Aerial shows Melrose High School football stadium and the Orange Mound Community Center.
Orange Mound is the country’s newest Preserve America Community thanks to an add by First Lady Michelle Obama.
Letters were sent to community members in the Memphis neighborhood last week, alerting them of the neighborhood’s new designation, given by Obama. The program recognizes “a select group of communities that use their heritage resources in sustainable ways and share the myriad benefits of historic preservation with residents and visitors.”
Orange Mound joins 905 communities across the country designated by the program. It is the fourth community to receive the designation in Shelby County along with Bartlett, Collierville, and the Victorian Village neighborhood close to the Edge District.
Here’s a selection about Orange Mound from its page on the Preserve America website:
“The neighborhood was founded in 1890, when real estate developer Elzey Eugene Meacham purchased the land from the [John] Deaderick family. Mattie Deaderick asked Meacham not to sell the land to ‘Negroes’ but he disregarded her request and began developing the nation’s first subdivision planned specifically for African Americans.
Meacham sold the long and narrow lots (25 x 100 feet) for $40 apiece, charging a 50-cent deposit and minimal weekly payments. Residents had to build their own homes, churches, and other structures, but the opportunity gave the new community a sense of ownership and solidarity.
Orange Mound's population remained heavily African American throughout the 20th century as the neighborhood gained a reputation as a refuge for blacks moving to Memphis from rural areas in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi.
By 1970, Orange Mound was known as the American neighborhood with the second most concentrated population of African Americans, behind only Harlem in New York City.
The neighborhood fell into decline in the 1980's and 1990's but, since 2000, has experienced a revival, driven in part by older residents utilizing the neighborhood’s rich heritage to help influence the next generation to take a more active role in improving and maintaining the community.”
Here’s what Congressman Steve Cohen had to say about Orange Mound’s designation as a Preserve America Community:
“The Orange Mound community will benefit greatly from this designation as its leaders and residents work to protect and celebrate their heritage while building a future that will keep the community strong and vibrant for generations to come,” Cohen said in a statement.