The Oval Ballroom
Heritage And Lore
- Ann K. Simpson
- Fanny Williams
Robert Halliday, an immigrant from Galloway, Scotland, built the house to which the ballroom was later attached in 1808. He lived there with his wife, Catherine (Kitty) McQueen Halliday, and their family until he died in 1816.
Catherine married Judge John Cameron after Robert Halliday's death. The Cameron family erected two similar octagonal wings onto the home. The room on the north side of the house was built specifically for the reception and ball following the 1830 wedding of Margaret, Robert's daughter, to John Sandford.
The Camerons began renting out the house. One notable character, Mrs. Ann K. Simpson, occupied the home during it's rental period. Charged with the murder of her husband by arsenic, young Mrs. Simpson's story became the "Trial of the Century" in 1850. Reports indicate that Ann poisoned her husband in what became The Oval Ballroom.
Interestingly, William H. Haigh of the Baker-Haigh-Nimocks House reported on the trial of Ann Simpson; his report is in the UNC at Chapel Hill Library.
John D. Williams purchased the house for his son, Captain Arthur Butler Williams.
Sometime prior to 1930, Fanny "Fan" Williams, Captain Butler's daughter, inherited the home. She transformed the house into The Colonial Inn which became a popular tourist stop in the 1930s.
Mrs. M. B. McLean, Fanny's niece, donated the Colonial Inn's "dining room" (previously the Cameron's "north room") to The Woman's Club of Fayetteville. In the mid 1950s, The Woman's Club of Fayetteville renamed the now freestanding room as "The Oval Ballroom" and moved it to it's current location on Heritage Square.
Noted architect of the old South, William Nicholas, designed the oval room in the Regency Style. The "Oval Ballroom" is is an elongated octagon in form on the outside and a perfect oval on the inside (20' x 30'). Because of its unique design, the room is registered in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. and featured in the book, Early Architecture of North Carolina by Johnston and Waterman.
The Cumberland County Committee of the Colonial dames of America began a campaign to complete research and to restore the Oval Ballroom. Today, the room presents it's original beauty. It is furnished with period pieces given by the Colonial dames who continue their interest and support of Heritage Square.