Local non-profit works to save historic building in Christiansburg

Local News

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WFXR) – A non-profit organization is working to preserve the history of Christiansburg by saving a historic brick structure that has been a part of the community for more than 90 years.

“I immediately recognized that this is a very powerful story and a powerful community. I really want to play a small role in helping to preserve it,” says Chris Sanchez, executive director of Christiansburg Institute, Inc. (CI, Inc.).

Front entrance of the historic Edgar A. Long building in Christiansburg.

Built in 1927, the Edgar A. Long Building is a three-story structure composed of brick walls and more than 9,000 square feet of usable space.

The building was named after Edgar Allen Long, one of the principals of the Christiansburg Industrial Institute (CII) from 1906-1924. The school served as a primary educational institution in southwest Virginia for African-Americans from 1866 until the desegregation of schools in Montgomery County in 1966.

Located at 140 Scattergood Drive, the structure is one of the school’s 14 original educational facilities that once stood on the institute’s former 185-acre campus.

The Edgar A. Long Building is the only structure named after an African-American in the region and is now one of the last surviving buildings of the institute.

CI, Inc. hopes to only reconstruct Montgomery County history, but a nationwide history.

“Only 2% of the 95,000 entries on the National Register of Historic Places focus on the experiences of African-Americans. The Edgar A. Long Building exists in that 2% margin,” says Sanchez.

The non-profit organization, along with help from the Christiansburg Institute Alumni Association, (CIAA), has been planning the restoration and renovation of the Long building for quite some time.

“There has been a tremendous amount of organizing and dedication over many years to make this work possible,” says Sanchez.

Phase One of the project has already been completed.

A new roof has been completed, with an estimated cost of $197,000, along with a new subfloor for the attic. A new gutter system has also been installed.

For three years, CI, Inc. has ramped up their fundraising efforts in order to fund the project. According to Sanchez, 85% of the money has come from the local government of Montgomery County and the towns of Christiansburg and Blacksburg, 15% has come from private donors, including $12,500 from the 100+ Women Who Care and $5,000 from The Secular Society.

“The community support means so much to us. We are really proud to say people are giving what they can give, when they do give,” says Sanchez.

From left to right: Kenneth Sherman, Debbie Sherman-Lee, and Walter Price, alumni of Christiansburg Industrial Institute (CII).

Kenneth Sherman graduated from the school in 1963. He says he was devastated when he found out the school was closing its doors.

“I was very sad. It really hurt that I could no longer come to visit my alma mater. I took it very hard,” says Sherman.

Even after 57 years, he and fellow alumni Walter Price remember the school well.

“It was a headache. The building had a lot of the heavyweight classes like chemistry and alegebra, but it was a lot of fun. I learned a lot and I really appreciate the school,” says Price.

Sherman and Price now serve as trustees for CIAA. With Phase One now complete, their hoping to keep the project going.

“I want to get the building finished and have it stand as memento. What ever we do with it is fine by me, at least we have something here. We need to get it finished and get it occupied,” says Price.

Phase Two of the project will include focusing on repairing and replacing the structure’s 52 windows, two exterior doors, and brick formation.

The ultimate goal of the project once the preservation and restoration is complete is to house the Christiansburg Institute’s Museum and Archives, as well as converting classrooms into nonprofit office spaces.

Sanchez says community members are welcome to join in of the future plans of the historic building.

“This is a community effort. We want to the include not just Montgomery County, but the entire community of the New River Valley. We’re going to be entering some listening sessions to welcome folks in so we can learn more about what we would like to do with this beautiful, culural asset here in Christiansburg,” says Sanchez.

For more information and ways on how you can help preserve the Edgar A. Long building, click here.

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