-Part 2: Fayetteville, TN Square History- Written by: Elijah Arnold
For over a century, a bank under various guises operated in what is now the entrance half of Carter's Drugs. The unoccupied building at the corner of College and Elk dates from the 1850s. For most of a century, its third floor was a "lodge hall" – first for the Masons and later the Odd Fellows. In the early 20th century, an elegant dry goods/department store (Jarvis') occupied part of what is now the municipal building, as well as Rutledge & Eakin dry goods and Shainberg's and Kuhns, both "dime-stores."
On the south side of the square, the corner building is from the antebellum period, built by an early silversmith, Mr. Ringgold. This side was the last to achieve its current form. In the 1880s and 90s, 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, where O'Houlihan's once inhabited, was the site of market and grocery businesses. One of our two independent newspapers, The Lincoln County News, first published in 1835, was located in the middle of the block for decades.
On the west side of the square, the oldest building is The Dragonfly Gallery. During the 1880s and 90s, 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 building is. Butchers, barbers, varied merchants, and McKinney's Drugstore (on the corner) filled the block.
On the northwest corner, the Pythian Building is one of Fayetteville's most recognizable buildings. At the turn of the century, a fraternal order, the Knights of Pythians, built this "Castle." The top floor was their meeting hall, and the spaces below were rented to professionals and businesses, as well as Fayetteville's first "Public Library." The library was founded and operated, for half a century, by a women's literary club "The Round Dozen" without any public funds. The ground and basement floors were occupied by businesses and various shops. Today, the bottom floor is occupied by Fayetteville Main Street, and the whole top floor is a spectacular Air B&B.
On the north side, Wright's Store sat proudly from the first decades of the 19th century until the 1960s, serving as 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 1850s, 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 from New York could be bought.
Overall, what we see today was constructed in the first recovery boom after the Civil War. In the 1870s, 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. It was home to the first white barber, and barber shops also had baths attached, making it a rarity prior to 1895. Later, around 1900, it became the office of the Fayetteville Electric Company, which furnished electricity to Fayetteville from 1889 until the late 1930s. Incidentally, the square was the first site in Fayetteville where the first telephone rang in 1895, in what was then the Hugh Douglas Smith Seed Company. The building is currently occupied by Massey Realty. 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 fine engraving.
Over time the square has seen a variety of different establishments in its 200+ years and has always been the beating heart of Fayetteville. Hopefully, it can continue to be so for many more years to come.