Albemarle native updates Council with plans to preserve historical Black landmarks

Albemarle native Dion Brooks, who is looking to preserve several landmarks associated with Stanly County Black history through the Kingville Project, provided an update to the Albemarle City Council Monday night about the markers he wants to erect across the South Albemarle community.

Brooks, who is the head of the nonprofit organization Stanly Avengers, first introduced his idea to Council about establishing the markers last month.

The Kingville Project is a three-pronged campaign to conserve, preserve and celebrate landmarks that help connect generations of Black residents to their past. Brooks wants to set up 10 historical preservation markers throughout Stanly County, including six in Albemarle.

“I just want to, like a movie, reboot Kingville and give it its identity back,” Brooks said last month.

Stanly Avengers founder Dion Brooks speaks about Stanly County’s Black history during an event in February.

With help from Pat Bramlett and her son Lewis, Brooks has researched the history of several key people and places. Each of the Albemarle preservation markers, which cost around $16,000 total, will be 30-inches by 42-inches and include photos and text detailing the importance of the following:

  • Dr. Ogden Doremus King Sr: A white physician from Brooklyn, New York, who practiced medicine in the city from 1887 until his death in 1908. He showed concern for the Black community, helping to build a church (what is now Union Chapel A.M.E. Zion). In 1898, residents named their community Kingsville in King’s honor.
  • Kingville: Though currently listed as an unincorporated township, it was the heartbeat of the Black Albemarle community throughout the first half of the 20th century. Before integration in the 1960s, Kingville had a doctor’s office, grocery store, barbershop and hair salon. Kingville High School, which opened in 1937, served thousands of Black students until it closed in 1969.
  • William Henry Wall: He was a community activist and brick mason in the early 20th century who helped build many homes on the street that now bears his last name. He also taught Black students brick masonry at the school during the evenings. His family owned much land in the area, including what is now E.E. Waddell Community Center.
  • The Old School House (technically it was called the Stanly County Training School) was the first Black school building in Albemarle, located at the corner of Lundix Street and Washington Lane. It was established in 1904 and in operation until 1936, when Kingville School was built.
  • Kingville High School opened in 1937 on property that is now the Waddell Center and housed students from first through 12th grade. Dr. Elbert Edwin “E.E.” Waddell was principal from 1944 to 1963. The school closed in 1969, a few years after Black students began attending Albemarle High. A dedication ceremony happened Feb. 16, 1986, during which the school became the E.E. Waddell Community Center.
  • Kingville Park was the first park for Black residents in 1961. Located on the southern side of the N.C. Highway 24-27 Bypass, the park had a swimming pool, two basketball courts, a tennis court, softball field and a playground. The park later became South Albemarle Park and then Roosevelt Memorial Park.

Brooks told Council he still needs to contact property owners to get their permission to erect some of the markers. He also plans to modify the amount of text that will be on each of the markers.

The council recommended setting up a committee to work with Brooks to iron out specifics regarding the markers and to ensure the facts/history that would be displayed is accurate.