By Weeks Parker
WHEN I WAS A VERY YOUNG CHILD, I lived with my parents, Weeks and Mattie Maultsby Parker, my sister Vivian and my aunt Lucy Maultsby in a lovely 1800s home at 109 Rowan Street. It was near Saint James Square where the Confederate Monument stood at the junction of Green, Rowan, Ramsey and Grove Streets. I fondly remember going with my family to the Cumberland County Fair when it was located on the site of present-day Cross Creek Court.
Because there was no bridge over Cross Creek to connect Grove Street with Grove Street Extension, the only way we could get to the fair was to cross a little foot bridge. The bridge stretched from Grove Street to a little island that was surrounded by swiftly flowing water from Blount’s Creek and Cross Creek before they merged into one stream that entered the Cape Fear River.
On that island was a gazebo where Fayetteville citizens enjoyed picnics and other outings. Near the gazebo was an artesian spring jetting out of a steep hill we had to climb in order to go to the fairgrounds on the other side of Grove Street. Not far from the gazebo, on the corner of Ann and Grove streets, was the home of Fayetteville Police Chief Lee McArthur who had a cow and chickens in his backyard. Farther down the street toward the Confederate Monument was the Theofield Store on the corner of Barges Lane and Grove Street, where children could buy candy for a penny each and where Cokes and other beverages were only a nickel. Across from the store on the opposite corner was the former home of James Herbert Benton who was another Fayetteville Chief of Police. Chief Benton was shot to death in his backyard by a bootlegger in 1908. The house he lived in was later moved to the second block of Ramsey Street where it is now a national landmark. My grandmother, Ethel Hall Maultsby, and her family once lived in the former home of Chief James Herbert Benton. The house was once known as Barges Tavern, which was a popular meeting place for lawyers in the late 1800s. Near Barges Tavern, at Saint James Square, was the John Alexander Oates mansion. As a child, I remember sitting with other neighborhood children on the living room floor of that lovely home as we listened intently to historian Oates tell stories about the old South. His children, John and Mary Oates, were my good friends, and I often enjoyed playing in that spacious mansion that was later moved to Vass in Moore County where it is now used as a country club.
In recent years, my wife Myra and I have videotaped several weddings and receptions in that historic building that still contains the portraits of the Oates family whom I knew so well.
As a young boy, I remember seeing the McNeill Milling Company near the Market House when it was in full operation on the corner of Green and Old Streets. I also remember the ice company next door to the mill where ice could be purchased for only five cents for a large block that was used to cool ice boxes that were used in homes before electric refrigeration was available.
Across the street from the icehouse was the Merita Bakery, where freshly baked bread sold for 10 cents a loaf, and day-old bread was only five cents. I also remember the Millbrook Hotel that occupied the entire block where the First Citizens Bank and parking ramp now stand. The Millbrook Hotel building was once the first Highsmith Hospital which was considered one of the finest in the state. Across from the hotel was the Public Works Commission switch house that controlled all of the lights in Fayetteville. Next door to the switch house was the main PWC office where customers could pay their monthly light bills. Next to the PWC office was The Fayetteville Observer which was next door to The Overbault Hotel that was once called The Eagle Hotel. The top of the hotel can be seen in the right of the picture. All of these buildings were replaced in 1941 by the city hall which is now used as a children’s museum called Fascinate-U.