Frenchman William Fuquay first settled in the small farming town of Sippihaw, named for the original Native American tribe that inhabited the area. His great-grandson, a tobacco farmer named Stephen discovered a spring in the mid-1800s while plowing the fields of the family plantation. Originally used solely for drinking water, Stephen soon came to the conclusion that the mineral water flowing from the springs had healing properties. As word spread, locals began to help the springs establish this reputation, which brought residents from neighboring communities and counties to its waters. The springs were eventually walled in to better serve the tourists coming to the area by road or rail.
In 1860, Fuquay sold the springs to a group of local investors who formed the Chalybeate Springs Company to market the attraction and its waters. At that time another Sippihaw resident, J. D. “Squire” Ballentine, was returning home from the Civil War. Ballentine had been the town’s schoolmaster before going off to fight for the Confederate Army. During his tour of duty, he had received letters from one of many southern ladies who wrote to the troops to improve their morale. Originally signing her name “Varina,” Virginia Avery would later meet and fall in love with Ballentine. He continued to call her Varina throughout their life together. When he became the first postmaster at the new post office in town in 1880, he named it “Varina” in her honor. A community grew just south of the springs, near the post office and the couple’s Varina Mercantile Company general store. In time, it adopted the same name. Ballentine’s business success allowed him to construct the local historic landmark Ballentine Spence House in 1910, the first house to have plumbing and electricity in the area. This house still stands today.
The Fuquay Mineral Spring’s popularity grew toward the turn of the century, especially in the 1890s as local businessman John Mills developed the idea to offer “Moonlight Excursions” to the springs. He fitted flat rail cars with seats and offered nighttime train trips to southern Wake County from Raleigh. As more guests came to the springs to “take the waters,” a group of small hotels sprung up in town, along with restaurants, barbecue stands, and a dance pavilion with a player piano. The town became a tourist destination and was the site of special celebrations on Fourths of July and Easter Mondays. During these events, residents of Raleigh would take the train down to watch the accompanying baseball games and participate in the dances and celebrations. Hotels like the Ben Wiley Hotel catered to the out-of-towners and became as much a center of town life as the springs. In 1902, Sippihaw was renamed “Fuquay Springs” in honor of its founding family and was officially incorporated in 1909.
When it was incorporated, the new Fuquay Springs town limits included the Varina business district and the rail junction of the Cape Fear, Northern, Norfolk, and Southern Railroads, the core of the neighboring town. But Varina reestablished itself the following year when the Varina Union Station was erected and a new post office was created, spurred by the lobbying of Ballentine. Four years later, the Bank of Varina was established, competing directly with the Bank of Fuquay (now Fidelity Bank). Several warehouses for the growing tobacco business were built in town over the next few years, capitalizing on the railroad connections. Another supply store and a knitting factory followed. As Varina came into its own as a hub for area agriculture, the Fuquay Springs Corporation was formed and began bottling and selling mineral water from the springs commercially. Area businesses continued to develop and in 1927, US 401 was paved through town, shortening travel times to Raleigh and nearby communities, the Fuquay Springs Corporation was formed and began bottling and selling mineral water from the springs commercially. Area businesses continued to develop and in 1927, US 401 was paved through town, shortening travel times to Raleigh and nearby communities. The shared emphasis on agricultural and industrial growth brought the towns to a shared vision, and as their residents worked, played, and attended church together, the eventual merger into Fuquay-Varina in 1963 was inevitable.
The Taste of Fuquay-Varina continues to draw crowds from all over Southern Wake County as we judge our areas’ finest cooks! Our contests include “Best Tasting Cakes”, “Best Decorated Cakes” and our area restaurants will have round two of the “Best Chicken Wings in Southern Wake."
Other festivals and activities that Fuquay-Varina has to offer are as follows: Celebrate Fuquay-Varina with the Celebration of the Arts, The downtown Farmer’s Market, Chili Cook-Off, Independence Day Celebration with fireworks, Trick or Treat and Easter Candy Hop in historic downtown, Holiday Open House, Christmas Tree lighting with free sleigh rides and the Fuquay-Varina Downtown Cruise In festival.
For a calendar of events please visit:
The Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department is now responsible for thirteen park sites with seventeen athletic fields, one gym, and a Community Center offering programs for fitness, education, and recreation. We sponsor adult athletic leagues and coordinate efforts with the Fuquay-Varina Athletic Association (FVAA) to provide outstanding youth sports programs.
Visit the official Fuquay-Varina Parks and Recreation website.