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Downtown Orange adding new park to honor the historic Black Commercial District

A $25,000 was just approved to help create a park to honor the African-American community downtown.
Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 12:31 AM EDT
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ORANGE, Va. (WVIR) - Orange County is shedding light on the history of its Black commercial district.

A $25,000 grant from the Department of Housing and Community Development was just approved to help create a park to honor the African-American community downtown.

“It draws the community together so that they understand it wasn’t just one set of people who made the wonderful history in this community,” project leader Zann Nelson said.

The Orange County African American Historical Society is the driving force of this project. They worked with the Orange Downtown Alliance to receive the money from Main Street Virginia and the Commonwealth.

“We were very fortunate when we put in that grant application, to be able to demonstrate that this is a totally big investment from a number of entities around the town to make a nice space for citizens.” Director of the Orange Downtown Alliance Charlotte Cole said.

The president of the African American Historical Society Darryl Crump says he was so excited, he felt like doing the electric slide when they finally got this grant.

These plans have been in the works since June of 2020, but the history dates back even further.

“There’s so many good things in this town that have happened that so many people have no knowledge of,” President of the African American Historical Society Darryl Crump said. “This park will help a lot to bring some of that information to life.”

The park will be on the corner of Church Street and Chapman Street downtown, right by the railroad tracks. This location was specifically selected because it is in the heart of what was the Black business district.

“We decided we wanted to start here because this is a big story,” Nelson said. “It was an in-town community of African Americans, both commercial and residential. It instills pride in those that this community belongs to.”

The park is not like others in the area. It is more of a thinking space for community members, and tourists. It will consist of three interactive panels that will have a QR code linked to online stories.

“It will be a place where people can come and reflect,” Nelson said. “It’s good for tourism, it’s good for economic development, because it will bring more attention to some absolutely fantastic buildings that are just waiting for somebody to love them.”

The historical society says the park will come together in the spring. Until then, if you want to send photos for the panels, you can send them directly to the African American Historical Society.

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