It won’t be a done deal until sometime early next year, but the cemetery at Mount Salvation Baptist Church in Arlington is now virtually assured of becoming a local historic district.
The county’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) has approved the nomination, setting the stage for public hearings before the Planning Commission and County Board.
“This is something that is incredibly valuable to our community and to the history of Arlington County,” said Carmela Hamm, a member of the HALRB and, as a child, a member of the congregation at Mount Salvation.
The cemetery, located adjacent to the church in the historically African-American North Arlington community of Halls Hill/High View Park, is the final resting spot of at least 89 people. Burials at the cemetery were recorded from 1916 (although some likely occurred a decade or two earlier) to 1974.
Members of the Pelham, Spriggs and Lewis families are among those interred there.
Arlington has about 40 local historic districts. Unlike inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places or Virginia Landmarks Register, inclusion in a county historic district provides protections from development and alteration, giving the HALRB say on changes. Under the planned preservation guidelines, any changes would have to be “respectful of and compatible with the historic and existing fabric” of the existing site. (While the district will include the cemetery, it will not include the adjacent church building.)
Cemeteries at two other predominantly African-American churches – Lomax AME Zion and Calloway United Methodist – previously had been designated local historic districts.
Preparing the background material in support of the Mount Salvation nomination was lengthy, but worth the wait, HALRB members said.
“The research was incredible – this information is probably all in the same place for the first time ever,” said member Joan Lawrence.
The church supported the nomination, as did neighbors and the John M. Langston Citizens Association.
Wilma Jones Killgo, president of the latter group, said her organization was “unanimous that we as a community want to support this designation.”
“It’s very important to the community that this happen,” she said.
County staff say the procedural steps needed to get the item to the County Board for final approval will take several months. They are hoping to have creation of the district approved as part of Black History Month in February.
“We look forward to the day it’s actually completed and finalized,” HALRB chairman Richard Woodruff said.
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