Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Post - Athens, OH
The independent newspaper covering campus and community since 1911.
The Post
The outside of the Mount Zion Baptist Church on the corner of Congress Street and Carpenter Street, April 8, 2024, in Athens. The windows are boarded up as the original stained are being repaired.

Mount Zion Baptist Church to become Black Cultural Center

Mount Zion Baptist Church, 32 W. Carpenter St., is undergoing renovations to become the Mount Zion Black Cultural Center. 

The Mount Zion Preservation Society is managing the renovation efforts and has enlisted the help of the Ohio University College of Business to decide what the building should become. Students in the College of Business interviewed other students, business owners and Athens residents, and the top responses suggested adding a performance space and a soul food restaurant. 

The preservation society took the responses into account, and current plans involve a soul food catering kitchen, a coffee shop, a performance space and a digital museum that honors Black history in the region. 

Once initial renovations are complete, there are plans to expand even further. Retired West Virginia State University professor Trevellya Ford-Ahmed, now Ahmed, said the society is developing the idea of a Heritage Square to promote tourism and interest in the area’s history; the full plan for a Heritage Square would cost around $25 million, and although it would take a while to complete, there is local interest in the idea. 

In 2013, the Mount Zion Baptist Church Preservation Society was formed. The push for the renovations began around the same time because there were plans to demolish the Mount Zion Baptist Church. 

Ada-Woodson Adams, an Athens resident and a member of the Society, said she became concerned because the church was one of the only pieces of Black history left in the area.

Uzoma Miller, assistant professor of African American studies, said Black history in the Appalachian region dates back to the mid-1500s. Many Black people returned to the region as enslaved people and were vital in the mining industries, along with contributing to the regional music, oral history and folk art. 

In 1911, the Athens Post Office, now Haning Hall, was built; Black architect William Wilson Cooke designed the post office. Ahmed said the Preservation Society hopes to obtain the building because it is currently vacant.  

The original windows were crafted in the early 1900s and are estimated to be very valuable, but because of structural issues, the windows had to be removed to avoid falling out and breaking.

The windows are currently being replaced with faux stained glass artwork from the artists at Passionworks Studio and will feature depictions of Black history. 

Ahmed said she thinks these renovations could attract people to the Athens area.

“Hopefully it will impact (Athens) and make it a really valuable tourism area,” Ahmed said.

The project has the support of local government officials including Mayor Patterson and Sen. Brian Chavez who represents District 30, which includes the City of Athens, in the Ohio Senate. Chavez said he thinks the work they’re doing at Mount Zion is beneficial to the region.

“It just heightens the awareness of the rich history that we have in this region. It’s a beautiful building with a lot of historical value that we need to make sure we maintain,” Chavez said.


Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2016-2024 The Post, Athens OH