With assistance from a Virginia Main Street (VMS) Downtown Investment Grant (DIG), totaling $25,000, and other partners, Orange Downtown Alliance (ODA), d.b.a. Love Orange Virginia (LOVe), collaborated with the Orange County African-American Historical Society (OCAAHS) to create a park that illuminates the history of the Town of Orange’s former African-American commercial district, as well as commemorates the contributions of local African-Americans.
For nearly 100 years, the site of the project comprised an African American residential neighborhood and successful business district, which contributed greatly to the economic success of the town. In the mid-1900s, this area was disrupted by the creation of a bypass to accommodate freight trucks and consequently cut the town in half. The negative effect was almost immediate, as the majority of these Black-owned businesses closed their doors and their owners moved away.
Today, the park has become a revered and accessible gathering spot for residents and visitors to learn and reflect on lessons of the past, as well as possibilities for the future. The design features beautiful landscaping, areas for respite, and a series of three interpretive panels with QR codes to access stories and multimedia. The park was activated for Orange’s annual Juneteenth celebration, and the space will continue to serve as a place where people come together for all kinds of events!
“For more than 100 years, this was a segregated neighborhood of Black-owned businesses and Black families to historic Black churches and schools. Now, it looks pretty different. The pieces are finally in place.”
– Zann Nelson, Project Manager, OCAAHS
Come visit downtown Orange, and see the new park for yourself!
Photo Credit (Before and After): Charlotte Cole