On July 14, the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry Armory & Museum opens its doors for an informative and family-friendly open house. Fayetteville’s military history reaches back long before Fort Bragg opened, and these 224 years of history will be on display during the open house.
“The Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry was formed in 1793 under an act of Congress called the Militia Act, signed by President George Washington,” Heidi Bleazy, a museum specialist, explained. “In a time before Fayetteville’s large military post, Fort Bragg, the FILI mustered, drilled and prepared to serve the defense needs of the state and nation. They were the military escorts of Lafayette when he was here in Fayetteville in 1825.”
Being able to trace its inception back to local families in 1793 is significant for the FILI. “It is the oldest militia unit in continuous existence in the South and one of the oldest in the country,” Bleazy said. “Known as the ‘Corps of Gentlemen,’ today, members still come from the community. Some are active duty and retired servicemen.”
The group served in the War of 1812 and some conflicts throughout World War I. Since the FILI has existed continuously for such a long time, the museum has captured a unique local perspective on a staggering amount of American history.
The FILI Museum is a private museum. Normally tours are by appointment only, so the open house July 14 from noon until 4 p.m. is a unique opportunity to explore the treasures inside. Bleazy described it as “a chance to meet some of the museum staff and learn about what militia units, specifically the FILI, did and do, as well as view artifacts from several different wars. A walk through the FILI Armory & Museum features the well-known Lafayette Carriage.”
Also July 14, the Fayetteville Area Transportation & Local History Museum will open another historical site in Fayetteville not usually open to the public: The Market House Museum, which resides on the building’s second floor.
“The Market House is an iconic building for Fayetteville, built in 1832 to replace the statehouse that burned in the Great Fire of 1831,” Bleazy said. “It is Cumberland County’s only National Landmark. Not only is the Market House itself important to the travel and trade history of this community, but the site is where North Carolina ratified the U.S. Constitution and became the 12th state; (where) the University of North Carolina was chartered; and (where) Lafayette addressed the citizens of his namesake city.”
The Market House Museum open house is part of an overall effort to open the second floor of the building to the community more often. It is an important part of the local history that interested community members should be able to see. According to Bleazy, this event isn’t just exciting for community members. “Museum staffs are always excited to host events like this,” she said. “So many people enjoy learning and sharing and are often surprised at the big and little stories that make Fayetteville’s history intriguing, unique and worth exploring.“
The FILI Museum is located at 210 Burgess St. For more information, visit www.fili793.com.
PHOTO: Peek into Fayetteville’s past at the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry Armory & Museum open house.