Neighbors Speak Out About Losing The Area's History

By: Karen Campbell Email
By: Karen Campbell Email

Mabel Memorial Chapel is a church that once brought neighbors in the Ridgeville community in Harrisonburg together.

"We were baptized over here in the church and my daughter got married there," said Avis Wyant, who's lived in Ridgeville for more than 50 years.

Wyant says the church, which was built in 1898, was a gateway to the community, until it was shut down five years ago.

"First (Presbyterian) Church, come out here and boarded up the windows and told us to stay off the property, unless we were going to the cemetery. That's not right.That's not right," said Wyant.

Other neighbors say it isn't right that leaders in the city of Harrisonburg are forcing homeowners to leave in order to build a five lane road on Reservoir Street.

"I think it's a pet project and there's a few obstacles that are pushing it. It's to no ones advantage," said Marvin Baker, who is losing his home due to road construction.

Three generations of Baker's family have lived in the area. Some, buried in the cemetery next to Mabel Memorial Chapel.

First Presbyterian Church has rights to the chapel. Rumors have been circulating among neighbors that leaders at First Presbyterian could demolish the chapel and sell the land.

Although Baker's property sits far away from the proposed road construction plans, he's still losing his home.

Baker says he can see a third lane for emergency use, but not five.

"Here you have Charlottesville and UVA has two lanes in and two lanes out. It's ten times the size of RMH. They don't have a problem," said Baker.

Baker says this project just doesn't make sense.

"It acts more like a vendetta than common sense," said Baker.

A vendetta Wyant says leaders at First Presbyterian Church could have used to shut down the chapel.

"You have to change with the change, I understand that, but why bother the church?" It's not hurting anybody sitting on that hill," said Wyant.

Bakers family was among those who helped build and maintain the chapel over the years.

Baker and Wyant both agree the area is changing and growing.

"There are streets in town that I never heard of, I don't even know where they are. Years ago when I was a kid I new where every street was. It's not the same anymore," said Wyant.

Phone calls to Harrisonburg's Public Works Department or First Presbyterian Church were not returned in time for this publication.

As for those who live in Ridgeville, they say they'll always remember the 'Ridge' as it once was.


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