The fencing has been removed and pedestrians can once again stroll under the arches of the Fayetteville Market House.
The fencing, which went up following an arson attempt during a protest on May 30, 2020, was removed early Thursday morning.
City spokeswoman Jodi Phelps said there were no issues when it was taken down by a Fayetteville-Cumberland Parks & Recreation building maintenance crew.
Once the fencing was loaded on a truck and all of the dirt blown away, three road sweepers cleaned around the edifice and along Hay Street.
“It looks so much better without it. Everyone has noticed,” said 42-year-old Katie Thompson of Fayetteville, who was sitting on a patio facing the building outside her fiance's downtown record shop. “It just took away from the beauty of the Market House. It (the fencing) kind of reminded me of all the bad stuff.
“It doesn’t seem necessary at this point,” she said. “It served its purpose.”
The building, which was vandalized on the night of the 2020 demonstration, was blocked off while repairs were being done. The city said the repair work posed a danger to the public.
“We were just talking about that,” said Briana Brad, 31, of Fayetteville. “Even though I’ve heard bad stuff about it, it should not be knocked down. It’s part of history.”
Brad and her new friend, 31-year-old Amber Monroe, walked by the Market House while looking for somewhere to eat in the downtown district.
“I think it looks much better without the fence,” Eric Chargois, 46, of Fayetteville, said. “It does look much better.”
Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin said Thursday, “I think that shows we’re turning the page. I certainly hope that shortly after, we’ll start to see some repurposing and revamping of that area so the community gets to move forward.”
Nearly two years ago, rioters broke into the building and set fire to it following protests over the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Downtown businesses were also damaged.
The Market House has been a divisive issue for years, mainly because of its history of slaves being sold there. Some have called for it to be destroyed; others have asked the City Council to preserve the unique structure.
“It’s a thing of contention. It’s important to turn the page,” Colvin said. “One of the things that makes it unique – it doesn’t have a purpose. If it’s going to remain, it needs to have a purpose other than to remind people of what it stands for them.”
The mayor said similar Civil War-era buildings in other municipalities are used as museums or repurposed.
“I think that it has been a problem,” Colvin said. “I think the intent of it should have a modern-day role rather than a reminder of the previous role it played.”
After deciding that it would not be torn down or moved to another site, the City Council has been looking at ways for the city to repurpose the building, with assistance from the Department of Justice.
The council voted March 28 to remove the protective fencing. The vote was 9-1, with Councilwoman Courtney Banks-McLaughlin casting the opposing vote.
Repairs to the building were completed late last summer, and the building has been ready to be reopened at least since the early part of the year.
Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at email@example.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.