Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Long's Chapel, c.1871, Rockingham County, VA

Photographer facing SE, 1999-2000
Located NE of Harrisonburg, VA, between the Valley Pike (U.S. Route 11) and the Massanutten Mountain Range, lies the site that was originally named Athens, but later changed to Zenda.

In 1869, four years after the end of the Civil War, newly freed slaves in Rockingham County were provided the opportunity to purchase land and begin building a community of their own. A couple by the names of William and Hannah Carpenter donated a sizable  portion of their land to the United Brethren in Christ for this purpose.

Long's Chapel was built the following year by Jacob Long, who was believed to have paid for the construction, thus the name.

Photographer facing south, 1999-2000
Slowly the community grew, and the Chapel served not only as a place of worship, but also as a school. The community also had a post office. By 1900, the community consisted of 17 homes and 80 residents.

The residents primarily worked as farm laborers, but the ability to own land gave them the opportunity to grow, financially.

Eventually a separate school was built in 1882, which the Rockingham County School District described as having seating for 28 students.
Photographer facing SE, 1999-2000

Over time, the community lost its steam, and by 1940 there was only one remaining African American family living in the community. Economic hardship, and manufacturing jobs lured people to large cities.

Long's Chapel, its cemetery, and the Wilson Family homestead ( the last remaining family) are all that remains of the community. At the time I took these photos, the building was in serious danger of being lost forever.

In 2004, a couple on vacation from South Carolina came upon the building, recognized its historical significance, and the rest is truly history. Read about it here, and also here.

The Chapel has since been fully restored, and in 2006 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. An often too rare success story in historic preservation.

Photographer facing SW, 1999-2000

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