“If we don’t do this, we will commit ourselves to mediocrity for a long time,” declared former state senator Tony Rand. He spoke out at a public meeting hosted by the North Carolina Civil War History Center Board of Directors. President Mac Healy brought Fayetteville City Council and a few County Commissioners together to ask for their financial support. No state has ever presented a comprehensive view of the effect of those times on all of its people … until now. Board member Mary Lynn Bryan emphasized that the educational center would focus on antebellum North Carolina, the War Between the States itself and reconstruction, virtually most of the 19th century. North Carolina people, not battles, would be the overarching presentation.
Healy told a full house at the Arts Council downtown that development of ideas for the center has been underway for eight years. Officials are at the point now of soliciting $7.5 million commitments from the city and county. Total projected cost of the 60,000-square-foot facility is $65 million. Here’s the breakdown: $7.5 million in local private donations, $7.5 million in statewide private donations, $15 million in city and county grants, $30 million in State of North Carolina grants and $5 million in state in-kind contributions. Healy said the state wants a local commitment to show that Fayetteville is serious about what would become a division of the North Carolina Museum of History. But, he added that if the state doesn’t commit, local government would not be held to their pledges.
The center would provide “an opportunity to teach people; to make people think,” Bryan said. “It takes Fayetteville statewide as a tourist destination,” said Dr. James Anderson, Chancellor of Fayetteville State University. In answer to questions from Fayetteville Mayor Pro Tem Mitch Colvin and Councilman Larry Wright, Board of Advisors Chair Dr. James Leutze assured all present that a motivating objective was to be sure the center told the multi-cultural history of the era.
Healy said ground breaking is tentatively set for 2020. The history center, once built, would be operated by the state according to Healy. Annual operating cost is estimated to be about what it now costs to run the Museum of the Cape Fear which it would replace. The Civil War History Center would be built on the grounds of the 19th Century Fayetteville Arsenal and would incorporate the ruins of the arsenal. The entrance to the grounds and parking, would be where the museum is now. A covered walkway would traverse the highway below.