CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Old Mount Carmel Baptist Church is a historic staple in the Charlotte community. 

What You Need To Know

  •  The Old Mount Carmel Baptist Church building is located in Biddleville, close to Uptown Charlotte

  •  The historic facility is owned by Johnson C. Smith University 

  •  Residents are expressing their support for efforts to preserve the historic building 

  • A JCSU staff member hopes the church can be saved so it can house a small museum for significant alumni items

The notable building, owned by Johnson C. Smith University, is located off Campus Street in Biddleville, Charlotte's oldest surviving Black neighborhood. 

Decades back, when JCSU was known as Biddle University, the congregation formed, providing spaces for baptist students from JCSU to worship. The historic structure was later built, opening its doors in 1921. 

But the more than 100-year-old building has fallen into disarray and is in need of serious repairs. 

Community members with ties to the church are voicing their support for efforts to save it, so this part of Black and Charlotte history stands tall for years to come.

Wanda Foy-Burroughs is a proud alumnus of JCSU. She switched careers to work at the college.

"My goal in life was to come back to JCSU and give back," Foy-Burroughs said. 

Foy-Burroughs was previously employed in the New Jersey school system.

"I did 37 years in Newark Public Schools," she said. 

Foy-Burroughs later accepted a job with the Department of Education. She says regardless of where she worked, the Golden Bull was always on her mind. 

"I was the walking Golden Bull in New Jersey," Foy-Burroughs said. "If I said Johnson C. Smith University, my work colleagues [in New Jersey] would say 'home of the Golden Bulls.' It was a great experience."

But while doing a workshop, Foy-Burroughs says there was a sudden lockdown at the high school. This motivated her to relocate from New Jersey to Charlotte, back to the Golden Bulls' stomping ground. 

"My nerves were shattered," Foy-Burroughs said. "I was exhausted."

For the last six years, Foy-Burroughs has been serving as the director for alumni relations at JCSU. 

"This is where I'm supposed to be," Foy-Burroughs said. 

Foy-Burroughs has been advocating to protect historic artifacts that tell the Golden Bulls stories, like pictures of educational leaders and athletes, so future generations of students know JCSU's history. 

"A lot of our young folk that come in, they don't know the history like we do," Foy-Burroughs said. "This is good for them to see, to know JCSU didn't just start today, that it's been in existence since 1867. That's telling you we have a rich history. When you know the deep history, you're going to want to come back to JCSU or any HBCU because you know how they started. It was a struggle, but look at us now."

Foy-Burroughs says as of now, there isn't a JCSU Alumnus Building on the campus to hold these artifacts. She says there needs to be a space, such as a campus museum, to preserve the items. 

Foy-Burroughs says the best place is possibly a church right across the street from the college — the historic Old Mount Carmel Baptist Church. 

"Not the whole building, but a mini museum," Foy-Burroughs said. "We have a lot of alumnus who send back artifacts. We send them to the library. We don't see them. If you have a specific place for them to go, that would be wonderful."

She says many alumni have ties to the church, including herself and work colleague and alumnus Calvin Banks, who's also advocating to save the church facility.

"This building needs to be saved for historical reasons," Banks said. "This church congregation started as a small congregation in Biddleville back in the late 1800s. As they grew, they decided they needed a structure. This structure was finished around 1921 which makes it around 100 years old."

Banks says the church building has a huge significance for former students. 

"Way back, our campus [was founded] Presbyterian," Banks said. "For Smith students, at least when I was here in the 1960s, there was a requirement to attend a certain number of chapels per semester or per year. You had several choices. Monday through Friday, we would be in Biddle Auditorium. On Sundays, we would be in the University Church for chapel. The students who were in seminary would do their trial sermons and needed an audience, so we were required to spend a number of Sundays in that church. For those of us who weren't Presbyterian, we figured on a Sunday, we needed to be in a Baptist service. Mount Carmel was the church closest to us."

Banks says around 1969, the university's seminary program relocated, and students who came in no longer had to meet the chapel requirements. He says many of the students ended up attending services at Old Mount Carmel Baptist Church. 

Present day, Banks says the historic church building needs to be repaired. 

"The building has deteriorated," Banks said.

​Staff at JCSU said they're working with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission to secure funding to help save the church building.

The Historic Landmarks Commission previously voted to request funding from the Mecklenburg County commissioners to stabilize the exterior of the building. JCSU and the Historic Landmarks Commission confirmed they're working to complete the stabilization plans before making a formal request to the commission for funding. 

JCSU says the university is working with structural engineers on the final phase of the stabilization plans.

In the meantime, JCSU has installed stabilization building braces and enclosed the church with fencing to eliminate any safety issues surrounding the facility.

A recent picture of the Old Mount Carmel Baptist Church, off Campus Street in Charlotte. (Spectrum News 1/Jennifer Roberts)

For history's sake, Foy-Burroughs says something must be done so the church building remains in the forefront of the Biddleville community. 

"This is one piece of history we need to save for our folks," Foy-Burroughs said. "It's history. It should be preserved just for that."

The Rev. Albert Lewis was the first to pastor the Old Mount Carmel Baptist Church congregation, followed by Rev. William H. Davidson. The Campus Street church building was built and completed during Davidson's tenure.  

In 1965, the Rev. Dr. Leon C. Riddick became pastor of the church. The congregation continued growing, later relocating to another church facility at 3201 Tuckaseegee Road. 

In 1990, the Rev. Dr. Casey R. Kimbrough accepted his call to lead Mount Carmel Baptist Church, where he continues to serve as pastor. In August 2005, the congregation relocated to a new facility at 7237 Tuckaseegee Road.