Asbury Church - Middleburg VA

Middleburg’s proud history is gaining another foothold in preservation. The Town Council took action at its September 8 meeting to retain its ownership of the historic Asbury Church, 105 N. Jay Street instead of turning it over to a different entity. Thanks to the town’s current budget surplus, the structure will be stabilized immediately and restored, making it ready for visitors.

“This vote is an important step in protecting and preserving one of the most historic buildings in Middleburg,” said Mayor Bridge Littleton. 

The Town Council expressed gratitude for all the efforts and hard work of those who submitted proposals to the town. These proposals were not accepted, and the town will retain ownership based on its significance to the community and the budget surplus.

It was built in 1829 on donated land as the home of the Methodist Congregation in Middleburg until that congregation merged with a larger one. Subsequently donated to the African American Methodist Church in 1864, it became a central component of the town’s African American community. It also served as a school for that congregation’s children. The city received the church building as a gift in late 2014 and invested over $174,000 to stabilize the structure and protect it from further deterioration.

The church initially was a separate worship facility for Methodists who no longer wanted to worship with other denominations. The structure served as a Methodist Church until 1857, when it wasn’t abandoned but used as a depot, storehouse, temporary hospital, and morgue during the Civil War. 

In 1864, the white owners donated the church to the local black Methodist community to use for worship as a school. 

As the African American community in Middelburg thrived throughout the latter half of the 19th century, the church continued to be in constant use, growing in worshipers and square footage. It was added to and renovated several times, including the addition of an organ in 1880 and a bell in 1884.

In 1994, the church’s congregation merged with the Willisville United Methodist Church, and the building was abandoned. 

The church’s future includes serving as a gathering place for all community members while preserving a unique part of the town’s history. According to town manager Danny Davis, the positive fiscal budget year the town has enjoyed provides the luxury of investing in this historically significant building and helping to preserve the town’s legacy. All community members who want to get involved with this renovation and help develop future programming and activities for the building are welcome.

The town will develop ongoing partnerships with local entities interested in hosting events, community activities, and historical commemorations, especially making the building available for community use, such as for small events and use by small groups. The town has committed to working with the Middleburg Museum Foundation and other local historic and preservation groups in these efforts.

Because of the vital role the building played in the community’s history, its restoration will be swift in the next 12-18 months. This history includes a discussion of race relations in Middleburg and the brave men and women who brought integration to the community.

The Town Council will involve local historical and community groups to create an interpretive history of the Asbury Church. Part of this effort will highlight the church’s role in Middleburg’s history of race relations. 

According to Davis, when President Kennedy and First lady Jackie Kennedy visited Middleburg in 1961 and attended Catholic services at the community center, town officials realized they needed to integrate the town. They did not want to embarrass the President, who came to Middleburg frequently and supported integration. 

Students from Howard University came to Middleburg to push integration on what they perceived as the President’s turf. They walked into a local drugstore in Middleburg in late February of the same year and sat at the lunch counter. This incident kicked off a series of events that eventually led to the town’s complete integration by May of that year.

Asbury Church and its part in the community’s original African-American population renders it a crucial piece of this history.

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