Black House transformation continues
BLACKSBURG — Two descendants of Alexander Black smiled Tuesday as Blacksburg Mayor Ron Rordam addressed a crowd of about 150 to mark the first phase of renovation to the Alexander Black House.
The home that has been sitting at its current location on Draper Road behind Kent Square since 2002 is finally getting a much-needed makeover. Renovation on the Black House is scheduled to begin Friday.
Rordam and the Blacksburg Museum and Cultural Foundation’s President Jim Rakes “broke ground” with golden shovels, along with Mike Snyder, vice president of Snyder and Associates, and Richmond architect Randy Holmes, whose firm worked on the project.
Because the Black House’s lawn was still covered in snow, the groundbreaking took place inside Kent Square.
The four men shoveled sand from a box on the floor to commemorate the event.
Black’s great-niece, Nita Little, stood in the second-floor atrium with her son and Black’s great-great-nephew, Craig Little, taking it all in.
“It’s unbelievable to me that it’s happening,” Little said. “I appreciate the individuals who said they want to preserve the house. It could easily have been taken down.”
Little, who has memories of visiting the house as a child, said it is wonderful to see the place come back to life and be a part of the community again. She wants the community to be able to visit and enjoy it.
As the renovation phase begins on the exterior and first floor of the home, Little’s wish for the house will come true as plans for the home are to house the Blacksburg Museum and Cultural Foundation.
Rordam said the Black House will not only serve as a place to store history and collect historic documents and features, but also as a place with interactive, living-history examples.
The Black House, Rordam added, will serve as a gathering place with opportunities to host big groups for celebration events such as weddings.
“The museum is just not some place where dust collects,” Rordam said. “It’s a place where people live, a place where people become involved and a place where people interact with each other.”
Rakes said he believes it will be a place that will represent historical Blacksburg and the arts and culture of the community. The renovation coincidentally coincides with the opening of Virginia Tech’s Center for the Arts building, Rakes added.
Renovations will likely be done in about a year, Rakes said.
The Black House move and renovation process has a $3 million price tag, to which the town of Blacksburg has committed more than $1.5 million. Rakes said the Blacksburg Museum and Cultural Foundation has received about $500,000 in donations to date.
That’s enough to cover renovation of the exterior and most of the first floor of the interior, he said.
Once the first phase is completed, Rakes hopes renovation can continue to the second floor in addition to completion of the remainder of the first floor.
But more renovation means more money.
“We probably need to raise another $750,000 to totally complete the job,” Rakes said. “We’ve also put in place, should there be an interim shortfall, a line of credit so that we can keep working.”
In the meantime, the Blacksburg Museum and Cultural Foundation is looking for an interim executive director. Rakes said the application deadline has passed and the interview process will begin soon.
Rakes said he hopes to hire a full-time executive director in about six months.
As the project moves forward, Rakes and Rordam are both looking toward the future.
“If you look at those people who have been involved with this project, it is definitely a cross section of the town of Blacksburg,” Rordam said. “This includes people from all different walks of life, people who are excited about history, people who grew up here and celebrate that history and people who come here will celebrate that history.”
The Roanoke Times | 381-8627
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