CHRISTIANSBURG — The replacement of the historic Edgar A. Long building’s roof is finally underway.
The structure on Scattergood Drive is the sole original remnant of the Christiansburg Institute, a school that was launched by Union Capt. Charles S. Schaeffer during the early part of the Reconstruction era.
The institute was formed to educate freed slaves and evolved into a regional school for African Americans during segregation. Booker T. Washington was once an adviser to the school.
It closed in 1966 when local schools were integrated.
There have been unsuccessful efforts over the past decades to perform various restorations on the Long building.
A renewed effort, however, kicked off about two years ago and ultimately led to the current roof project.
“We’re renovating the roof system to make sure the building remains watertight, to preserve it,” said Doug Coffman, a construction manager with Blacksburg-based contractor Snyder & Associates.
The project, Coffman said, will bring a new shingle roof to ensure that no water issues arise as the nonprofit Christiansburg Institute Inc. continues with fundraising for the remainder of the building.
The roof project’s total cost is $171,721, Coffman said.
“Of course it’s weather dependent at this time of the year, but [the new roof] should be up in the next couple of months,”he said.
Coffman said crews are currently doing work such as replacing structural members that were at some point damaged by fire.
Snyder & Associates has a track record of working on historic structures, with another significant project being Blacksburg’s Alexander Black House.
Key players in the Long building project are the local governments in Montgomery County, each of which donated funds.
In its 2018-19 and 2019-20 budgets, Christiansburg allocated a total of $85,000 for the roof. Montgomery County approved $75,000 for the roof in September. And Blacksburg approved $7,500.
Additionally, the Long building has received $12,000 from the group 100+ Women Who Care — NRV.
That funding was matched with a $5,000 donation from the Secular Society, another nonprofit.
Christiansburg Institute Inc., which was formed at the start of the century to promote and preserve the old school’s history, has long envisioned transforming the Long building into a prominent educational and cultural asset.
“Ultimately, it’s to build it out and make the building a vibrant part of the community with some educational opportunities,” Coffman said. “I just know they want to use it to continue to educate students in the local community about the history of the Christiansburg Institute.”
Marcy Schnitzer, Christiansburg Institute Inc.’s interim executive director, said the organization will continue to raise funds for the remainder of the structure.
“The obvious next step is the windows of the building,” she said. “We do have alumni who are interested in sponsoring a window. We believe for the windows we can raise most of that through private fundraising.”
Schnitzer said it’s been said over the years that a restoration of the entire building would cost just over $2 million. That figure, however, is probably dated, she said.
Schnitzer said the nonprofit will continue much of its recent work in the plan to restore the remainder of the Long building. That, she said, involves seeking out a combination of funding from both local governments and the remainder of the community.
Debbie Sherman-Lee, chairwoman of Christiansburg Institute Inc.’s board, said she is glad to see the roof work underway and that the project will pave the way for the rest of the Long building’s transformation.
“I think it’s wonderful. Everyone’s getting excited,” Sherman-Lee said.
“Once the roof is on, I think more people will get involved and have faith again that things will start working, that we can get the rest of it done.”
Sherman-Lee herself attended the institute during the eighth grade and in its final year in operation. She later graduated from Christiansburg High School.
Christiansburg Councilman Brad Stipes said the work on the Long building is special to him due to its historical significance.
“In the early days, what inspired me to run for council was largely … to transform the community and make it more bicycle and pedestrian friendly,” he said.
“We’ve made significant headway in that. Along the way, I’ve learned about the history of the Christiansburg Institute, which I was completely unaware of. I thought, ‘Wow, what an invaluable historical treasure we have in town.’ ”