Restoration in progress of a historic African-American church in Navassa

Restoration project underway at Reaves Chapel (Photo: WWAY)

NAVASSA, North Carolina (WWAY) – A church with significant cultural ties to the Gullah Geechee Heritage Corridor is being restored and brought back to life. Construction of the Reaves Chapel restoration project in Navassa started 3 weeks ago and so far the structure has been stabilized.

The origins of the church date back to the late 1800s and fell into disuse in the early 2000s and began to deteriorate, as the years and countless hurricanes began to take their toll.

“People drive by and slow down and just comment that they never thought they would see it happen, but we have persisted and hope this continues to be a phenomenal part of the community,” said Al Beatty, Cedar Hill / West Bank Heritage Foundation.

It was built by people who were enslaved and cultivated the land where the Cedar Hill Plantation and other neighboring rice plantations once stood.

The chapel was moved in the early 1900s from its original riverside location to its current location at Navassa on Cedar Hill Road.

“It’s really important that we make sure we protect the stories, which could easily have been lost forever. Looking at the situation here I’m sure a lot of people have been wondering if this is even something we can do, and all I can say is we have to try, ”said Jesica Blake, Coastal Land Trust.

This restoration plan has been in the works since 2018. Cedar Hill / West Bank Heritage Foundation, Coastal Land Trust, the Historic Wilmington Foundation, members and relatives of the Reaves Chapel congregation, the Orton Foundation and the Town of Navassa all came together to make it possible.

“This story deserves to be proclaimed loud and clear throughout the Lower Cape Fear region as a testament to the community’s resilience and how this community still loves and cherishes this building,” said Travis Gilbert, Historic Wilmington Foundation.

The entire structure has been lifted and is ready for foundation and masonry work.

“We probably have another 3 months on the project, and at this point the main building will be structurally sound, waterproof, new roof, and the steeple will be back on top,” said Nick Balding, owner of Balding Brothers. .

“People see the importance of restoring this church. Once the church is restored, we will discuss with the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and plan to designate it as a North Carolina Historic Site, ”Beatty said.

The restoration project needs at least an additional $ 100,000 to continue funding the Reaves Chapel restoration project, in hopes of adding additional parking and washroom facilities as well.


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