Posts Tagged ‘historic landmarks’

The following excerpt is from an article (with photographs) published in 1919 in The National Cyclopedia of the Colored Race:

“Calhoun Colored School is located at Calhoun, in the agricultural County of Lowndes, southern Alabama, 27 miles south of Montgomery, on the main line of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. Eighty five per cent of the people of the County are Colored, 95 per cent of the precinct.

“The School was founded in 1892 by Miss Mabel W. Dillingham and Miss Charlotte R. Thorn, Northern white workers at Hampton Institute. Shortly before nearly forty Negroes of the vicinity had lost their lives in a race conflict. After this catastrophe the people held religious services for two weeks, praying for a school from the North.

“Among the original trustees were Booker T. Washington, who continued in that office until his death, John Bigelow, and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who was succeeded by Richard P. Hallowell. General Armstrong, though in failing health, gave invaluable endorsement and counsel.

“Lowndes and the adjacent Counties south and west were of the most neglected regions of the South. There was almost no Negro ownership of land. The crop lien tenancy conditions were unusually repressive. The cabins lacked even the crudest sanitary equipment. The meager public school funds of Lowndes County were divided between White and Colored in the ratio of thirteen to one per child.

“Conditions at once shaped the work into the following departments: First, the school centre for a limited number of boarding pupils, with farm and industries; second, instruction of pupils from the cabins; third, community work; fourth extension work into the County and gradually beyond.

“Miss Dillingham survived only two years of Calhoun’s early toils and hardships. Miss Thorn is still principal.”

The complete article is available at Internet Archive.
[What was the “race conflict” noted above? — Leslie]

See also: The Calhoun School Principal’s House is on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). An excerpt from the nomination form on NRHP website notes:

“The campus of Calhoun School consists of approximately ten acres and some seven structures. Unfortunately, most of the structures associated with the school’s early history have been torn down and replaced by contemporary buildings. These older structures include a dispensary, a teacher’s bungalow, and Hampton Cottage, all built between 1900-1930. The only building of historic nature from the earlier founding period is Hampton Cottage, the present principal’s residence. Originally built as one of the six teacher’s cottages, it has been used by the principals since 1947 when the founder’s residence, Thorn Cottage, burned.”
The complete nomination form is at Calhoun School, Lowndes County, Alabama, National Digital Assets, National Register of Historic Places.

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National Register of Historic Places — Final Nomination Form — Lambert’s Point Knitting Mill — #122-0934 reads in part:

“One of Norfolk’s most significant remaining historic industrial buildings from the late 19th century, Lambert’s Point Knitting Mill, built around 1895 to process cotton into cloth by carding, spinning, and knitting the fiber, was situated close to the Norfolk and Western Railway for easy transportation of raw materials and finished products. The mill featured the latest technology available, including steam heat, electric lights, and an automatic sprinkler system. In the early 20th century, there were at least 23 mill facilities in the Norfolk area, an indication of the city’s vitality as a port where shipping, manufacturing, and storage long dominated the waterfront and the city’s commercial thoroughfares. Lambert’s Point Knitting Mill is the sole survivor of those manufacturing facilities. With glass-block windows and a smooth concrete stucco exterior, the building is highlighted by a four-story tower on its south elevation. By 1910, the mill served as a woodworking and wood-processing facility.”

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“Under pressure from the black community, in 1873 the City of Norfolk designated an area of the city specifically for African American burials. Black city councilman and Union war veteran James E. Fuller proposed it be named West Point Cemetery in 1885, and asked the city council to dedicate a section of the cemetery to his fellow black Civil War veterans. This resulted in the cemetery’s most distinguished feature, as well as a prominent example of African Americans exercising newfound political power during Reconstruction: a grouping of 58 headstones of African American Union Civil War soldiers and sailors, and a monument dedicated to their service. It took over 30 years for the money to be raised for the monument, which was completed in 1920, one of only a few similar known monuments in the South. The model for the soldier featured atop it was Norfolk native Sgt. William H. Carney. The 14-acre cemetery also contains a Potter’s Field, or burying ground for the indigent, of 55 headstones that predate the formal establishment of West Point by 30 years; an 1876 mausoleum for a local mason; and several family plots.”

Donna Bluemink and Tim Bonney created a database of West Point Cemetery burials. Their sources included the City of Norfolk Register of Deaths, 1852-1897, St. Mary’s Parish Records, and obituaries.

National Register of Historic Places — Final Nomination Form — West Point Cemetery — #122-5181
includes these facts:
“When federal policy allowed the Union army to enlist blacks, Norfolk was one of the few major cities in the South where blacks could be recruited because the area had been re-occupied by Union forces. After the Conscription Act of 1863 went into effect, northern recruiters flocked to Norfolk and offered bonuses of $300 to blacks who were willing to serve as substitutes for white draftees. The large amount of money that local blacks received led to the establishment of a bank for freedmen in Norfolk and it served as a model for freedmen’s banks in other cities.1 In addition to local blacks serving in northern units, they enlisted in the 1st and 2nd Cavalry Regiments on the peninsula, and the 36th, 37th, and 38th Infantry
Regiments which were organized in Norfolk and Portsmouth. About 1200 local blacks served. They distinguished themselves at the battles of Chaffin Farms, New Market Heights, Fair Oaks, Dutch Gap, and the sieges of Petersburg and Richmond. Many were cited for bravery and awarded medals.”

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Photograph by John Bragg at Freedom’s Jubilee: An African American Journey

Charles City County, Virginia hosts a website Freedom’s Jubilee: An African American Journey. An excerpt from the section called “Fort Pocahontas: Black Troops Tested” states:
“At the war’s end Fort Pocahontas became a headquarters for the New Kent–Charles City subdistrict of the Freedmen’s Bureau. The Assistant Superintendant [sic] for the district approved labor contracts, observed criminal proceedings, issued marriage licenses, organized schools, registered voters, helped unite families and provided relief to destitute elderly freedmen. The Assistant Superintendant [sic] also sought (unsuccessfully) to promote temperance. The agent resided at the Wilson house which was located within the fort and used as officer’s quarters. The house pictured here was moved from Southampton County to the fort during the fort’s restoration because of its similarity to the Wilson house.”

For more information about Record Group 105, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (BRFAL):

African American Records: Freedmen’s Bureau — a description is on the National Archives website.

Records of the Assistant Commissioner for State of Virginia, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1869 — a finding aid produced by the National Museum of African American History & Culture. The finding aid refers to National Archives Micropublication M1048 (67 rolls). The microfilm has been digitized and is available on several platforms.

Records of the Field Offices for the State of Virginia, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872 — the National Archives descriptive pamphlet that serves as a finding aid for the Micropublication M1913 (203 rolls). The microfilm’s been digitized and is available on several platforms.

Mapping the Freedmen’s Bureau — an interactive website that includes Freedmen’s Bureau offices as well as “the branches of the Freedman’s Savings Bank, Freedmen Schools, contraband camps, and even the location of battle sites where men who were in the US Colored Troops fought.”

*** Become a Smithsonian Digital Volunteer and join the Freedmen’s Bureau Transcription Project ***

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Fort Pocahontas

This image of Fort Pocahontas is on the Virginia Department of Historic Resources website.

Here’s an excerpt from the description on the Virginia Department of Historic Resources website:
“Fort Pocahontas, a Civil War fort on the James River, is the best-preserved site in Virginia associated with African American Federal troops in combat. The United States Colored Troops (USCT) constructed the fort in 1864 under Brigadier General Edward Wild….Their defense of Fort Pocahontas ensured security for U.S. vessels on the James and the flow of supplies to Federal troops. The fort is a crescent-shaped, earthen fort with both flanks anchored on the river.”

National Register of Historic Places – Final Nomination Form — Fort Pocahontas – #018-5001 describes the site’s history, its significance, details about the participation of the 1st U.S. Colored Cavalry and 2nd U.S. Colored Cavalry, and maps.

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Front of the Portsmouth Courthouse facing High Street, taken by Max Greenhood for the Olde Towne Portsmouth Visitor’s Guide in 2016

“Portsmouth’s former courthouse, the pivotal landmark of the city’s Four Corners at the intersection of Court and High streets, was built in 1846 as the Norfolk County Courthouse. It continued in that capacity until 1960 when the county was incorporated as the city of Chesapeake and the seat of government moved to Great Bridge. The building served as the Portsmouth Courthouse into the next decade when its functions were transferred to a modern facility.”

Virginia Landmarks Register — 124-0006 Old Portsmouth Courthouse — Portsmouth, Virginia. For additional information read the Final Nomination Form.

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This photograph of a Rosenwald Fund schoolhouse built in Snow Hill, North Carolina is in the Digital Collections of the State Archives of North Carolina and the State Library of North Caolina.

The partnership between educator Booker T. Washington and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald led to a movement to educate African American children in the early decades of the 20th century. Washington, founder and president of Tuskegee Institute, said that “black children’s schoolhouses were ‘not fit for pigs to live in.’ The Freedmen’s Bureau (1865-1872) provided some short-lived schooling for city-dwelling freedpeople; unfortunately, this didn’t help the majority of black families, who lived in rural areas.”

“In the South, it was also common for counties to steal revenue generated by black taxpayers and use it to fund white schools. To compensate, black communities often bore the burden of “double taxation”; in other words, an involuntary tax to the state, followed by a voluntary donation to their community.”

The above is excerpted from The Rosenwald Schools: A Story of How Black Communities Across the American South Took Education Into Their Own Hands.  The website includes maps, photographs, architectural plans, graphs of expenditures, etc.

[Note: What’s sometimes overlooked is that black communities raised money to match donations from the Rosenwald Fund — Leslie]

In 2017, efforts to restore the school building were reported by the local television station:
Zora Stephenson. “The East’s Hidden History: Snow Hill Colored School,”WNCT, 3 February 2017 (accessed February 22, 2021)
Tamara Scott. “Group aims to restore Snow Hill Colored School as African American Museum,” WNCT, 12 September 2017 (accessed February 22, 2021)


The compilation of North Carolina Roswenwald Schools Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, September 1, 2020 includes the Snow Hill Colored High School on page one. The entry has links to the NHRP application and a more recent photograph of the building above.

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Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Portsmouth, Independent Cities, Virginia, Sanborn Map Company, February 1898

Seaboard Airline R. R. Station and Main Offices, Portsmouth, Va. (postcard, circa 1930-1945)


“The Seaboard Coastline Building, a prominent landmark situated on the Portsmouth waterfront, has stood for nearly a century as a major symbol of rail transportation and land-and-sea commerce to the harbor city of Portsmouth, Virginia. Erected in 1894-95 and enlarged in 1914, the structure served as the northern terminus and office headquarters of the Seaboard Air Line until 1956. The significance of the railroad and, in particular, this northern terminal, to the commerce and industry of the region is indisputable: The Seaboard Air Line Railroad transported much of the vast southern cotton crop to the Portsmouth terminal, exchanging for fertilizer and other manufactured products from the north. The railroad provided access to the rich coalfields of West Virginia, the steel industry as far south as Birmingham, Alabama, and the fruit and produce groves of Florida. The strategic siting of the terminal and warehouses along the Portsmouth harbor provided a critical link to the north-south internal shipping route extending from New York to South Carolina, as well as a familiar landmark to the passenger ferries approaching from the neighboring harbors of Norfolk and Newport News.”
National Register of Historic Places — Nomination Form — Seaboard Coastline Building — Portsmouth, Virginia — 124-0053

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122-0040_FBC_VLR_4thEdition_cropped_small“The history of the congregation of First Baptist Church, Bute Street in Norfolk, dates to its organization in 1800 by David Biggs and Thomas Everidge of the Court Street Baptist Church in Portsmouth. Made up of whites, free Negroes, and slaves, the Norfolk congregation by 1805 had grown considerably and had adapted the Borough Church — abandoned by Norfolk Anglicans with the disestablishment — as its worship place.  With the black population of Norfolk estimated at 45 percent at the beginning of the 19th century, a substantial portion of the early membership of the church was black. By 1816, however, several white members of the congregation became dissatisfied with the large numbers of blacks in their midst and left to form the Cumberland Baptist Church. The original congregation continued to occupy the Borough Church building. Although the congregation remained an integrated community and was led by a white pastor, the First Baptist Church became known as a “colored” congregation. In 1830 three free black trustees paid $250 for the present Bute Street site and erected a sanctuary there later known as the ‘Old Salt Box. In 1830 some Negro members left to form another congregation known as the Bank Street Church. From this time on for the remainder of the 19th century, the sanctuary of the First Baptist Church was known as the Bute Street Church.”
National Register of Historic Places – Final Nomination Form — First Baptist Church, Bute Street – Norfolk, Virginia – #122-0040


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St. John's AME Church, Norfolk, Virginia

The congregation “began as an outreach effort around 1800 by the Cumberland Street Methodist Church, obtained its independence during the Civil War in 1863 and joined the A.M.E. connection in 1864. Thereafter, the congregation through its own efforts managed to erect what was then the largest black church edifice in Norfolk. They have taken an active role in Virginia A.M.E. affairs ever since.” —  National Register of Historic Places – Final Nomination Form – St. John’s African Methodist Episcopal Church – Norfolk Virginia – #122-0211

The illustration above is from Our Twin Cities of the Nineteenth Century (Norfolk and Portsmouth): Their Past, Present, and Future by Robert W. Lamb (1888).


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