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Posted on: May 15, 2020

Cedar Grove School and Schley Grange Hall listed on National Register

The Orange County Historic Preservation Commission is pleased to announce the addition of two significant mid-20th century historic properties to the National Register of Historic Places. The Cedar Grove School and the Schley Grange Hall were reviewed and approved by the North Carolina National Register Advisory Committee and were subsequently nominated by the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Officer and forwarded to the Keeper of the National Register for consideration for listing in the National Register.

“These historic structures were achieved through years of hard work, determination and perseverance on the part of the residents of their respective rural farming communities," said Peter Sandbeck, the County’s Cultural Resources Coordinator. "Their stories help tell the diverse history of the people of Orange County—our hard-working farm families, black and white, who sought better lives for their children.

"In both cases, these community landmarks have been protected from neglect and preserved by the efforts of the descendants of those men and women who had worked so hard to build them.”

The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of buildings, structures, objects, sites and districts worthy of preservation for their significance in American history, architecture, archaeology and culture. With these additions, there are now 46 individual properties on the National Register in the County, along with seven Historic Districts including those in Chapel Hill and Hillsborough. These two projects were sponsored by the Orange County Historic Preservation Commission and DEAPR.

The listing of a property in the National Register places no obligation or restriction on a private owner using private resources to maintain or alter the property. Over the years, various federal and state incentives have been introduced to assist private preservation initiatives, including tax credits for the rehabilitation of National Register properties. 

Cedar Grove School

Cedar Grove SchoolThe opening of Cedar Grove School in 1951 (5800 Highway 86 North) marked a major achievement for African Americans in rural Orange County, following decades of struggle to attain educational equality within a segregated school system. The first consolidated school to be built in the county for black students, it replaced seven dilapidated two-room schools that had served Cedar Grove Township.

The newly completed school immediately became a beloved central meeting place and community center where parents and teachers later organized to promote school desegregation. The impressive Modernist-style school was closed in 1969 with the full integration of county schools.

From 1980 until 2012 it housed the County’s Northern Human Services Center. When plans were proposed to demolish the building, local residents rallied to save their beloved school. In response, Orange County funded a major renovation and reopened it in 2016 as the new Cedar Grove Community Center.    

Schley Grange Hall

Schley Grange HallThe handsome brick Colonial-style Grange Hall (3416 Schley Road) was built in 1949 for the members of Schley Grange No. 710, replacing the old schoolhouse that had served as its meeting place since it was established in 1931. The building continues to serve as a welcoming meeting place and recreation center for the agricultural community of Schley.

The Grange members earned their fine new building by winning the grand prize in a national competition sponsored by the Sears Roebuck Foundation and the National Grange. Competing against over 1,400 granges from 37 states, Schley’s small membership of just 64 men and women undertook the challenge, developing a broad range of community service projects including a soil conservation demonstration day, building rural telephone lines, creating a community youth center, beautification of area homes and churches.

The new Grange Hall hosted a broad range of community programs, with a special focus on improving agricultural practices and diversification of farm operations to improve earnings for farm families. Membership declined in the late 20th century but has now increased to over 100 thanks to the hard work of dedicated members residing in the surrounding community—many of whom grew up in Grange families.

Contact: Peter Sandbeck, Cultural Resources Coordinator
psandbeck@orangecountync.gov or 919-245-2517


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