Oval rooms are rare. In fact, only one is known to still exist in North Carolina, and you can find it in Fayetteville’s Heritage Square. But don’t let the unassuming octagonal shell fool you—the Oval Ballroom is pure 19th-century opulence.
Currently a free-standing structure, the Oval Ballroom started its life as a 20’ by 30’ addition to the grand Halliday-Williams House, built in the early 1800s by Robert Halliday, an immigrant from Galloway, Scotland. He lived there with his wife, Catherine McQueen Halliday, and their family until he died in 1816. Catherine then married Judge John Cameron. The Cameron family likely erected two octagonal wings onto the north and south sides of the home sometime between 1818 and 1830. The room on the north side of the house (likely designed by William Nichols of Bath, England, who became the State Architect of North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana) may have been built for a reception following the 1830 wedding of Margaret, Halliday’s daughter, to John Sandford.
In 1870, John D. Williams purchased the house for his son, Captain Arthur Butler Williams. Sometime prior to 1930, Fanny Williams, Captain Butler’s daughter, inherited the home. She turned it into The Colonial Inn in the 1930s and used the north side addition as the inn’s dining room.
By 1956, however, the Halliday-Williams House was slated for demolition. Luckily, the donation of the Oval Ballroom to the Woman’s Club of Fayetteville meant that one of the home’s rare additions was moved and saved from destruction. In 1996, realizing the little room’s importance, the Cumberland Committee of the NSCDA teamed up with the Woman’s Club to embark on a thorough and painstaking restoration. Over a period of four years, the historic fabric of the room—by then a free-standing building—was revealed, documented, and reinstated. The Oval Ballroom was returned to its glorious 19th-century appearance and grandeur.
The room stands today as a perfect oval, an exquisite example of Regency architecture, and one of the few curved rooms in the U.S. and the only one in North Carolina. It is so architecturally interesting and rare that the Metropolitan Museum of Art, at one time, tried to purchase this beautiful oval room and have it moved to New York City.
Happily, the Oval Ballroom remained in Fayetteville, and awaits your visit. But remember to call ahead—this little masterpiece, located just over four miles from Interstate 95, is only open by appointment.