Historic Black Church Receives Grant To Begin Major Renovation Project< < Back to
ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Mount Zion Baptist Church in Athens is one of 40 historic sites in America to receive part of a $3 million grant that will help preserve African American landmarks.
The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund announced July 15 that Mount Zion was among the grant recipients. Competition for the grants is stiff considering the number of applicants and the number of awards.
“Since starting this fund in 2018 we have received almost 2,300 proposals requesting $143 million to date. We have invested $7.3 million in 105 projects,” Brent Leggs, the fund’s executive director, said. “It’s exciting that Mount Zion is a part of this growing portfolio of nationally significant places.”
Mount Zion was founded in 1872 and is the last remaining Black-owned historic building along the southeastern Ohio river valley’s underground railroad corridor. The Mount Zion Baptist Church Preservation Society now plans to restore and repurpose the building as a regional Black artistic, cultural and economic hub.
“It was really beautiful to see how diverse the organization was, and they have a beautiful vision for reusing that historic space,” he said. “It has the potential to be a national model once they complete this project.”
The funding will allow Mount Zion to literally start from the ground up with work on a basement that has water issues. Dr. Tee Ford-Ahmed, Mount Zion Preservation Society’s communication director, is looking forward to getting started.
“We’re so excited, the basement will be the ground place for developing hangouts for students. We’ll have educational centers and other kinds of happenings to provide community activities and support,” she said.
Mount Zion also plans to make the basement ADA accessible, including installing an elevator.
The entire project to fully restore the church will total around $4 million, and the start of the restoration is personal for Ford-Ahmed, whose history with the church goes back to when she was a member.
“I have passion! In the ’90s I attended [Mount Zion] and my daughter sang in the choir there. So, when I say passion I say it with all sincerity,” she said.