Plans for Dixonville Cemetery memorial park taking shape

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 22, 2014

SALISBURY — With a $348,000 price tag, the Dixonville Cemetery project has a long way to go to raise the money needed to create a memorial park on Old Concord Road.
But organizers say the project is gaining momentum and presented an update this week to City Council, which for the first time appropriated funds to the memorial this year, $4,500. The Dixonville Cemetery Task Force will host a community fish fry from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Civic Center to raise additional money.
The first phase of the memorial park will cost about $150,000 and include columns facing Old Concord Road with the names of the 489 individuals identified who were laid to rest there. Dixonville Cemetery was the first city-owned African American cemetery in Salisbury, and many more people are believed to have been buried there.
Designers proposed arranging the granite columns engraved with names, dates and historical images in a timeline. They would stand before a patterned walkway, with steps ascending to cemetery.
Committee chairman Fred Evans said ground-penetrating radar was used on the cemetery site, which is next to Lincoln Park, to determine where bodies are buried.
“We won’t disturb or build any structure on any remains,” Evans told City Council.
Many city residents don’t know the story of Dixonville Cemetery yet, Evans said. He thanked local historian Betty Dan Spencer for her research and work to generate the list of people who were interred in the graveyard. The first known burial was Mary Valentine’s in 1851.
The plan for the memorial was developed by the Dixonville Cemetery Task Force with design assistance from landscape architecture faculty and students from N.C. A&T State University. It provides a framework to put the cemetery in context, particularly its relationship with other sites associated with Dixonville history, City Planner Lynn Raker said.
The Dixonville Cemetery memorial plays a role in other long-range plans, including the city’s parks and recreation master plan, which calls for consolidating recreation facilities at the nearby Civic Center and building a new public pool. Within this plan, Lincoln Park and its current pool could become open space.
The Complete Streets Corridor Study of Innes and Long streets also incorporates the future memorial, making the area safer for pedestrians with more landscaping, improved sidewalks, curb bumpouts and more.
Students used to cross the cemetery on their way to school each day, Evans said.
The plan includes identification of some kind for the site of Dixonville Baptist Church, which was razed during urban renewal in the 1960s, such as a grassy area marking the footprint of the church or an historical marker.
The cemetery and Lincoln School were at the center of community life, Evans said, and the task force has set a long-term goal to make the redevelopment of Lincoln School as an economic generator for community.
Phase two of the memorial includes a plaza and commemorative sculpture.
The task force has launched a website for the memorial, created by city employees Fern Blair and Michelle Nguyen. The website offers a brief history and description of the project and the opportunity to donate to the effort.
It also contains a link to the “Memories of Dixonville” with interviews of long-time residents of the neighborhood.
Nguyen and Salisbury resident Emily Perry created the video.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.