An All American City
(The atrium and visitor information area of the Airborne & Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, NC, is shown above. The museum is free and boasts excellent dioramas and exhibits to interest those with a passion for military history.*)
... and yes, Lafayette visited here!
By Susan J. Young
When it comes to military history, Fayetteville, NC, has a blue blood background.
In Cross Creek Park, visitors will discover a statue of the Marquis de Lafayette (shown in the historical painting at right.*). In 1777, the 19-year-old Lafayette sailed from France to America to join the fight for American independence.
Not surprising, this central North Carolina city -- as with many others throughout the nation – was named to honor the U.S. Revolutionary War hero.
What’s unique, though, is that Fayetteville was the first U.S. city to adopt his name in 1783 and the only such city he actually visited.
In 1825, Lafayette toured the United States as part of the nation’s 50th Jubilee. He stayed at the Duncan McRae home in downtown Fayetteville.
While that historic home is long gone, the site is now occupied by the city’s old courthouse; a historical marker (see photo above*) commemorates Lafayette’s ties to the city.
When Lafayette visited, he was greeted by a crowd of enthusiastic Fayetteville citizens including Isham Blake.
A former bugler and fifer with the Continental Army, Blake served in Lafayette's honor guard at the time of the British surrender at Yorktown.
The carriage which transported Lafayette around Fayetteville is displayed in the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry Armory & Museum, 210 Burgess St. (See photo at right.*)
This museum celebrates the history of the oldest militia unit in continuous existence in the South.
A specialized Lafayette heritage driving tour has been created by the Fayetteville Convention & Visitors Bureau to assist visitors in viewing the places that Lafayette visited.
Patriots and Pioneers
The city's affiliation with Lafayette is just one facet of the area's diverse military history. Military traditions run deep in Fayetteville.
In June 1775, two months after the battles of Lexington and Concord, a gathering of villagers from the Fayetteville area defiantly signed a document known as the Liberty Point Resolves.
This document pre-dated the Declaration of Independence. Visitors might check out the Liberty Point Monument (see photo at left*) located at the intersection of Bow and Person Streets.
During the Revolutionary War this spot served as a supply point and rendezvous for soldiers on both sides.
Many locals felt it their duty to serve in the Continental Army, and in 1776, Patriots maintained control of this region.
African-American history buffs will enjoy learning about the patriotism of Isaac Hammond, who served as a fifer in the 10th N.C. Regiment of the Continental Line.
Historians believe he may have been at Valley Forge with George Washington in spring 1778.
As such, Hammond was buried with full military honors at the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry (F.I.L.I.) parade ground along Cross Creek in Fayetteville.
The infantry was established in 1799; it's one of the oldest in the South. (A photo of its building is shown at left.*)
Civil War Trail
Civil War buffs will find several important sites in the area to whet their appetite for history.
Look for the N.C. Civil War Trails brochure at the visitors center for a guide to all the sites.
A short drive from Fayetteville is the Averasboro Battlefield, the site where – under orders to delay General Sherman’s Union troops after their capture of Fayetteville -- Confederates mounted a two-day battle on March 15-16, 1865.
Admission to the battlefield site is free. (One of its historic buildings is shown above*) .
The Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex at Heritage Square operates three major historic sites, one of which played a sizable role in the Civil War.
Arsenal Park is the former site of the U.S. Arsenal. Authorized by Congress in 1836, by the start of the Civil War it was producing rifles, gun carriages and ammunition.
As the war began, the arsenal was taken over by the Confederate States of America.
While hundreds of Fayetteville men joined the Confederate Army, local women worked at the arsenal rolling cartridges.
The arsenal was burned by Union General Sherman in 1865 during his march throughout the South. (Shown above, a so-called "Ghost Tower" has been built to re-create a portion of the factory.*)
Also a part of the Historical Complex are the 1897-era Poe House and a museum with historical artifacts, photos and memorabilia.The Market House is the historic symbol of downtown Fayetteville. You'll notice it as the anchor of the business district.
(Market House has lower-level curved arches as shown in the photos at right and below.*)
Architecturally unique, this building is a National Historic Landmark and one of the few town hall structures in North Carolina that resemble those in 17th century England. Originally the site housed the North Carolina State House, built in in 1788.
On this site, North Carolina ratified the U.S. Constitution, chartered UNC and ceded western lands to form the state of Tennessee.
The original State House was destroyed by fire in 1831. The current Market House was built in 1832 and was a hub of commerce with local residents buying and selling meat, produce and other goods. The second floor was utilized as a town hall for many years.
During the Civil War, troops of Confederate General Hampton and Union General Sherman skirmished around the building.
Want to look inside? Market House, at the intersection of Hay, Gillespie, Person and Green Streets, is usually open for visitors the fourth Friday of the month, except during December.
Visitors taking a short drive from Fayetteville might explore The Hope Mills National Historic District, North Carolina’s largest antebellum cotton factory village.
Established in 1939, Rockfish Factory Village was a complete cotton settlement. The factory was burned by Union troops during the Civil War.
Modern Military Traditions
Today, the patriotic tradition in Fayetteville continues in a big way.
The city and Cumberland County, NC, are home to Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base. (Members of the U.S. Army's Golden Parachute team are shown in a "jump" at right.*)
Named for Confederate General Braxton Bragg and founded as Camp Bragg in 1918, Fort Bragg was transformed from a sleepy post to a bustling center of military training in the 1940s.
Army airborne units began training at the base and it's been "Home of the Airborne" ever since.
Today, Fort Bragg is the world's largest airborne facility with more than 45,000 military personnel and approximately 8,500 civilian personnel. (Personnel are shown training above and below.*)
The base is home to these operations of the 82nd Airborne Division: the 18th Airborne Corps, Special Operations, the "Green Berets," Psychological Operations Command, the Delta Force and the "Golden Knights" of the U.S.Army Parachute Team.
Fort Bragg is open to civilians but visitors are required to visit checkpoint entrances.
Call the Fort Bragg Welcome Center at Randolph and Knox Streets at 910-907-2026 for information.
The adjacent Pope Air Force Base is not open to civilians, only to military or Department of Defense identification holders; call 910-394-4183.
Not surprising, you'll discover a cornucopia of military history sites around Fayetteville. The so-called Iron Mike Statue (shown at right*) is a momument to the airborne soldier; it's located at Randolph and Armistead Streets.
The 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum at Ardennes and Gella Streets houses an extensive collection of 4,000 military artifacts, aircraft, uniforms and parachutes.
These items date from World War I to the present.
The JFK Special Warfare Museum at Ardennes and Marion Streets features a look at unconventional warfare from World War II to the present.
Want to observe real paratroopers in action?
At the Sicily Drop Zone (shown at left*), you might witness the breathtaking sight of paratroopers jumping from the sky and descending to earth. Call 910-396-6366 for the jump schedule.
To explore the region’s legacy of military history, you might consider the CVB's “Patriots Past and Present” Drive Trail.
This 90-mile, half-day driving tour takes about two hours and 15 minutes to complete. More time is needed if visitors stop to explore the sites. Visit the CVB's Web site to download the tour.
Airborne & Special Operations Museum
If you do nothing else in Fayetteville, jump through time at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum (shown in the multiple museum photos below*), 100 Bragg Blvd., Fayetteville.
You’ll get gain a strong appreciation of the duty, honor and sacrifice of airborne troops throughout U.S. military history.
A big perk? This high-quality military history museum has free admission.
In the atrium of the building, you'll peruse plaques dedicated to Congressional Medal of Honor awardees.
The museum places the visitor in the center of the action – from the earliest days of the Parachute Test Platoon to the ongoing global war on terrorism.
For example, you’ll walk through a section of a C-47 interior.
And you'lllisten as the soldiers from the 509th prepare for the Army’s first parachute assault into North Africa during World War II.
In a realistic looking, war-torn Normandy village, you’ll observe a paratrooper preparing to jump overhead.
Take your seat in a briefing tent as you hear plans for the Pacific Airborne campaign.
You’ll also see exhibits and dioramas representing scenes from Korea and Vietnam.
You’ll learn about a new breed of soldier – the Army Special Forces.
Also, you'll watch as a UH-1 helicopter delivers 174rd Airborne Brigade troopers to the battlefield.
The museum also showcases the inner workings of a Special Forces CIDG camp, the rescue of a hostage and the realities of desert warfare.
The dramatic, life-sized dioramas lead the visitor into the heart of a specific operation through realistic sights and sounds.
Try out the museum’s motion simulator for an additional $5 per person.
In four breathtaking minutes you’ll fall from 10,000 feet on a parachute jump.
In the simulator, you'll also be part of a military ski patrol and “fly” on the skids of an AH-6 into hostile territory.
Visitors might also wish to view “Descending from the Clouds,” a 15-minute Vistascope film shown on a four-story screen. Admission is $4 per person.
If you wish, the motion simulator and film entries also can be purchased together on a “combo” ticket for $8 per person, a $1 per person savings.
Both are optional activities. Again, there is no charge for viewing the museum and its exhibits.
We enjoyed visiting the well-stocked gift shop (shown at left*).
It carries shirts, mugs, prints, jewelry and aviation and military history books and gifts.
Outside the facility's entrance, you'll discover commemorative stone blocks (such as those shown at right*) designating certain Airborne and Special Operations units.
For more information on the Airborne and Special Operations Museum, visit www.asomf.org.
Eco-Exploration, Floral Beauty
While Fayetteville fields robust military history sites, the area also offers other diverse attractions to entice visitors to motor off nearby I-95 and take a break.
For example, more than 20 golf courses are within an hour's drive of Fayetteville
On our visit in late fall, we briefly toured the lovely Cape Fear Botanical Gardens, a 79-acre site at 536 North Blvd. between the Cape Fear River and Cross Creek.
Garden and nature enthusiasts will delight in three miles of nature trails through landscaped gardens (see photos at left and below*) and woodlands.
You’ll find more than 3,000 types of perennials, annuals, native species, shrubs and trees here. Special gardens include Camellia, Daylily and Hosta gardens.
The Heritage Garden complex features a restored 1886 restored farmhouse, along with a general store (shown below*), corncrib, smokehouse and tobacco farm.
The attraction broke ground for a new 33,000-square-foot Visitors Pavilion Complex in fall 2009. The new facility is expected to open in fall 2010.
Designed by Fayetteville architecture firm, Gordon Johnson Architecture, the Wyatt Visitors Pavilion Complex will sit majestically at the garden's entrance.
The atrium-style Entry Pavilion will have floor-to-ceiling glass windows and a distinctive tower. It will host special exhibits.
The Auxiliary wing will include a full-sized children’s classroom and garden store.
It will also house the Garden's operations headquarters, allowing the 19th century farmhouse to become a full-time historical exhibit.
The “shining star” of the Visitors Pavilion Complex will be the octagonal Orangery. With arched windows and a graceful design, the Orangery will have a banquet capacity of 350 guests, a "stand up" reception capacity of 1,000 people.
It will host group events, corporate retreats and receptions, and will have its own catering kitchen and bridal suite.
Connecting the Entry Pavilion and Orangery will be the Grand Hall. This space, which can be open or partitioned, will be a multi-functional area that can be used as foyer space for Orangery events, meeting rooms for conferences and community groups, and as classrooms for the Garden’s expanded educational programs.
The construction project also will include a renovation to parts of the garden grounds. The exterior of the Visitors Pavilion Complex will feature a fountain, wall gardens, and an exterior plaza.
The Florence Wellons Arbor will lead visitors from the entry pavilion to the rest of the garden.
It will be bordered by a fountain and another specialty garden.
The Children’s Garden will be expanded to include a belly-flop deck along the bank of the existing pond and a large perennial butterfly garden.
Admission to the botanical garden is $5 for adults, $4 for active duty military and AAA members, and kids under 12 are admitted free.
Arts and Culture
Downtown revitalization is helping transform Fayetteville into a showplace for arts, culture, shopping, dining and commerce.
The city hosts several high profile annual events including the Dogwood Festival (shown at right*) on April 23-25, 2010, and the International Folk Festival on Sept. 24-26.
On the Friday after Thanksgiving, a Dickens Holiday celebration re-creates a Victorian styled Christmas.
Arts enthusiasts will enjoy Fourth Fridays, when downtown Fayetteville comes alive with art.
The festive event is held every fourth Friday from January through November. (At left, art lovers dine in the downtown area during Fourth Friday.)
The Crown Coliseum seats 13,500; it's the centerpiece for entertainment, sporting events, theater productions and special events.
Year-round, The Fayetteville Museum of Art, 839 Stamper Rd., fields rotating art exhibitions as well as contests, special events and workshops.
Families with young children might opt for a few hours at The Fascinate-U Children’s Museum, (In the photo at right, kids work and buy products in a "supermarket."*)
Located at 116 Green St., this hands-on museum makes learning fun for kids.
Children may touch, pretend, perform, jump, lift, watch, and explore in real-life play situations designed just for little ones!
If you’re interested in transportation, head for the Fayetteville Area Transportation Museum, the region’s newest attraction.
Housed in the restored Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railroad Depot, the museum tells the story of transportation in Cumberland County from native American times to the present.
(The station platform is shown at left*),
Those interested in firefighting might can check out an antique fire engine, peruse firefighting memorabilia and photographs at the Firefighters’ Museum at 101 Olive Rd. You might also chat with friendly local firefighters if they're not on duty.
Of the 625 churches and houses of worship in Fayetteville and Cumberland County, 38 are more than 100 years old.
(The Hay Street United Methodist church is shown in the photo at right*)
If you are interested in historic homes, the 1830 Mallett Rogers House is a rare local example of the North Carolina coastal plains cottage.
Originally part of the 290-acre Eutaw Springs plantation, the cottage was moved to 4500 Ramsey Street at Methodist College and is now utilized as an art museum.
Heritage Square, owned and maintained by The Woman's Club of Fayetteville includes several antebellum structures.
Visitors may visit the 1797-era Sandford House ; the freestanding 1818 Oval Ballroom (shown at left*); and the 1804 Baker-Haigh-Nimocks House.
All are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Sandford House (shown below right*) was one of several locations in Fayetteville occupied by Union troops during the Civil War.
The Baker-Haigh-Nimocks House features a barrel stairway and is a good example of a classic, coastal-type home.
The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Depot is built in Dutch Colonial style and is the only commercial building of that style in downtown Fayetteville
Visitors may view waiting rooms with wooden benches and a baggage room.
The passenger and freight platform and shelter outside date to World War I.
Quirky Fayetteville Facts
- Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run (a 135-yarder) in Fayetteville on March 7, 1914. The Babe Ruth Historic Marker (shown at right*) on Gillespie Street marks the site.
- Fayetteville missed being chosen the state capital of North Carolina by only one vote!
- Archibald “Moonlight” Graham, made famous by the movie “Field of Dreams” was born and raised in Fayetteville.
Places to Stay
Fayetteville is located within Cumberland County; the area has 60 hotels with more than 5,000 rooms.
During our visit, we had a lovely stay at the Hilton Garden Inn Fayetteville/Fort Bragg , which we'd highly recommend.
The hotel is only two miles from Fort Bragg and Cross Creek Mall. It's also just a quick drive to downtown Fayetteville.
The lobby (shown at left and below*) was inviting and spacious.
Guests will peruse high ceilings, pillars, a welcoming fireplace, comfortable seating areas and a large breakfast room.
Check-in at the Hilton Garden Inn was quick and staff were personable.
The lobby area has a couple of nice creature-comfort features.
If you have the munchies -- or are just hungry and tired after a long drive -- then be sure to check out the small room adjacent to the check-in.
It's a mini-convenience mart where guests may purchase sundries, snacks, bottled drinks and even microwavable meals -- so you don't have to leave the hotel to eat.
Also, the hotel has a small lounge; a bartender serves soft drinks, wine, beer and mixed drinks (for a fee); we observed business travelers enjoying a brew while connected to WiFi and doing some late evening work online.
In the morning, a full cooked to order breakfast as well as continental fare are available in the sunny breakfast room (shown at left*). The breakfast was superior to that we had at many hotels on our trip.
Accommodations? The hotel has king rooms as well as a variety of suites including whirlpool suites, king suites, two queen suites (ours is shown at left*) and alcove suites.
All rooms feature Hilton's "Garden Sleep System Bed" and it was extremely comfortable.
Our spacious two queen suite had a separate living and sleeping area. There was plenty of room to spread out our mass of luggage.
Frankly, the living area of this suite was huge in terms of space for bags. (See a portion of the living area at right.*)
We'd spent six weeks on the road so it was nice to view our bags and their contents without stuffing them in closets or tripping over them on the floor.
I particularly liked the kitchen station armoire (see photo at left*).
It included a refrigerator, coffeemaker and microwave -- everything people on the road need to chow down after a long day of sightseeing or traveling.
I had a lot of work to do online, so I also appreciated the free WiFi and wired Internet.
The hotel touts the oversized work desk with ergonomic Mirra chair by Herman Miller as a big perk.
Simply put, it is. It was by far the most comfortable of these so-described "ergo-chairs" that I've encountered in a hotel room.
Desk-level electrical and Internet outlets were a nice touch. Two-line phones feature voicemail, speaker phone capability and data ports.
Had I needed to print something from my computer, I could also have done so -- and picked it up in the hotel's business center.
Guests enjoy HBO and in-room movies on flat screen televisions.
Public area perks include a guest Laundromat; an indoor pool (see photo above*), whirlpool and fitness facility.
Planning Your Visit
Considering a visit to Fayetteville? Then check out the Fayetteville Convention & Visitors Bureau at www.visitfayettevillenc.com, a site that allow you to customize your tour.
This is one of the best tourism Web sites we've seen. It has all the information you need and in a user-friendly package.
For example, the site will allow you to create your own personalized tour and CD with audio information about many sites.
Beyond Lafayette and military history, the CVB has drive tours that cover such subjects as African-American Heritage, Gaelic Beginnings, International Cuisine and more.
Editor's Note: A new geo-caching trail will be added to the line-up later in 2010!.
Fayetteville's main Visitors Center (shown at right*), 245 Person St., is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Satellite offices are located within the Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum; that visitor center is open 10 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Another visitor center in the Cross Creek Mall is open Monday through Sunday; hours vary.
*Photos are owned, copyrighted and used courtesy of either Susan J. Young or the Fayetteville Convention & Visitors Bureau. All rights reserved. Please do not copy nor link to these photos.