Orange inaugurates a park commemorating the black business district | Recent news

Officials on Valentine’s Day dedicated a memorial park in downtown Orange at the corner of Church and Chapman streets that will commemorate the area’s historic African-American neighborhood and business district.

The Orange County African American Historical Society announced plans to establish the park at its annual meeting more than a year ago and worked with city, economic development and tourism advocates to build the park near the train station.

It will include rest areas, walkways, landscaping and three interpretive signs commemorating the city’s historic black commercial district and residential areas of Church, Chapman and Mill Streets and Railroad Avenue in downtown Orange.

A ribbon cutting is scheduled for June 19, according to project leader and vice president of the Historical Society Zann Nelson, of Reva.

When the park was originally announced, board member Bruce Monroe noted that Railroad Avenue, parallel to Orange Station and near the Mill Street neighborhood, was the center of black activity downtown. of Orange.

“There’s a lot of history here – it’s the descendants of emancipated slaves,” he said, noting that black citizens from across the county traveled to Orange and found themselves in the area. They frequented black-owned businesses, including a barber shop, coffee shop, pool hall, and taxi shop, among others.

The project was completed through the collaborative efforts of the OC African American Historical Society, the Orange Downtown Alliance, and the City of Orange. The Virginia Main Street Program and the Fredericksburg Area Association of Realtors provided grants.

Nearly 50 people gathered for the groundbreaking last Monday, a freezing but sunny afternoon to witness the launch of a project on a plot of land in the heart of what was once the thriving black business district of the city.

“We are grateful for this tremendous opportunity for OCAAHS and for the community,” said the Reverend Darryle Crump, who recently announced he is stepping down as president of the organization.