Johnson C. Smith University Looks to Save Historic Landmark Building

City officials in Charlotte, North Carolina, want to raze a rundown house one block from the campus of historically black Johnson C. Smith University. The boarded-up structure has not been used since 1982 and has extensive water and termite damage. But Ronald Carter, the president of Johnson C. Smith University, wants to save the building from the wrecking ball. He hopes to raise $900,000 to renovate the building as the home for the university’s Center for Applied Leadership and Community Development.

The house has historical significance to the university. Built in 1891, it was owned by George E. Davis, who was the first black professor at Biddle Institute, which was the forerunner of Johnson C. Smith University. Davis also served as dean of the faculty at the educational institution. Davis retired in 1920 and spent the next several years raising money for the Rosenwald Fund, which built hundreds of schools for blacks throughout the South. In 1955 Davis sold the house to the university. It was used as a dormitory for about a quarter-century before it was closed.

University officials have asked the city to delay the destruction of the house until the end of the year while it attempts to obtain the funds necessary to renovate the building. So far $150,000 has been collected. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission will offer a $500,000 no-interest loan to aid the effort.