Fayetteville officials, residents to hear about Civil War history center plans

Fayetteville officials who have concerns about a proposed history center will get to ask questions Wednesday of state officials working on the project.

Then next week, local residents will get to hear specific plans for the NC History Center on the Civil War, Emancipation & Reconstruction. They will have the opportunity to give their feedback that week and the next.

The City Council is trying to decide whether to provide millions of dollars of support for the history center. Some council members have expressed reservations about the center and how it would portray the Civil War.

The council was scheduled to talk about the center at a workshop Monday, but the issue was taken off the agenda.

The NC History Center on the Civil War, Emancipation & Reconstruction is expected to take the place of the Museum of the Cape Fear on Arsenal Avenue near downtown Fayetteville.
The NC History Center on the Civil War, Emancipation & Reconstruction is expected to take the place of the Museum of the Cape Fear on Arsenal Avenue near downtown Fayetteville.

Mayor Pro Tem Johnny Dawkins said he asked that his request for the discussion be removed because of the meeting with state officials. He said officials from the N.C. Department of Natural & Cultural Resources are scheduled to meet with him, Mayor Mitch Colvin, and perhaps a few council members. He said several meetings may be held so all council members can get their questions answered.

Dawkins said residents can hear about plans for the center next week.

A meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church, 1217 Murchison Road, according to a statement released by center supporters. Residents can see plans for the center in the church’s multipurpose room from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of that week.

The following week, Oct. 17-21, the panels can be seen at those times in the Fellowship Hall at Highland Presbyterian Church, 111 Highland Avenue.

Fayetteville:Civil War & Reconstruction History Center's future in Fayetteville could be decided soon

Residents can provide their views on the plans in writing, anonymously if desired.

Dawkins said he supports the history center. He had planned to ask the council to support providing $6.6 million for the facility, according to city documents.

Councilwoman Courtney Banks-McLaughlin was going to ask the council to stop funding for the center, city documents show. She also asked that her request be taken off the agenda.

Banks-McLaughlin could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Colvin also withdrew his request for discussion about the history center.

Dawkins said he thinks there is enough council support for the center to approve the funding, but he hopes the meeting with state officials will ease the concerns some have. He said the facility will not present any admiration for the Confederacy, as some fear.

“The state has done its homework,” Dawkins said. “This is going to be a history center.”

Mac Healy, the co-chair of the history center’s board, said the presentation Tuesday will include storyboards that show what historians are planning to include in the center.

“I think people will see that the general content is not slanted one way or the other,” he said. “It’s going to tell the truth.”

Historians will look at the feedback from residents and verify the authenticity of the content presented by the facility, he said.

“This is the process you go through to guarantee authenticity,” he said.

Healy said he and Mary Lynn Bryan, also a co-chair of the center’s board, are scheduled to participate in the meeting on Wednesday. He said D. Reid Wilson, the secretary of the state Department of Natural & Cultural Resources, and Darin Waters, a deputy secretary, are also expected to take part.

The center is expected to focus on education. State officials say that it will become part of the North Carolina state museum system and will be owned and operated by the state Department of Natural & Cultural Resources.

The facility will take the place of the Museum of the Cape Fear on Arsenal Avenue near downtown Fayetteville.

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A History Village that includes three Civil War-era houses has been completed on the site. An outreach center that is scheduled to serve as an educational resource to teach public school students and an outdoor education pavilion also are planned.

A study showed that the center will contribute 200 new jobs and provide $18 million in economic benefit to the Fayetteville area each year, according to a statement released by the center.

The City Council discussed the history center at a workshop on Sept. 6 after hearing a presentation about the center, but a motion to put the issue on the agenda for the council’s Sept. 12 meeting failed when a 5-5 vote fell short of the majority needed.

The county Board of Commissioners approved providing funding of $7.5 million to the center contingent on the city supporting the facility.

State lawmakers included $59.6 million for N.C. Civil War & Reconstruction History Center in the state budget.

The City Council passed a resolution in December 2016 saying the city would support the center with the funding contingent on county and state support.

County commissioners had adopted a similar resolution in January 2017, but it expired because it contained language that required construction to start before the end of 2020. The City Council’s resolution did not have an expiration clause.

The cost of the history center was estimated at $65 million when the project was discussed several years ago, but a recent estimate for the 60,000-square-foot facility came in at $104 million. Center supporters have asked an architect to scale back the plans to have it cost $80 million.

Staff writer Steve DeVane can be reached at sdevane@fayobserver.com.

This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: State plans to build history center in Fayetteville