Preservation Grants 2019
2020 Grant Recipients:
Shiloh African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and Cemetery – $4600 for a National Register of Historic Places nomination
From the application:
Shiloh African Methodist Episcopal Zion church has been in existence since 1874 and there is evidence that it was active as early as 1871. Shiloh was an African American settlement populated after the Civil War by African American freedmen on a small parcel near what is now known as the Cedarcliff Gate on the Biltmore Estate. That former community is referred to as “Old Shilo”.
The church was most likely built of logs. Church history states that the founders raised $7.00 to purchase the original lot and establish the church. In 1888 when George Vanderbilt’s agent Charles McNamee was buying the land for the estate he approached Rev. William Logan, a member of the Shiloh community. Mr. McNamee offered the congregation of the Shiloh AME Zion Church $1000 to move their congregation, church and cemetery across the Asheville- Buncombe Highway to a two acre lot. Unfortunately, the original Shiloh AME Zion Church burned to the ground before it could be moved. The congregation obtained an unused Presbyterian Church for the move. The graves were dug up and re-interred at the new location and New Shiloh was born.
After the move, the church was used not only as a place of worship but also as a community center and as a school for the children of Shiloh. Laborers on the Biltmore Estate whose children went to the school were encouraged to set aside a portion of their salary to help pay for a teacher.
In 1923 the Trustees of the Shiloh AME Zion Church took on a mortgage to build a new church. By 1928 the church was built and the debt was paid. This is the church that exists today.
Western North Carolina Historical Association – $4150 to research, design, print and install a new permanent exhibit in the Smith-McDowell House.
Photo credit: NC Room, Pack Memorial Library
From the application:
Our new permanent exhibit will seek to present a more balanced and holistic picture of what life was like pre- and post-Civil War for all people who resided on the property. Staff will design new interpretive panels that will take visitors on a journey through time beginning with early white settlement and removal of native populations, which will be viewed prior to entering any of the period rooms.
The tour will then continue into the basement of the house – home to the winter kitchen. Here, visitors will view one interpretive panel which gives a broad overview of slavery in the mountains before entering the kitchen and “meeting” a woman – Tilda – who, along with her husband and children, was enslaved by the Smith family.
The tour will continue to the second floor, where visitors will encounter other residents of the home – including James McConnell and Polly Patton Smith, Sarah Smith McDowell (the daughter of James and Polly, who owned the house in the 1860s and 1870s), William Wallace McDowell (Sarah’s husband), George Avery (enslaved by the McDowells), and Mary Francis Garratt (an immigrant, whose father purchased the house to bring his daughter, who was suffering from TB, to the mountains).
High Top Colony Neighborhood Association – $2800 for a National Register of Historic Places nomination
From the application:
High Top Colony in Black Mountain, North Carolina was founded in 1919 by Roy John, a secretary with the YMCA, and associated with the neighboring Blue Ridge Assembly of the YMCA (founded in 1912 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979), the district includes a grouping of primarily 1919 to early 1920s Rustic Revival cottages. The cottages were built for use as summer homes for those attending conferences at the Blue Ridge Assembly, but through the years have become a mixture of year-round residences and summer cottages.
A few of the cottages were built after this initial development time, from 1939 – 1940, in the Bungalow style, and there are also a few modern additions into the neighborhood of cottages built in the 1960s and 1970s, with one as late as the 1990s. The district is significant for its association with the YMCA and the Blue Ridge Assembly, because of the importance of the religious retreat movement within the mountains of western North Carolina in the early part of the twentieth century and for the architectural significance of the Rustic Revival and Bungalow styles of the cottages. Additionally, further research of the association of Dr. Willis Duke Weatherford, founder of the Blue Ridge Assembly, and his connection to the High Top Colony will be important pieces of history to be included in the nomination.
2019 Grant Recipients:
Hood Tours offer bus tours of Asheville’s African American neighborhoods and landmarks. The mix of the history and community with place is the perfect fit for our grant program. In their words, “Hood Tours tells the long-overlooked stories of African Americans in Asheville. We showcase history, art, greenspaces, and current-day grassroots initiatives. We’ve given tours to numerous school groups, university students, and church groups.”
PSABC is pleased to fund $5000 towards the purchase of a new bus for Hood Huggers International which will allow them to offer more tours.
Built in 1948, Rabbit’s Tourist Court was a premier African American motel of its time. After sitting vacant for more than a decade, the family who owned Rabbit’s for five generations was all that stood between this iconic place and almost certain demolition. Multiple offers to purchase the property were ignored before Claude Coleman Jr. and Brett Spivey shared their vision for a music rehearsal space, soul food kitchen and cultural landmark called SoundSpace @ Rabbit’s.
As Coleman points out, “Rabbit’s Tourist Court has been a part of the African-American community for more than 60 years. It is intrinsically connected to the story of Asheville. These connections must not only be preserved, but recreated and strengthened.”
PSABC is excited to contribute $5000 in funding towards Phase 1 of this project. These funds will be put towards efforts to stabilize and water proof the foundation at Rabbit’s.
Last May one of two newly installed Montford bus shelters with history panels was destroyed by a suspected drunk driver. The driver was never caught and it was left to the neighborhood association to figure out how to pay for a new installation.
When PSABC received the grant application in early 2019, we were inspired by the dedication shown by the individuals and businesses in Montford who had worked to raise nearly all of the funds needed to replace the bus shelter. The damaged history panel told the story of “Lost” Montford homes and Montford’s African American community – making it the perfect fit for an education preservation grant. PSABC is honored to fund the $2000 funding gap for this bus shelter to the Montford Neighborhood Association.
Founded in 1989, the Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center is the primary museum of general, local history in Buncombe County. PSABC is proud to provide $1000 of funding towards new exhibit panels for their permanent exhibition, Pathways from the Past, which highlights the settlement and development of eastern Buncombe County. Their efforts to make the project inclusive was important to our decision to fund this project. Executive Director Anne Chesky Smith explains, “Text from the panels will seek to equitably represent the stories of all those who have shaped the Swannanoa Valley, not just those whose voices tend to be loudest in our history.”
Calvary Presbyterian Church – $5000
Calvary Presbyterian Church was founded in 1891 and originally located on Eagle Street. Founder, Dr. Charles Bradford Dusenbury, was also a founder of the Young Men’s Institute (YMI) and he and his wife, Mrs. Lula Dusenbury, started a school in the basement of the church that served African American children and adults.
In 1926 the church moved to its current location in the heart of the East End neighborhood. Still active today, the church has an open and diverse congregation and offers a wide range of services to the community.
This grant will help the church meet funding needs to upgrade the plumbing.
In this age of rampant gentrification – irreplaceable loss of truths, loss of community, history and heritage, loss of life-giving culture, it is imperative that Calvary, and other churches and institutions begun by African Americans continue to stand and thrive. -Pastor, Rev. Patricia Bacon
South Asheville Cemetery Association – $5000
The South Asheville Cemetery began as a burial ground for enslaved people and is the oldest public cemetery for African Americans in Western North Carolina. The first known caretaker was a man named George Avery. Enslaved, Mr. Avery was owned by William Wallace McDowell, of the Smith-McDowell house, who entrusted him as the manager of the cemetery located on the family property.
Though it is thought to be the final resting place for 2000 African Americans, there are only 93 headstones with name and date information. Other graves were marked with field stones or handmade crosses making proper care of the grounds extremely important.
Led by members of the St. John A Baptist Church community, volunteers have worked for decades to maintain the cemetery, but overgrown vegetation is not the only threat. Tucked away in the neighborhood of Kenilworth, this two acre plot is threatened by development on all sides.
This grant will allow for the South Asheville Cemetery Association to complete a nomination for the National Register of Historic Places. Receiving this recognition will be instrumental in building public awareness of the cemetery and will be leveraged to seek additional funding to preserve, restore and enhance the cemetery and education efforts associated with it.