Fayetteville, located near the center of the county and first known as Vandalia, has been its seat of justice since 1837. Completion of the Giles, Fayette and Kanawha Turnpike in 1848 soon spurred growth. Fayetteville was occupied by both forces at various times during the Civil War, as it was in a hotly contested area that was partially pro-Confederate, partially pro-Union. Rutherford B. Hayes, serving in the Union army, declared Fayetteville “a fine village” late in 1861 and added that he hoped to winter there: “Much the best place we have been in. All or nearly all of the people gone, fine houses, and good forage.” Unfortunately, at war's end, the courthouse and all but a handful of those fine houses had been burned or otherwise destroyed.
Fayetteville benefited from Fayette County's postwar development of its rich coal deposits in the best possible way. As seat of one of the state's largest, most populous, and most prosperous counties, it became the home of judges and lawyers, doctors and merchants, builders and craftsmen, thus less subject to the vagaries of economic boom and bust than were nearby coal company towns.
Although sited on a relatively level plateau, Fayetteville has its share of ups and downs. Many slopes, especially along North Court Street and Keller and Maple avenues, are contained by sturdy sandstone retaining walls that Italian masons built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Several members of the Janutolo family were especially noted as area architects, masons, and builders.
The 1941 WPA guide lauded Fayetteville's “quiet streets lined with tall elms and oldfashioned houses with elaborate gardens enclosed within wrought-iron fences, embellished occasionally with iron stags and marble statuettes. The town thrives, but without bustle and hurry; its serenity is broken only during session of the circuit court.” At that time, the population was 1,143, and though the figure has more than doubled to a 2000 count of 2,754, things remain pretty much the same now as then in this quintessential courthouse community. The town is proud of its heritage and is a delight for architectural historians. Small plaques affixed to facades of notable buildings give their dates and carry numbers corresponding to maps and printed guides available at the town hall, 125 Court Street.
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