Elizabeth City awarded state grant to seek National Register designation for Old Oak Grove Cemetery

Elizabeth City awarded state grant to seek National Register designation for Old Oak Grove Cemetery

September 18th, 2023

The City of Elizabeth City has has been awarded a $25,000 grant to nominate the historic Old Oak Grove Cemetery to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Old Oak Grove Cemetery, located on Peartree Road, is a historic Black cemetery spanning almost eight acres and includes nearly 5,400 known and probable graves.

It is also the resting place of Hugh Cale and other founding fathers of Elizabeth City State University, among other individuals of local and regional importance.

The State Historic Preservation Office awarded the grant through its Historic Preservation Fund, which is funded through the National Park Service.

“The National Register is the nation’s official listing of historic places, and including Old Oak Grove on the listing will not only acknowledge its importance to our community and region, but will promote its preservation for years to come,” said City Manager Montre Freeman.

“The nomination process requires exhaustive research and reporting to meet state and federal standards, and the grant will pay for the specialized consultant needed to perform the work,” Freeman said.

Community members may recall that the Historic Preservation Fund previously funded boundary and ground-penetrating radar surveys of the cemetery.

City staff won that grant to help better identify and protect the cemetery’s current burials — and to lay the groundwork for the National Register nomination.

Notably, since those surveys, city staff have placed the cemetery on the state’s “Study List” for National Register nomination.

“With the cemetery’s inclusion on the Study List, and now this grant award, the City and SHPO staff see strong potential for our nomination to ultimately be accepted,” Freeman said.

The HPF does require matching funds from the city; typically, applicants are asked for a 40 percent match.

“However, the HPF so strongly supports our project that they have only required a match of $3,000, or about 11% of the total project cost of $28,000,” Freeman said. “The city offers a big and heartfelt “thank you” for this wonderful investment in our community’s history and heritage!”

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