A skid steer dug up dirt outside the front door of 192 Kelley St. on Monday afternoon as a small crowd gathered inside the church next door to discuss the future of the property.
The Northeast Neighborhood Association kicked off renovation of the historic Dallard-Newman House Museum and Cultural Heritage Center with a lunch event held inside the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The Dallard-Newman House was built in 1885 by freed slaves Ambrose and Rueben Dallard. The house is one of the few middle-class African American homes to survive federal renovation projects in the 1950s and ‘60s, according to the NENA website.
“I think my vision is to have this museum as one of the best state-of-the-art museums in Harrisonburg, Rockingham, Shenandoah Valley, because, as far as I know, it’s the only African American museum,” said Karen Thomas, president and founder of NENA.
Thomas began the event by thanking state Del. Tony Wilt, R-Broadway, for his help with the project.
Thomas said Wilt recognized how important the Dallard-Newman House was for the city and county, and got funding approved by the General Assembly for the house’s renovation.
“[The Dallard-Newman House is] not for you, the board, or any one of us here, but it’s for our community, to build our community into a stronger community and to share and to take the good parts and the not so good parts and acknowledge those things and grow and learn,” Wilt said.
Council member Sal Romero and City Manager Ande Banks also attended the event.
Direct relatives of George Newman were also in the crowd, including Thelma Newman, wife of Newman’s great-grandson.
George Newman, who owned the house with his wife Mary Dallard, served as the principal of an African American school in 1874 and taught intermittently for 25 years. Six of his children served as teachers in Rockingham County Public Schools, according to the NENA website.
“Karen has worked day and night, night and day on this project,” Thelma Newman said. “And I know without a doubt, she’s kept God in this too.”
Newman’s son and daughter, Tommy and Kathy Newman, also attended.
NENA board member Alex Lee said he is a stonemason and will be volunteering to install the foundation in the coming months.
Dana Sauder, one of the Nielsen Builders Inc. employees working on site Monday, said the crew will be working on the structure’s foundation for the next two to three months, improving support by laying steel beams.
“We have to have all that done before we can even go in there and do anything else,” Thomas said.
Thomas said there is a construction layout drawn up, but she did not have it on hand Monday.
The museum will showcase pictures, documents, awards and memoirs from Northeast neighborhood families such as Dallards and Newmans, Thomas said in a previous interview.
“It’s taken five years just to get to this point,” Thomas said. “If it takes us another five…” she said, shrugging.
Contact Laura Boaggio at 574-6278 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For full article at DNR: Renovation Begins On Future Northeast Neighborhood Museum