Harpers Ferry, Jefferson County
Date of Construction: 1884
Threat: Deterioration, Pests
The First Zion Baptist Church is a contributing building in the Harpers Ferry Historic District. It is located on West Ridge Street behind the Harpers Ferry Town Hall. The church’s African-American congregation built the church, which was a keystone meeting place for the community that developed around Strorer College (a historically black college). The church was not only used for worship but was also an educational facility and gathering place over the years.
After the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Brown v. The Board of Education, the West Virginia Legislature stopped funding Storer College and shifted state funds to other West Virginia historically black colleges and universities. This defunding made it impossible for the college to stay open. With the closure of Storer College in 1956, the black community in Harpers Ferry began to dwindle, as did the church congregation.
The church held its last function in 2009 – an interfaith revival. Since then it has sat abandoned, under-used, and neglected. The building is structurally sound although it is increasingly exposed to the elements and continues to deteriorate.
In February 2017, the Harpers Ferry-Bolivar Historic Town Foundation purchased the building with hopes to preserve its historical significance while re-using the structure as a secular community cultural center that celebrates the African-American heritage of the area. The Town Foundation needs immediate help fundraising for the preservation of the structure. If you are interested in donating to the cause, visit http://www.historicharpersferry.com/index_eecms.php/first-zion-baptist-church.
Endangered Properties List
If you are interested in assisting with any of these preservation projects, contact the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia at firstname.lastname@example.org.