A grand Federal-style home called Cool Spring Tavern stands in downtown Fayetteville. A low brick wall encircles the house, and giant oaks guard either side of the entrance. A stream gurgles nearby.
I’m drawn to Cool Spring. I can’t help it. The historic home is both beautiful and steeped in local history. It’s the kind of place that takes my breath away.
History of Cool Spring Tavern
The house was built by Dolphin Davis, a Halifax County, Virginia native. Davis was a veteran of the American Revolution who took part in the Battle of Kings Mountain. He settled in Fayetteville before 1784.
After Davis arrived in Cumberland County, he married Ann Stevenson. Ann was the daughter of Scottish emigrants who came to the Cape Fear Valley after the Battle of Culloden.
In 1788, Davis completed the construction of the two-story home near Cool Spring. A year later, he announced the opening of Cool Spring Tavern as a public house in The Fayetteville Gazette.
The Fayetteville Convention
The tavern lodged NC delegates of the Constitutional Convention in November of 1789. At the time, North Carolina had no capital, and Fayetteville sometimes served in this capacity until the construction of Raleigh.
Delegates to North Carolina’s first Constitutional Convention in Hillsborough failed to ratify or reject the Constitution in 1788.
Anti-Federalists remained suspicious of the proposed federal government. They worried states’ rights and individual liberties would be at risk by giving the central government too much power.
North Carolina’s delegates suggested Constitutional amendments and requested Congress add a bill of rights. Meanwhile, Federalists campaigned for a second convention and worked to garner enough support for ratification.
Over the following year, George Washington was unanimously elected president, a Bill of Rights was proposed for the Constitution, and the new federal government appeared stable. These factors eased Anti-Federalist’s worries in the months leading up to the Fayetteville Convention.
271 delegates from across North Carolina showed up for the NC Constitutional Convention of 1789. A few of them lodged at Cool Spring Tavern, including Governor Richard Caswell. It’s easy to imagine early state leaders lounging on the double porches debating the merits of the newly formed union.
Sadly, Caswell would not live to cast his ballot. He died in Cool Spring Tavern ten days before the vote.
The convention went on without him, and on November 21, 1789, delegates met at Fayetteville’s state house to ratify the U. S. Constitution, making North Carolina the twelfth state in the union.
Cool Spring Tavern Today
In the following decades, Fayetteville was struck by two massive misfortunes.
A fire in May 1831 took out 600 buildings downtown, including the state house where NC ratified the Constitution. 30 years later, Sherman and his troops destroyed the arsenal, the printing office, two foundries, all the mills, cotton factories, and oil works.
Through it all, Cool Spring Tavern endured. At 235 years old, it is the oldest structure in Fayetteville – and one of the most historically significant sites in the city.
Today, Cool Spring Tavern is privately owned and serves as office space for Connections of Cumberland County. It is not open to the public. But gawkers are welcome to come take a peek from the road.
This is a good day for it. The state of North Carolina turned 234 years old this morning, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than peering up at Cool Spring Tavern.