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Kyle House Refuses to Give Up The Ghost

Every autumn, when the temperature and the leaves begin to fall, locals look and listen for sights and sounds at one of Fayetteville’s most famous structures. The Kyle House is well known for its historical importance, its classic architectural style – and its ghost.

James Kyle, a prosperous Scottish merchant, built the elegant home on Green Street. Legend has it that Kyle was proud of his home and it is his spirit that continues to help care for it today.

The Kyle House is the first stop on the Dogwood Festival’s Historic Hauntings Tour, a haunted hayride that explores the eerie encounters and mysterious happenings of downtown Fayetteville’s chilling past. Tour dates are Oct. 16-18 and 23-25.

According to surviving descendants still living in Fayetteville, Kyle took issue with his widowed daughter, Annie, when she began taking in boarders. To show his displeasure, his spirit began wandering up and down the stairs – perhaps searching for the unwelcome guests. It is a search, some say, which continues to this day.

Philadelphia influence

James Kyle, who was originally from Scotland, had come to Fayetteville from Philadelphia in the 1800s. He operated a mercantile business where the First Citizens Bank Building is now located. The building, known today as the Kyle House, was built in the 1850s.

Using designs by a Philadelphia architect, James Kyle hired northern laborers to build the house and hauled the building materials by water from Philadelphia. Builders used handmade bricks and hand-hewn support beams in the Greek Revival style. The skilled Italian craftsmen from Philadelphia are credited with the intricate detail work in the interior of the building.

The house has a hipped roof with a widow’s walk and features fancy cast iron design. Outside walls are 18 inches thick, double brick with a sand-filled vacuum between the bricks. This was to provide insulation and help make the building fireproof.

Fluted Greek columns and pilasters adorn the the house. Balcony windows are spotlighted on the second floor.

One enters the building into a large hallway that runs through the house. When originally built, there were four rooms upstairs and four downstairs with four big chimneys. A formal staircase leads to the second floor.

The staircase begins with an octagonal newel inlaid with a six pointed mother-of-pearl star know as a “Builder’s Button.” This was to signify that the house was paid for when completed.

An original old kitchen, located in the side yard, was one large room with a chimney running through the center. On either side of the chimney was a fireplace. All the cooking was done here and carried into the house.

Family first

When the house was completed, James Kyle gave it to his daughter, Margaret, as a wedding gift. She and her surgeon husband, Dr. J.F. Faulk, lived in the house until the end of the Civil War. The Faulks moved to California to live near a friend he had met while in the Army. James Kyle bought the house and gave it to his younger daughter, Annie, who married her cousin, Confederate Captain Jesse K. Kyle of Virginia. It was Annie Kyle who organized the J.E.B. Stuart Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in Fayetteville, meeting with the group in her home. And it was Annie Kyle who helps tell the story of Civil War Days in Fayetteville.

Her account of the visit of Gen. Sherman’s Union Army in March of 1865, was published in a booklet, “War Days in Fayetteville.”

“I had been in the hospital only about a half hour,” she wrote, “when an officer came up the steps and said: ‘Ladies, if you have a home and children you had better go to them, as Sherman is entering the town.’

“When I reached my room at home I sank into a chair and felt that I must give up. My nurse, fortunately, did the best thing for me, placing my little boy in my arms. I then felt I must be brave.

“They entered the kitchen and took our dinner that was cooking, with the pans, ovens and all, and they searched my house from top to bottom taking everything they could carry.

“It is impossible to write or tell what we endured and it never will be known until we stand before the judgment seat of God.

“Fayetteville suffered more than most towns, for we had five cotton factories in the town and one at Rockfish, just a few miles away, and they were all burned to the ground, leaving hundreds of people without work or any means of gaining bread. And as we had been robbed of all we had, we, of course, could not help them.”

The house was spared and a number of other Kyle family members lived there through the years until it was sold to the City of Fayetteville in 1963.

Anita Kyle grew up visiting her grandmother there. Both her grandmother and father believed the ghost stories. “Both of them have said they have experienced it,” Kyle said. “They said it was like walking through a cold glass.”

City Hall

Until 1991, the Kyle House was City Hall, used as office space for the city manager and his staff and it also housed the office for the mayor of Fayetteville. Former Mayor Bill Hurley and his staff often told stories of their spirited office environment. They experienced machines that came on by themselves, unexplained noises, icy drafts that came from nowhere and furniture that would rearrange itself. When former City Manager Roger Stancil was an assistant city manager, he had an office upstairs in the house. According to Fayetteville historian Bruce Daws, Stancil often related an experience with a ghostly image and a cold, icy feeling.

A similar encounter occurred in the 1970s when a volunteer with the Junior League of Fayetteville, dressed in costume was leading guests on a candlelight tour of the home. The weather was not especially cold and the building was comfortably warm when the volunteer took a chill that she could not shake. The bitter cold feeling forced her to drape herself and even warm cider could not remove her chills. Only after she went outside was she able to regain a normal temperature and become comfortable again.

Daws says the Kyle House was a very formal environment when it served as City Hall.

“It was always immaculately decorated with fancy silver and furnishings,” says Daws. “There were many grand moments there and it was always an opportunity for Fayetteville to put its best foot forward. It was an impressive place for the mayor to greet visitors.”

Religious ground

Today, the Kyle House is physically part of St. John’s Episcopal Church.

The church bought the property from the city in 1991 and recent renovations have connected the adjacent house to the church building itself.

“The adult Sunday school class uses the building,” says church administrator Bob Pinson. “And the Kyle House is sometimes used for a variety of other special occasions.”

Anita Kyle says her family is just glad the house is being used. “The family is proud of the house and what it represents,” she said. “We are glad that the house is still an important part of the town’s history and focus.”

Pinson says he has never personally encountered the Kyle ghost, but he is sometimes uncomfortable when he has to enter the house alone at night.

“I sometimes come down to work at night,” he says. “And occasionally, someone will have left a light on in the building. I have to go over and turn it off and I do it as quickly as I can.”