Fayetteville was perhaps the second county seat
in the United States to be laid out by legal mandate with a
courthouse square in its center. A stone plinth on the square’s
Northeast corner marks the spot where in 1810 a pin was driven,
and the committee of surveyors, including Hardy Holman, began
cutting away at the vast can brake which covered all, and platting
the future town. The county court had acquired 100 acres from
Mr. Ezekiel Norris—first by attempted chicanery and then
by gradual purchase—for a county seat. The acreage, reserved
for the courthouse, was cleared by a freed black man named Richard
Sappington. A brick courthouse, completed in 1815, replaced
a temporary log one, which stood on a corner of the public square.
For the next 160 years this courthouse and the four blocks surrounding
it were the hub of political and economic life of Lincoln County.
For its first half-century, the homes of leading citizens, the
shops of essential craftsmen, a few stores and offices, taverns
and stock pens lined the square. Most of the buildings were
log or frame structures.
By the 1850’s, brick structures and more
mercantile establishments appeared. During the occupation of
Fayetteville, for two years of the Civil War, Union troops fortified
the courthouse with a “bomb proof” wall, and used
it for military headquarters. Under martial law, commerce almost
ceased. In the decades after the war, each burst of prosperity
and each economic slump is mirrored in the square as we see
it today. In 1874, the graceful Italianate courthouse, which
reflected Lincoln County’s first post-bellum recovery,
replaced the original 1815 building. For another near century,
before its unfortunate demolition, this structure in its park-like
setting dominated the square. The completion of the current
courthouse signaled the close of the public square’s function
as economic center of Lincoln County.
In the 1870’s enough capital was accumulated
for the handsome structures on the North and East sides to rise.
A disastrous national depression in the late 1870’s halted
further development. Local disasters—from the cyclone
of 1850, which destroyed the first two-story commercial buildings,
to two great fires in 1885, which consumed the entire West side
excepting the Dragonfly Art Gallery (then, possibly the Tip
Top Saloon). These disasters affected the gradual completion
of a district of brick, two and three story business houses
with warehouses and professionals’ offices located on
the upper floors. The oldest structures remaining are on the
Southeast corners, the Northwest corner, the Southwest corner
and the North sides of the square.
Don’t forget that prior to 1903, saloons
on three sides of the square were interspersed with dry goods
stores, groceries, hardware businesses, tailoring establishments
drugstores, banks, doctors and lawyers’ offices—no
lady walked unaccompanied across the square in those days.
In the early 20th Century, an elegant dry goods/department
store—Jarvis’—occupied part of what is now
the municipal building as well s Rutledge & Eakin dry goods
and Shainberg’s Kuhns, both “dime-stores.”
South Side of the Square
The corner building is antebellum, built by
an early silversmith, Mr. Ringo. This side, was the last
to achieve its current form. In the 1880’s and 90”s
the center of the block was dominated by a large, two-story
opera house—Bright Hall—where traveling theatre
troupes and light opera companies performed. For well over a
century, the corner, now occupied by O’Houlihan’s,
was the site of markets and grocery business. One of our two
independent newspapers, The Lincoln County News, first published
in 1835, was located in the middle of this block for decades.
West Side of the Square
The Dragonfly Gallery is the oldest building
on this side. During the 1880’s and 90’s, it housed
the Tip Top Saloon. Before 1900—“Fire House Hill”—was
known as “Tip Top Hill.” Only after the fires of
1885, was the rest of the block completed. A department store
(Terry’s) and the great Ready Bakery occupied the building
where the Magnolia Mall is now. Butchers, barbers, varied merchants
and on the corner, the McKinney Drugstore filled the block.
The Pythian Building
At the turn of the century, a fraternal order,
the Knights of Pythians, built this “Castle.” On
the top floor was their meeting hall. Below were spaces rented
to professionals and businesses and Fayetteville’s first
“public library,” founded and operated for over
half a century without any public funds by a women’s literary
club—the Round Dozen. The ground and basement floors,
of this building, were occupied by businesses and shops.
North Side of the Square
Wright’s Store: from the first decades
of the 19th Century until the 1960’s this has been the
site of the leading dry goods store in Fayetteville. It was
the site of the Douglas brothers business in ante-bellum days.
One brother migrated to Nashville where, in the 1850’s,
he was the city’s leading merchant. For decades it was
Mr. Andy Wright’s store where everything from the finest
imported laces to all manner of materials and readymade finery
brought from New York could be had.
Ashby Hardware: This building was like others
on the block, constructed in the first recovery boom after the
Civil War. In the 1870’s for nearly a century, a bank
occupied the West side of this store. For over 130 years a hardware
company has occupied the East side. One was the parent company
of Benedict & Warren of Memphis, the Deep South’s
largest wholesale hardware company.
Incidentally, the first telephone in Fayetteville
rang in 1895, in what is now Massey Realty and was then the
Hugh Douglas Smith Seed and Grain Company. Grocers, druggists
and jewelers long occupied this block.
On this corner for over a century, jewelry businesses
have operated. In the early 20th century, Mr. Broussard, a French-speaking
native of Switzerland, not only sold beautiful things but also
created exquisite settings of precious stones and did fine engraving.
College Street, East
Built in the 1850’s, this was the home
of Dr. Calvin McGuire, a prominent physician and banker. Three
generations of this family occupied the house, which has Bohemian
glass sidelights. At least six generations of the family have
been baptized in the Presbyterian Church. Serving in the Virginia
campaigns of the Civil War, Dr. McGuire was Gen. Lee’s
First Presbyterian Church: The congregation
was organized in 1814. This building, the oldest public structure
in Lincoln County, was completed in 1854. It replaced the first
building, which was demolished in the cyclone of 1851. James
Bright, one of Fayetteville’s early citizens and Surveyor
General of Tennessee, bought acreage from Ezekiel Norris on
the edge of the town and gave land for the Presbyterian Church
and the town burial ground.
During the Civil War, this church was used by the Federal as
a hospital and stable. There was originally a steeple, that
was thought to have been damaged during The War. In an attempt
to provide safety for the citizens, the men of the church, decided
to pull down the steeple before it fell on someone. Many oxen,
mules and horses were used, but the steeple held fast to it
base. Unfortunately, the men dislodged it just enough to make
it completely unsafe, and then the demolition project had to
Washington and Main
From this point, three of the few remaining
ante-bellum houses of Fayetteville may be seen. To the right
is an 1850’s brick house whose massive colonnade dates
from the 1930’s. This home was occupied by the Holman
family from the turn of the century for thee generations. To
the left, on the corner, is another 1850’s brick house
built by John Morgan Bright for one of his daughters. It was
occupied by the Higgins family and later the Reeses from succeeding
decades. To the right beyond the stoplight is a mind-1850’s
frame house—once the home of the Presbyterian minister
of that era. The ancient brick smokehouse behind it was constructed
from bricks burned in 1853 and 1854 for the church. The columns
on its front were added in the 1940’s, rescued from an
old house facing demolition in Alabama.
Corner of Green Street and Mulberry
Three houses command our attention—two
having been occupied by the same family for generations. A fourth
was occupied by a family distinguished for its contributions
to Fayetteville, and its corner harbors a rare evergreen. The
Cowan/Patrick home, built in 1909, by Mr. W. G. Cowan and his
wife, Myra McGuire Cowan. Mr. Cowan was a prominent financier
and Mrs. Cowan a noted musician, the first organist of the Presbyterian
Church. Their daughter, Mrs. J. C. Patrick, was born in the
house and lives there today.
To the right is the Whitaker/Fulton house, which
dates from the late 1840’s. Its builders were the Whitakers,
a family of educators. In the 1890’s Miss Isabel Whitaker
and her sister, Ms. Allen, built a schoolhouse on the southeast
corner of the lot. For decades their school prepared the elite
of Fayetteville for the rigors, of prep school and college.
Their niece, Mrs. Maude Allen Fulton, was a teacher of speech
and dramatics for decades. She added the massive Ionic portico
On the corner is the Medearis house, which has
been occupied by the same family for a century. Built in the
late 1890’s, by Dr. Warren, it was purchased in 1900 by
Mr. W. D. Medearis. He was an original stock holder and long-time
president of the old Fayetteville Electric Company, which furnished
power to the city beginning in 1889 and continuing until the
TVA forced it to close 50 years later.
Bonner/Lamb House: Col. Gordon, who came here
from Philadelphia, PA, built this home in the 1840's. He sold
it to antebellum Lincoln County’s wealthiest citizen and
largest landowner, Dr. William Bonner. Col.Telford soon after
built the house just to the East. Dr. Bonner was succeeded as
owner by his daughter, Mrs. J. B. Lamb. The Lambs produced a
line of distinguished lawyers. Descendants still own the house
This house, whose current
appearance dates from the 1920’s and 30’s, was the
one Col. Gordon built for his family who resided here for nearly
a century. His granddaughter, Mrs. Claire Barnett Buchner, was
not only a founding member of the (Sr.) Round Dozen who gave
and maintained Fayetteville’s public library for over
50 years but, was one of Tennessee’s leading suffragists.
She was very prominent in Tennessee’s (by one vote) ratification
of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the vote. Mr. and Mrs.
Roy Reese gave the façade its current appearance. For
many years this home was the home of another distinguished and
public-spirited individual and his family, Mr. William R. Carter.
Dr. T. A. Patrick’s house: Beneath the
beautiful, locally quarried, rough marble and Georgian revival
exterior of the 1940’s lies a frame house built in the
1850’s by Judge Chilcoat, Lincoln County’s first
judge. He was viciously murdered during the Civil War by “irregulars”
who claimed to be loyal to the Union. Later this was the home
of Dr. T. P. Holman whose wife, Selena Moore, was the National
President of the WTU and very influential in securing the passage
of the 18th Amendment. For many years hers was the only portrait
of a woman to hang in our state capitol building. In the 1940’s
Fayetteville’s beloved Dr. T. A. Patrick and his wife
remodeled the house and had the stone façade installed.
Newsome House: Mr. Hubert and Miss Mildred Holman’s
home. Build in the late 1890’s by a prominent merchant
of Fayetteville, Mr. J. L. Newsome, this turreted colonial revival
house was presented by Mr. Hubert Holman to his bride, and the
family occupied the house for many years. It is not the home
of Dr. McKinney.
Thomison’s: This Victorian valentine house
has been occupied and owned by the Thomison family for over
a century. Its oldest section dates from 1865. The house as
it currently appears was completed in 1890. The noted Judge
Joseph Higgins and his family occupied the house for a few decades
before the Thomisons.
The Gillespie/Buchannan House: The Victorian
home of the Gillespie’s was built in 1872. Mrs. Gillespie
was a prime supporter and participated n the funding and building
of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church. The house was sold to
the Buchanan family and is still inhabited by descendants.
Washington Street – First Block
Left – Here are the first “spec”
houses built in Fayetteville prior to the 1950’s. In the
middle 1920’s, Mr. Hiller built two and planned a third.
The crash prevented project completion, and gave a side yard
to the corner house.
Right – The Lamb/Rice/Warren house was
the home of Fayetteville’s noted actress, Adnia Rice,
and her mother. They lived here following Ms. Rice’s retirement
from the state in New York. The other houses in this block were
constructed between 1870 and 1910.
Church of Christ – In 1867, the recently
organized Christian Church erected a brick meeting house. The
great cyclone of 1890 demolished it, and an elegant gothic structure
with two asymmetrical spires replaced it. In the early 1900’s
the Congregation became a Church of Christ. In 1952, the gothic
church was destroyed by the cyclone. The current structure replaced
To the right, the Dance Studio, formerly the
Rotary Building, was Fayetteville’s Baptist Church.
The Douglas House – North Elk and Washington.
Built in 1894, as the town house for Mr. Hugh B. Douglas’
family, whose 1,400 acre farm lay east of Fayetteville, on the
west side of the Elk River from Kelso. The elaborate interior
millwork of the town house was made from lumber felled on the