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African-American historical district put on national registry

March 02, 2001

African-American historical district put on national registry



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A historical district in Charles Town that pays tribute to sites related to African-American history has been included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Much research has been done in recent years to trace the history of African-American life in town, such as the events surrounding the Fisherman's Hall building at the corner of West and Academy streets.

The white stucco building was home to a local chapter of a national self-help organization for blacks known as the Grand United Order of Gallilean Fishermen.

The group, which started its Charles Town chapter in 1885, offered banking, insurance, real estate and endowment services for blacks.

Black leaders in the community have been interviewing older residents in the community to find out what they remember about the organization, which disbanded in 1946.

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The hall is one of the buildings in the new historical district. Others include the Webb house at 303 E. North St., the School for Freed Slaves at 819 Martin Luther King Blvd., and the former Page Jackson High School on Mordington Avenue, which now serves as the Jefferson County Board of Education office.

Page Jackson High School was once a black high school.

The Webb house is one of the first stone houses in the area to be built and owned by freed African-Americans, said former Jefferson County educator Jim Taylor, who worked on the project.

Even though many African-Americans knew the history of the buildings, it has been fascinating tracing some of the history, Taylor said.

"There's just so much. One door opens another," he said.

The historic district partly surrounds an earlier National Register historical district that was designated to recognize downtown Charles Town about four years ago, said Betsy Wells, who also worked on the project.

Downtown Charles Town has historical significance relating to George Washington's family. Charles Washington, George Washington's brother, set aside the intersection of George and Washington streets for public use when he began laying out the town.

The boundaries for the new district is the Ranson town boundary on the north, the western city limits on West Washington Street, Ann Street to the south and Hunter Hill on the east.

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