Commission requests up to $850,000 to save historic Black N.C. church with roots dating to 1878 

The church is a stone’s throw from Johnson C. Smith University, which would repay the money after possibly turning the space into a community center.

The long-vacant, historic building that once served as the home of the Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina had been at risk of being torn down the last few years for multiple violations of city ordinances, but its fortunes are changing.

Last week, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission voted to request up to $850,000 from Mecklenburg County commissioners to stabilize the crumbling exterior so that work on the interior can begin, the Charlotte Observer is reporting. Restoration and renovation projects like this usually require services from multiple contractors such as commercial painting professionals who can accomplish commercial exterior painting works, concrete paving contractors, electricians, any many more.

Johnson C. Smith University may obtain up to $850,000 to renovate the historic building that once housed the Mount Carmel Baptist Church. (Photo courtesy of Johnson C. Smith University)

This development is in part because of the diligence of Erna Perkins Jones, the facilities director at Johnson C. Smith University, a private HBCU that is just steps away from the church. The building earned local historic landmark status in 1983. JCSU, the current owner of the structure, is now exploring the possibility of having it placed on the Register of Historic Places. 

“It’s a storybook,” Perkins Jones told the Observer. “Every building tells a story. It’s blood, sweat and tears.”

A view of the sanctuary in the building that was once the home of the Mount Carmel Baptist Church. Johnson C. Smith University, which owns the property, may have a funding source for extensive interior renovations as well as exterior renovations. (Photo courtesy of Johnson C. Smith University)

According to the Observer, the church — which has roots dating to 1878 and a seven-person bible group — was built in the early 1920s by a local architect. It would become an important landmark in the Biddleville neighborhood and in Charlotte’s African American community. Many JCSU students attended services there. Perkins Jones described it as a “homestead” as well as a place for spiritual enlightenment and a gathering place.

If the stabilization funds are secured, JCSU would pay the landmarks commission for fronting the costs. The school previously worked with the landmarks commission to remodel a house near campus.

Perkins Jones told the Observer that the Mount Carmel building may ultimately become a meeting space for the community and university, but that “it will always have the footprint of the church.”

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