After a long period of inactivity, visible improvements have been occurring at Mount Airy’s historic Satterfield House, the first property deeded to an African-American in Surry County during the late 1800s.
This included a new roof being installed about two weeks ago on the structure located at the corner of North Franklin Road and West Virginia Street, with more renovations planned. It occupies a four-acre site where a Rosenwald school also once existed for local African-Americans.
Monies from an “Invest in Surry” program by the county government paid for most of the new roof, according to Ann Vaughn, a member of the governing board for Friends of the Historic Satterfield House and Rosenwald School.
It is a new non-profit organization made up of various local citizens interested in preserving the history and culture surrounding both entities, among other goals.
The Sandy Level Community Council, which owns the property, was awarded $6,475 last summer through Invest in Surry, which involved a total of $2.1 million in federal COVID-relief funding being distributed to 34 local non-profits.
Vaughn added that the remaining cost for the new roof was provided from the general fund of the Satterfield/Rosenwald project.
Vice Chairman Norman Schultz of the Friends group said this included proceeds from sales of collard green sandwiches during Mount Airy’s annual Autumn Leaves Festival by the Sandy Level Community Council allocated for that effort.
Schultz said Tuesday that with the roof having been installed, other improvements are planned for the Satterfield House including new windows and gutters along with work on the electrical system and the installation of a new HVAC unit.
Grants and donations are being sought to aid with those expenses, said Schultz, who believes all this points to tangible progress at the Satterfield site.
When requesting funding for Satterfield House renovations from the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners in August 2021, Sandy Level supporters announced plans for a community events center to be established there.
However, the scope of that has changed, according to Schultz.
“The purpose of the building is going to be more of a museum,” he advised, saying that contact had been made with Matt Edwards, who heads Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, to assist with this.
“I’m personally excited because I’m a history person,” Schultz said of the revised focus that will encompass both the house and the memory of the Rosenwald school.
That campus operated at the site from 1918-53 during the Segregation Era, one of thousands built to serve primarily the African-American population. The schools were provided through a fund created by Julius Rosenwald, a clothier who became part-owner and president of Sears, Roebuck and Company.
Although the Rosenwald school building no longer exists on the Satterfield property, Schultz said plans call for one of its classrooms to be recreated in a room of the house using antique desks and other features.
Old sewing machinery also is to be placed there in reference to how students were taught to be seamstresses at the school.
Plans further include assembling information on both the Satterfield family and the school as part of the museum aspect.
Earlier efforts were concerned with developing a commercial kitchen in the house, which Schultz says have been scaled down to a smaller kitchen operation because there is insufficient space for a full-fledged facility.
The new Friends group hopes to enlist the African-American Historical and Genealogical Society of Surry County that is working to preserve the former all-black J.J. Jones School elsewhere in Mount Airy, also to include a museum component.
Schultz suggested that both organizations combining their efforts would promote the betterment of each and what they seek to accomplish.
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