FUQUAY-VARINA — John Byrne stooped down to the white pipe jutting out of the ground in Fuquay Mineral Spring Park. He cupped his hands under the trickling stream of water, then raised his palms to his lips, sipping the liquid.
Legend has it that the spring contains magical healing powers. Byrne, mayor of Fuquay-Varina and owner of a nearby bed and breakfast, frequents the stream to indulge in one of the town’s best mysteries.
“This is the most important site for the history of our town,” Byrne said. “The town’s heritage comes from the flowing waters of the magical spring.”
The town owes half of its name to the small spring that runs through Fuquay Mineral Spring Park. The spring was discovered in 1858 by William Fuquay while he was plowing a field.
Fuquay-Varina wanted to get back to its history, and that ever-important spring. In 2010, the town bought Fuquay Mineral Spring Park and the former Johnson House next to the park for $429,000.
Workers recently finished renovating the Johnson House, which is now home to the town’s administrative offices. The work cost more than $196,000.
The town will host an ice cream social on Sunday to showcase the Johnson House and the park.
Upgrades include new floors and a roof, along with a heating and cooling system and electrical and plumbing work.
The renovation was part of a movement to revitalize Fuquay-Varina’s downtown. The town had also outgrown the available space at Town Hall. Fuquay-Varina had rented temporary space off of Judd Parkway.
“You only have one chance to make a first impression,” Byrne said. “We want to keep our downtown neat and cared for.”
Black and white faded photographs now line the stairwell and the halls of the Johnson House, boasting the town’s rich history and putting an emphasis on the downtown movement.
The building houses the offices of the mayor, town manager, town clerk, an administrative assistant and the future assistant town manager.
Visitors used to come from far and wide for a few drops of water from the spring. Now, the spring trickles from a single pipe into a stream in the park.
The Johnson House was built in the 1940s and was home to Woodrow Wilson Johnson, a former mayor of Fuquay-Varina.
Now Byrne calls the 3-acre park “passive.” People stop by for picnics, quiet walks and even yoga classes.
Byrne said the town hopes to upgrade the park’s walking trails later this year. There is also talk of an amphitheater and an open play area, but there are currently no plans for construction.
Even if visitors don’t want to drink the water, Byrne said the area is perfect for a sort of spiritual healing. He’s taken a couple of yoga classes in the park.
“People come to the park to relax,” Byrne said. “It’s very peaceful.”
Wanbaugh: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @TaylorWanbaugh