Our 50th Year Icon

By the time The Sun’s number of subscribers had grown to ten thousand, its number of employees had grown, too — enough that the magazine’s charming but shabby office in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, “still fits us, but just barely, like a rumpled sweater with too many holes,” as founder and editor Sy Safransky put it. So in April 1989 The Sun bought a new property, right around the corner at 107 North Roberson Street.

The building was a prewar two-story residence that had previously been used as an insurance office, a holistic-health center, and a home for unwed mothers. Safransky had admired it for years, but he knew that such a costly move could prove calamitous for a nonprofit magazine still struggling to pay its bills. “Can we afford to move?” he wrote. “We can’t afford not to. Moving is risky, but the biggest risk is in clinging to the past, in sentimentalizing the daring it took to start the magazine instead of acknowledging how The Sun has changed.” The transition had its rough spots. “I forgot that this relationship was like any other: jumping into bed with someone is easy; getting to know and love that person takes time.” Eventually, however, The Sun settled into its new home.

Pamela Tarr Penick, The Sun’s assistant editor in the early nineties, said this of 107 North Roberson: “The soul of the [magazine] wasn’t the house, but you could see it reflected there. Modest white two-story dwelling. Inviting porch swing. Sunny rooms. Scuffed yellow wood floors. Creaking desk chairs. I like to remember the quiet late afternoons in my small second-floor office, windows open, a breeze pushing at blinds slanted to mellow the heat of the setting sun.” While there’s no longer a porch — we grew more, swapping that swing for more office space — the building still reflects the magazine’s soul today. It’s the place we continue to call home.