Recently, the National Register of Historic Places — the official list of our nation’s spots significant to our history and culture — added 11 locales in North Carolina to its roster of historic places worthy of preservation. Two of these are right here in Asheville, so today we’re looking at the new kids on the historical block: South Asheville Cemetery and St. John ‘A’ Baptist Church.
South Asheville Cemetery
The cemetery began in the 1800s as a burial site for those enslaved by William and Sarah McDowell, and it features almost 2,000 graves dating from the mid-1800s until 1943 — the majority of which were un- or crudely marked. At the time, it was one of only a few cemeteries for African Americans. The South Asheville Cemetery is WNC’s oldest burying ground for African American residents and the region’s oldest public African American cemetery.
St. John ‘A’ Baptist Church
The one-story Gothic Revival Style church was built adjacent to the cemetery in 1929. It continued to be built upon throughout the years and continues to be a beloved house of worship today. The National Register says its value comes from being “a reflection of the development of the traditionally African American community of South Asheville, weaving together the areas of settlement, community development, African American ethnic heritage, and social history.”
Wanna get a more personal side of this history? Check out UNC Asheville’s The South Asheville Colored Cemetery Project.