1808 – 1830
In order to talk about the Oval Ballroom it is necessary to talk about the history of the Halliday House which as located about two blocks from the Market House on the east side of Gillespie Street. 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 1916. Catherine married Judge John Cameron after Robert’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. A similar room, though not as elaborate, was added on the south side. Of Regency styling, the octagonal wing, the Oval Ballroom, is now registered on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Cameron’s began renting out the house. One notable character, Mr. Ann K. Simpson, occupied the house during its rental period. Charged with murder of her husband by arsenic, young Mrs. Simpson’s story became the “Trail of the Century” in 1850. Reports indicate that Ann poisoned her husband in what became the Oval Ballroom.
John D. Williams purchased the house for his son Captain Arthur Butler Williams. The Captain brought his wife to the Halliday House and the family lived there until 1958.
Sometime prior to 1930, Fanny “Fan” Williams, Captain Butler Williams’ daughter, inherited the home. She transformed the house into the Colonial Inn which became a popular tourist stop it the 1930s. The fine Southern cuisine was prepared by the greatly respected Mary Sanders and her assistant. Diners in the oval ballroom, which had been moved to the back of the house, shared stories about the wedding held in the room and Ann K. Simpson.
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 its current location on Heritage Square.
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 its original beauty. It is furnished with period pieces given by the Colonial Dames who continue their interest and support of Heritage Square.
Noted architect of the old South, William Nicholas, designed the oval room in the Regency Style. The “Oval Ballroom” 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 Johnson and Waterman.