Fayetteville History: Fayetteville’s first schools

By Weeks Parker

The Donaldson Academy and Manual Labor School was among the many flourishing schools in Fayetteville in the early 1800s. The academy was on the corner of Hay Street and Hillside Avenue, the eventual location of the Haymount Grammar School. The academy opened its doors on Jan. 1, 1834, under the direction of a headmaster, the Rev. Simeon Cotton. A later principal of the academy was Professor Alexander Graham, founder of the public school system in Fayetteville. Mr. Graham was the father of Dr. Frank Graham, president of the University of North Carolina from 1931 through 1949.


In 1867, Fayetteville State University, on Murchison Road, had its beginnings in the Howard School at 328 Gillespie St. which later became the site of a branch of the Cumberland County Public Library. In 1969, Fayetteville State College became a fully accredited university and changed its name to Fayetteville State University.
In the late 1800s, the LaFayette Military Academy was established. This fine military school was located about 100 yards west of the post office building that later became the Frances Brooks Stein Memorial Library, and now the Arts Center at 301 Hay St.


From the late 1800s until the early 1900s, there were many private schools in Fayetteville, including one on Dick Street in the home of two sisters, Miss Annie Ellison and Miss Maggie Ellison, who served as teachers. The students frequently referred to their school as the “A and M School” in honor of their teachers.


The Mary Wright School was at 472 Ramsey St. in the home of steamboat captain John M. Wright, just a short distance from the Confederate Monument at the junction of Ramsey, Rowan, Green and Grove streets that was then known as Saint James Square. In the backyard of this school, there was a beautiful artesian pump. Children who attended Mrs. Wright’s school enjoyed drinking the refreshing water from this pump, and people from all over town came to fill their buckets.


In 1920, Fayetteville boasted one of the largest music schools in eastern North Carolina, the Fayetteville Conservatory of Music. Located in the Kyle House at 234 Green St., it featured three large studios containing grand upright pianos.


The Fayetteville School of Music was founded in 1922 by Max W. Ast of Vienna, Austria. In June 1925, Mabelle New Williams, having served as director and manager of the school for one year, purchased the school. Under her management, the school grew steadily, increasing the enrollment of students including professionals, amateurs, special
students, and children as young as 6.

The first Seventy-First School building was constructed around 1897 and stood near the present site of the brick Seventy- First High School building at 6830 Raeford Road. This tiny schoolhouse has been preserved for posterity and is now located behind the old brick Seventy-First High School building.

The first Massey Hill School was a frame building near what is now the Massey Hill Classical School. This wooden building was on a little hill where a Baptist Church stands across from the present school. In 1913, The Fayetteville Graded School was moved from the Seminary Building on Hay Street to the new Central School building on Burgess Street across from the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry Armory. Central School then became the first Fayetteville High School. The high school remained in the Burgess Street building from 1913-1924. During that time a commercial department and a home economics department were added. The first yearbook, The LaFamac, was published in 1922. In 1924, the high school was moved to another building on McGilvary Street, and Central School became an elementary school.

On May 6, 1924, the Alexander Graham building on McGilvary Street, where the Cumberland County Health department now stands, was dedicated and became the new home of Fayetteville High School. In 1940, the new Fayetteville Senior High School was completed on Robeson Street at the present site of the Highsmith-Rainey Memorial Hospital just one block from the foot of Haymount Hill. Later, a gymnasium was added to the left of the building, and a large auditorium was added on the right. In 1949, a classroom wing was added to the west side of the structure.

In 1952, the Fayetteville High School Band, directed by Harvey Bosell, was accompanied by 10 lovely majorettes who We hope you enjoy this recurring feature by history buff Weeks
Parker, who owns an impressive collection of local memorabilia and photos that he has agreed to share with CityView readers. A former Presbyterian Junior College Band
Director, Parker is the author of 12 books on a variety of subjects including “Fayetteville, North Carolina: A Pictorial History.” performed in parades and at football games throughout the state. In 1954, a new FHS building was erected on Fort Bragg Road.

In 1955, the first class graduated from that building. From 1954 through 1969, this building was known as Fayetteville High School. In the fall of 1969, Fayetteville High School became Terry Sanford High School in honor of the former governor of North Carolina.