Funding is being sought from city officials to complete renovations at the historic Satterfield House — known as the first property deeded to an African-American in Surry County — so it can become a local gathering spot.
“We have been working on this dream for 35 years,” President Shelby King of the Sandy Level Community Council told the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners during a meeting last Thursday night.
“The historic Satterfield House belongs to our community council, but we wish to share it with our city and county,” added King, who said the group has been laboring on its own to turn the old structure into an event center since the 1980s.
“But everything came to a halt when the pandemic hit in early 2020,” she said of fundraising activities that have included proceeds from council members’ sale of collard green sandwiches during Mount Airy’s annual Autumn Leaves Festival cancelled last year by COVID-19.
“Fundraising efforts have shown to be effective, but it’s simply not enough,” said another person who addressed city officials on the matter Thursday, the Rev. Thomas Williams of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Mount Airy.
As a result, the city of Mount Airy is now being asked to supply $200,000 of an estimated $307,520 renovation project, according to documents released by supporters of the effort.
This material states that to their knowledge the municipality has never contributed any funds for work at the Satterfield House, which is located at the corner of North Franklin Road and West Virginia Street near the Toast community.
Supporters are suggesting the money might come from federal COVID-relief funding designated for Mount Airy in 2021, which is in the $3 million range.
The house was deeded to an African-American around 1890 and gained local historic landmark status in 2011. The structure and grounds occupy a four-acre site that also is adjacent to property that became the location of the first Rosenwald School in Surry County in 1918.
Rosenwald refers to the thousands of schools that were built primarily for the African-American population in the early 20th century through a fund created by Julius Rosenwald. He was a clothier who became part-owner and president of Sears, Roebuck and Company and developed the schools in collaboration with Booker T. Washington.
Estimates prepared for the funding request to the city government show that $48,675 is needed for interior improvements at the Satterfield House, including paint, flooring, light fixtures and doors, with $85,245 eyed for exterior work. It would target the roof, siding and porch repairs, the painting of gutters and signage.
The cost of a paved parking lot ($93,000), landscaping ($15,000) and a commercial kitchen ($36,000) are also part of the total which further includes miscellaneous and other expenses.
Having the kitchen would allow chefs to teach cooking classes at the house along with the hosting of fundraisers there. Classroom space for educational programs and workshops also could be provided, including GED classes of Surry Community College and hospice workshops.
In addition, the Mount Airy Police Department and Surry County Sheriff’s Office have expressed interest in locating a substation at the Satterfield House, according to King.
“If we could just get everything up and running,” she said, “we could have a chance to make this a very important part of our neighborhood and the whole Mount Airy and Surry County area.”
Carol Burke, who additionally addressed city officials on the matter along with another local citizen, Ann Vaughn, said the project could lead to the Sandy Level Rosenwald School site becoming part of the Booker T. Washington Trail and boost tourism locally.
It starts at the national monument site of the noted educator’s birth home in Franklin County, Virginia, and ends at Washington’s final resting place at Tuskegee University in Alabama.
The city commissioners took no action after Thursday’s presentation, which is customary with municipal funding requests.
“I come before you to beseech you to stand on the right side of history and support the completion of this wonderful — and historical — project,” Williams told them.