with seating for approximately 5,000 spectators.

Lenoir-Rhyne University participates within NCAA Division II athletics in the South Atlantic Conference . The university's athletics program includes teams in baseball, basketball, football, lacrosse, soccer, softball, and volleyball.

Lake Hickory

Lake Hickory was created on the Catawba River in 1927 with the completion of the Oxford Dam 11 miles (18 km) northeast of Hickory. The dam parallels the NC Highway 16 bridge over the Catawba River between Interstate 40 and Taylorsville . It is 122 feet (37 m) high, with an overall length of 1,200 feet (370 m). The spillway section of the dam is 550 feet (170 m) long.

Lake Hickory was named after the City of Hickory and runs along its northern edge. The lake covers almost 4,223 acres (17.09 km 2 ) with 105 miles (169 km) of shoreline. Full pond elevation is 935 feet (285 m). Lake Hickory is a reliable source of water for the Cities of Hickory and Conover and the Town of Long View , while also functioning as a recreation hub for boating, fishing, and other water based activities.

Duke Energy provides five public access areas on the lake in cooperation with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission .


  • The Hickory Daily Record is published 7 days a week.
  • Focus Newspaper is a weekly publication that is distributed freely and focuses on entertainment in the area. [29]
  • WHKY , 1290 AM, is a radio station that features a news-talk format.
  • WAIZ , "63 Big Ways", 630 AM, is a radio station that features 1950s and 1960s oldies and recreates the format of Charlotte Top 40 legend "61 Big Ways"
  • Local television station is WHKY-TV , channel 14.
  • The Claremont Courier free newspaper distributed every month throughout Catawba County


Hickory has been named an "All-America City" three times. The All-America City Award is given annually to ten cities in the United States. It is an award that represents a community's ability to work together and achieve critical local issues. Hickory won this award in 2007, as well as, 1967 and 1987.

The Hickory metro area has been named the 10th best place to live and raise a family in the United States by Reader's Digest and the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton MSA has been named the third best MSA in the country for business cost by Forbes . [25]

In 2014, Smart Growth America identified the Hickory MSA as being country's most sprawling metro area. [26]

Notable people

The following notable people are or have been residents of the Hickory area: