I’m going to try to give you the history of the current Fayetteville City Hall building site. I’m sure if anyone contacts me because I have an error, I’ll be sure to pass it along.
The first school on that very site was in 1855 . The first county school of record was that year, and Colonel James F. Johnson owned the land in town just south of the 1825 courthouse building and sold some it for a school to be built – the newly former Fayetteville Academy.
Col. Johnson was married to the former Martha Holliday, aunt of the famed “Doc” Holliday of Western fame. The Hollidays arrived in Fayette County in the early 1830s from South Carolina. One of Martha’s nieces, Anne Elizabeth Fitzgerald, actually attended this school. More on this niece and her fictional counterpart, Scarlett O’Hara, in the next column.
It is believed that this is the school building blown down in the cyclone here in 1892 (that was the term used in our local newspaper).
Another school was built and was also a wooden school and when it became empty years later, it was torn down and the first school built of bricks was around 1921. It was a two-story building with the high school on the top floor and the elementary school on the lower floor.
A high school was later built by the cemetery leaving the building for elementary students. Unfortunately this school burned in the late 1930s and when rebuilt wasn’t big enough to hold the number of elementary students in our county at that time. So I’m going to digress here for a minute. Some barracks-type building was hauled into town from somewhere nearby, placed near the brick building, and a couple of elementary grades were transferred over to it. Some dark brown siding was placed on it and when it was decided to paint it a tan color, unfortunately it fused into a sort of rosy shade and was henceforth known as the “Pink Palace.”
A new elementary school was built on Lafayette Avenue and the building was then closed.
The building was closed for approximately 10 years and it was decided to move the Special Needs children from the little school in Kenwood to this building. However, it was known to be full of asbestos and had to be removed first, which it was.
The building was then empty from approximately 1985 until city hall entered this old school building on March 4, 1995.
The City of Fayetteville has now officially purchased 10 acres from the Fayette County Board of Education to create a whole new complex.
One can only hope that the current site continues to be used in as rich and useful life has it has since 1855. Let’s make Col. Johnson, Philip Fitzgerald, the Holliday’s and Scarlett O’Hara proud of their part.