Neighbors hold on to the past to save an old Charlotte church

Community working to save historic church

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - In a city known for tearing things down, folks in one neighborhood are attempting to not let part of a community’s heritage slip away.

Neighbors are concerned about an abandoned church that has deep roots in Charlotte.

It’s nearly 100 years old, and memories of what used to be the old Mount Carmel Baptist church for some are very hard to shake.

Signs of aggressive growth and new construction are driving forces in the northwest Charlotte community known as Biddleville, but in one case, neighbors want to put the brakes on the building boom.

The fear Dorothy Counts feels is connected to old Mount Carmel Baptist Church.

“Every time I see someone looking at it. I get scared,” Counts said,

She lives across the street from the decaying structure and worries the once-thriving place of worship could face the wrecking ball and the eventually reality of development.

Daniel McNamee of Neighboring Concepts is crafting a new narrative. He’s one of the architects hoping to restore the church that was built in 1921.

"I think there’s the hope to save the outside. I think the inside is less historical. We’ll have to do some work on,” McNamee told WBTV.

The church and its future have been examined by Dr. Dan Morrill of the Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks commission. WBTV was not allowed inside the church, since zoning inspectors regard it as unsafe.

“It’s eaten up with termites. Even the pews. Termites are eating the pews,” Morrill said.

Now owned by nearby Johnson C. Smith University, it’s unclear what the school wants to do with the building.

University officials declined our request for an interview, but the options are clear cut.

“You either bring it up to code or you let it be demolished,” Morrill added.

Demolition of older structures in the neighborhood has resulted in new housing coming to Biddleville, but for Dorothy Counts, it’s important to hold on to the past.

“We can’t lose our history. We have to try to preserve it,” Counts said.

Any solution will not come easy or overnight, and WBTV is learning some speculators may be already eyeing the property.

While it’s unknown what Johnson C. Smith plans to do, it’s likely that something will be worked out by the fall.

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