The first settlers of the Fayetteville area were Scottish highlanders. In 1739, they arrived in the area via the Cape Fear River. Fayetteville has continued to play a pivotal role in local and U.S. history. In 1775, the Liberty Point Resolve pledged local support for independence from Great Britain. After the Revolutionary War, the state's legislature met in 1789 in the old State House to ratify the Constitution and charter the University of North Carolina, the nation's oldest state university.
The city of Fayetteville has experienced two calamities that nearly destroyed it. The Great Fire of 1831 razed more than 600 buildings, including the State House. Many of the structures that were born out of the ensuing reconstruction are still standing today. The second calamity came when the city fell in the path of General Tecumseh Sherman's Union troops. The troops heavily damaged the city and burned the North Carolina Arsenal, a munitions center for the Confederacy.
Although much of Fayetteville's original structures were lost to fire and war, many unique, historical buildings still stand. The Market House was built in 1832 on the site of the old State House. The Market House is the focal point of downtown Fayetteville. Although meat and produce were once sold beneath its arches, the building now houses a public library, chamber of commerce offices and an art museum. The Market House is one of the few structures in the U.S. to use the town hall-market scheme found in England.
Poe House is another intriguing Fayetteville structure. In 1896, Lot #2 of the U.S. Arsenal was deeded to Josephine Poe. Edgar Allen Poe, Josephine's husband, began construction of a two-story frame house, barn, woodhouse, smokehouse and wellhouse in 1897. The house is currently owned by the Museum of the Cape Fear and exhibits rare Eastlake detailing and unique features. The Museum of the Cape Fear itself is one of three regional branches of the North Carolina Museum of History and is devoted to preserving and interpreting the history of southern North Carolina.
Fayetteville has more to offer than a glimpse into the past, however. Fayetteville is home to several incredible parks, such as J. Bayard Clark Park. This natural woodland area is dedicated to preserving the local environment and providing education on North Carolina's plants and wildlife. The park contains three trails and a Nature Center, where certified park rangers educate and guide visitors.
Cape Fear Botanical Gardens is located on the bluffs on the Cape Fear River. The Gardens includes formal gardens (over 2,000 species of ornamental plants), natural woodland areas and the Heritage Garden Complex, a grouping of historical buildings aiming to provide a snapshot of a local farmstead at the turn of the century. Another can't-miss museum is the Airborne & Special Operations Museum, opened in August 2000.
The area's most prominent feature is Fort Bragg. Founded in 1918 as a field artillery base, Fort Bragg is now the headquarters of the XVIII Airborne Corps and the home of American's “Guard of Honor,” the 82nd Airborne Division. It also houses the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Headquarters and the Army's Golden Knights. Fort Bragg and its companion base, Pope Air Force Base, have an economic impact of nearly $4 billion annually.
A major attraction of this military-oriented area is Fayetteville's Airborne & Special Operations Museum. Both publicly and privately funded, the museum provides education regarding the history of the United States, as well as U.S. Army Airborne and Special Operations. A wide range of exhibits are open to the public, as are several special educational programs.
Although Fayetteville's primary attraction is its history, it also features proximity to quality shopping, fine dining, high-caliber entertainment and community events, such as the International Folk Festival in September and Ole Mill Days in October. Fayetteville truly has something for everyone, and boasts an unparalleled, unique style of living.