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140-year-old church in downtown Charlottesville trades hands

The 140-year-old temple in downtown Charlottesville that once served as the home of the historically Black Mount Zion Baptist Church is returning to its roots and will, once again, be a fully operational house of worship.

The Charlottesville-based nondenominational Point Church has acquired the building at 105 Ridge St. for $1.3 million, about 25% lower than its assessed value of $1.7 million and about 60% more than the $713,000 it last sold for in 2004.

Since 2004, the property has been home to the Music Resource Center, a nonprofit, music-based, after-school program that works with students particularly from Buford Middle School and Charlottesville High School.

The Point Church said it plans to officially begin operating out of the Ridge Street property in April of 2025 and will continue to lease the first floor of the building to the Music Resource Center until the nonprofit group relocates to its new facility on Cherry Avenue sometime in 2026.

The Church of the Good Shepherd, an Anglican congregation that is relatively new to Charlottesville, has been using the church’s worship space since last year, sharing the property with the Music Resource Center. But according to city records, that church has recently acquired a property at 750 Hinton Ave. in Charlottesville’s Belmont neighborhood from the Hinton Avenue Methodist Church. That $1.5 million is about 50% lower than the property’s assessed value of $3 million. City Council in 2019 allowed the land to be rezoned for the Methodist church to begin construction of an affordable housing project there called Rachel’s Haven. Although construction was slated to begin sometime this year, so far no units have been built.

Back on Ridge Street, the Point Church says it is planning on converting the old Mount Zion space into a new “downtown campus” for its congregation.

Chip Measells, the church’s executive director, says the mission behind the downtown campus will be to serve individuals in the community dealing with financial struggles as well as offering coworking space for local nonprofit organizations that are “dedicated to similar causes.”

“Through several innovative programs, we aim to address the root causes of systemic poverty, providing immediate relief and long-term empowerment for our neighbors,” said Measells in a statement.

The historic Mount Zion building is a little less than 3 miles away from the Point Church’s other Charlottesville location on Hansen Road on Pantops, which was founded in 2009 along with another campus based in the town of Louisa east of the city. The downtown development is a part of an ongoing expansion throughout Central Virginia for the Point Church; a new campus in Waynesboro is expected to open later this fall.

“This strategic acquisition marks a significant step in our mission to expand our presence and service within the community,” said Measells.

The Black congregation at Mount Zion Baptist Church first opened its doors at 105 Ridge St. in 1884, but they had been gathering and worshipping together decades before that.

The congregation was formed in 1864, when Black congregants split from the racially segregated White Baptist church in Charlottesville. At first they met in the residence of one of their congregants, but soon outgrew the space and, in 1875, built a wooden church in a lot next door.

Less than 10 years later, the congregation moved again, this time into the newly completed brick church on Ridge Street, designed by George Wilson Spooner, a Charlottesville architect who was involved in construction on the University of Virginia Rotunda.

“Embellished in the 1890s with its steeple, stained-glass windows, and pipe organ, the church became a symbol of the growing importance of Charlottesville’s black community,” according to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

The Mount Zion congregation would remain there for nearly 120 years, when under the leadership of the Rev. Alvin Edwards, the church moved in 2003 to a new home at 105 Lankford Ave. less than a mile south, where it remains to this day.

“With a police escort, and a large banner leading the way, many members marched (in remembrance of deceased members), others rode buses, from our old edifice at 105 Ridge Street to our new edifice at 105 Lankford Avenue,” reads an official church history posted on its website. “As we entered the new edifice singing our theme, ‘We’re Marching to Zion,’ both young and old gave thanks to God for his continued blessings.”

The building at 105 Ridge St. was enshrined in the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.

The Point Church is holding an open house at the church building from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Tuesday. Pastor Gabe Turner will be speaking about the organization’s plans for the campus at multiple sessions throughout the day, at 9 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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