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The Voice of the Black Community

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Historic home has new purpose
JCSU's Davis House is Foster Village Network hub
 
Published Saturday, April 12, 2014 7:34 pm
by Herbert L. White

Once on the verge of demolition, George and Marie Davis’ house has a new purpose.

 

JCSU's President Carter speaks about the Davis House

The historic home of longtime Charlotte educators opened Friday as the Foster Village Network Center. The house, located at 301 Campus St., is now the Foster Village Network Center, which provides financial and academic help for Johnson C. Smith University students who’ve aged out of foster care.


“It’s going to open up a lot of doors for us,” said Rachel Boone, a freshman from Concord who aged out of foster care. “We’re going to be able to come in, study with each other, laugh with each other and be one big happy family. This is basically a house for our family.”


Said JCSU President Ronald Carter: “It’s a dream that has become a reality and a reality that impacts the lives of so many young men and women who’ve aged out of foster care. This home is a testament to what we can do when we come together as a people and say this one thing we will do.”


Before it became a house for Boone and her contemporaries, the Queen Anne-style home built in 1895 was the domicile of education royalty in black Charlotte. George Davis, an 1883 JCSU graduate, was the school’s first black professor and taught there for 35 years before becoming the North Carolina agent for the Rosenwald Fund, which 813 privately-funded schools for African Americans across the state in the first half of the 20th century.


Marie was a longtime Charlotte public school teacher and administrator whose name is on a Charlotte-Mecklenburg magnet school.


The couple lived in the home for 55 years before selling it to JCSU in 1955, but years of neglect caught up to the building as it sat empty over 40 years. JCSU officials considered tearing down the building, but neighborhood advocates and preservationists lobbied to save it.


“I knew this was worth fighting for,” said Charlotte attorney Charles Jones, a 1958 JCSU graduate who led local sit-in protests in the 1960s. “I had enough bond money for five or six arrests and I put the word out that if y’all are dumb enough to let a bulldozer come up in here, I’m going to be standing in front of it and you can arrest me and I’ll post bond and come on back out here.”


Funding for the $800,000 restoration came from philanthropic and historic preservation sources, Mecklenburg County and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission. African art from the collection of philanthropists Hyman and Pearl Polk was donated for exhibit.


“The entire city of Charlotte should be proud of this,” said Carter, a foster and adoptive parent himself. “This is a point of destination of Charlotte’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. “This is really a great day.”


The facility also has a tranquility garden, SMART classrooms, conference room and offices. The general contractor, Andrew Roby Co., will build new public sidewalks along Dixon and Campus streets.  Most of all, the house represents opportunity to students who might otherwise struggle with the transition to adulthood.


“In the ending years of my high school career, I was very much alone,” said Boone, a Cox Mill High School graduate whose aspirations were derailed when she became homeless during her senior year. “I didn’t talk to anybody, I walked by myself and I struggled with believing in myself. I didn’t think I was going anywhere in life. I basically gave up. In coming here, I found out I had more in myself than I thought I did.”


Said Jones: “There are certain things that have an inherent value beyond all other stuff that we talk about. This venture transcends more than a century and so I’m full of quiet pride that we’ve done something beyond ourselves.”

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