By Catherine Pritchard
The earth will move on April 18 for the planned North Carolina Civil War and Reconstruction History Center in Fayetteville.
Organizers plan to break ground at noon that day for the first phase of the $65 million project. That phase will include moving two Civil War-era houses on the north side of Arsenal Avenue near the Ghost Tower to the southern end of the project’s property by Myrover and Branson streets.
The houses would be placed near the existing Culbreth house, built in the same era, to create a “period” village.
A house at the corner of Arsenal Avenue and Myrover Street, known as the Poe rental house (and not to be confused with the historic E.A. Poe House on Bradford Avenue), would also be moved, but off the property for the center because it was built in 1910.
Each of the houses on the center property would be used for different purposes. One would be a support facility for outdoor activities at the center. Another would be equipped with state-of-the-art equipment for the center’s digital outreach program. The third is intended to be a center for study for academic scholars.
Ultimately, they would be joined on the property by a two-story, 65,000-square-foot center aimed at telling the story of the Civil War and the ensuing Reconstruction. That building would be much closer to Hay Street. The existing Museum of the Cape Fear would be razed and its site would become parking. Visitors would use the pedestrian walkway – which would be covered – across the Martin Luther King Jr. Freeway.
Former Governors James G. Hunt Jr. and James G. Martin, the honorary co-chairs of the history center’s board of advisors, will be at the ground-breaking, along with board chairman James R. Leutze, the former chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
Other notables are expected to participate, including Rev. Aaron Johnson, who was Gov. Martin’s secretary of the Department of Correction; Tony Rand, who served more than two decades in the state legislature, including eight years as Senate Majority Leader, and retired North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson, now a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin and Cumberland County Commissioner Chairman Larry Lancaster will help with the ground-breaking. The city and the county have each pledged to contribute $7.5 million to the history center and state legislators have so far allocated $5 million toward the project. An additional $2 million has been raised from private sources.
David Winslow, senior consultant to the project, said organizers plan to seek more money from the general assembly next year and they are actively talking to private donors.
The first phase of the project is fully funded. Winslow said it’s expected to be up and running by June of 2019.
If funding for the second phase happens quickly, the two-story center could be built in 2020 and open the following year, Winslow said.