The name certainly pops up a lot around town: Kenan Auditorium at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, the Kenan Fountain at Fifth Avenue and Market Street, Chapel Hill-based Kenan Transport Co., which has a facility on U.S. 421 North. Carolina fans might attend a football game at Kenan Stadium at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
According to a family history, some settled in the Grove Settlement, which became Kenansville, Duplin County’s seat.
One of Kenansville’s main attractions is the museum known as Liberty Hall. The house, open for tours, dates back to the 1830s when Owen R. Kenan rebuilt it after a fire. You can find out more about the Kenans here.
The Kenans, prominent landowners, became even wealthier at the turn of the last century. That’s when Owen’s granddaughter, Mary Lily Kenan, married Henry Flagler, an industrialist who built much of Florida’s real estate and railroads.
Her brother, William Rand Kenan Jr., was a chemist whose work with a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill on processing calcium carbide led to the founding of Union Carbide Corp.
He gave much of the money to build Kenan Stadium, home of the Tar Heels since 1927. He had graduated from UNC in 1894.
Kenan married Alice Pomroy of Lockport, N.Y., and lived there most of his life. He died in 1965.
Frank H. Kenan started Kenan Oil Co. and Kenan Transport Co. His son, Owen, later took over the oil business while his father ran the transport company.
Frank Kenan graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1935, was closely linked to the school for the rest of his life. He continued his family’s tradition of monetary donations to the school by providing $10 million for the Kenan-Flagler Business School in 1991. He died in Durham in 1996.
Other Kenans have continued the tradition of supporting causes including higher education.
Today, Thomas Kenan III, a Durham native, lives in Chapel Hill. He is the former chairman of the board of Kenan Transport and is an active supporter of the UNC School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. The Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts at UNCSA is named after him.
Date posted: July 24, 2009
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