HUNTINGTON — The National Park Service has awarded a grant to the Carter G. Woodson Memorial Foundation to continue restoration of the historic Memphis Tennessee Garrison House in Huntington’s Fairfield neighborhood.
The African American Civil Rights Historic Preservation Fund grant is for $146,100 and will go toward the foundation’s goal of raising the historic profile of Memphis Tennessee Garrison. It also will promote Huntington’s distinctive African American history by restoring the home where she lived for more than 30 years during the modern civil rights movement.
Garrison is recognized as a civil rights leader in rural West Virginia for helping both African Americans and young women.
The Woodson Memorial Foundation wants to establish a civil rights museum where Garrison’s life and legacy can be explored and celebrated. Transforming Garrison’s long-abandoned house in the city’s Fairfield West neighborhood will help tell the stories of other heroes of the civil rights movement like Woodson, known as the “father of black history,” said David Harris president of the foundation.
“I think it will mean a whole lot to the Fairfield West community, but more importantly, will give Huntington a visual landmark of how important the people who lived here were to civil rights and black history,” Harris said. “Mrs. Garrison was a personal mentor of mine, and was one of the people who helped me get through college by having me do little chores and telling me not to spend it but save it for my education. This always gave me a personal feel for how great this woman was, and at the time I didn’t even know her national prominence and that she actually influenced President Johnson in passage of civil rights legislation.”
Located at 1701 10th Ave., the Memphis Tennessee Garrison House is named after the school teacher in McDowell County who also served as a welfare worker for the U.S. Steel Company. In this latter capacity, she helped to settle racial disputes, provided counseling to black miners and their families and developed cultural and recreational opportunities for residents of the area, according to the West Virginia Encyclopedia.
Garrison was active with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She helped to develop and sustain chapters of the NAACP in southern West Virginia, and served as a national vice president and as a field secretary who undertook special organizing and membership activities. One of her most important achievements was the creation of the Christmas Seal Project, which became an important fundraising effort for the NAACP.
After retiring from the McDowell County school system, Garrison moved to Huntington, where she served as a substitute teacher and continued her public activities. Her Huntington home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2017, followed by distinction in 2018 as Huntington’s only site on the national Civil Rights Trail.
The Carter G. Woodson Memorial Foundation purchased the Garrison House from an out-of-state real estate company that had purchased it for delinquent taxes. After the house was listed in the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior, a cost study of remaining physical restoration needs and stabilization of the house’s foundation came about through outreach and partnerships with city and neighborhood leaders.
The Woodson Foundation has since begun work to stabilize the home and surrounding lot using $50,000 allocated by the City of Huntington from a HUD Choice Neighborhood grant, small state and local grants, fundraisers and in-kind contributions.
All of the improvements that will be paid for using the National Park Service funding will follow historic restoration standards. The improvements will include foundation stabilization, replacing insulation, electrical and HVAC equipment; installing a sprinkler system and restoring a fire escape; repairing and restoring windows, staircases, flooring, walls and ceilings; restoring and replacing kitchen and bathroom fixtures; and installing an entrance ramp and removing barriers to access by persons with disabilities.
Individuals who would like to financially contribute toward the restoration of the Garrison House can send donations to P.O. Box 5483, Huntington, WV 25703-0483.