Reconstructing the structure of cultural assertion: Kadesh AME Zion Church in Edenton, NC

In September 2003 when Hurricane Isabel ravaged the eastern NC coast and traveled inland to Edenton, NC it left insurmountable effects of damages in its wake. It was a tremendous loss for the two-hundred and ninety-one year old town as most of the local economy depended on historic tourism.  As the town began to rebound from the wreckage and piece their community back together, there was one historic structure that was very slow in regaining its previous eminence: Kadesh African Methodist Episcopal Church, a Gothic Revival building built in 1897 by Hannibal Badham, a former enslaved carpenter. The church suffered so much disrepair that the congregation had to move. Even in 2017, the church has yet to be restored to a habitable state. As a center of religious and social life for Edenton’s African American community during the turn of the century as well as the church’s contribution to the founding of Edenton Normal and Industrial College the architectural gem deserves a place in the historical record.[1] As a Gothic Revival Style structure it carries the architectural significance that beckons the eye- for this reason the idea of a digital reconstruction/rendering would capture the essence of the historic structure and highlight its beauty. It would also highlight the life and times of those who built it.

Of the many forms of conveying digital historical studies, the 3D Modelling form proves to be most useful in rendering a study on Kadesh. “Such an engaging view of [its] past [would] increase public interest” in the structure, inform the public of the social history surrounding it, and possibly could lead to a resurgence in restoring the structure.[2]  Additionally the adjacent Edenton Normal and Industrial College* could be rendered to bring this structure’s history to the forefront.

The interpretive scope of this project would include the social history of African Americans in the town of Edenton in the late nineteenth century, the town’s response to restoring the structure, the inclusion/exclusion of the structure’s history in the town’s tourism industry and biographical sketches of the Badham family. Such a focus encompasses watershed moments in race relations in the United States and would serve as a microhistory situated in coastal North Carolina.

AUTHORS NOTE: I drew the sketch below back in December 2015 when I was thinking about the ways that enslaved people’s descendants tried to create community in a still unforgiving landscape. Kadesh immediately came to mind.

Screenshot (823).png

[1] Lauren Walser Hurricane-Battered Church Still in Need of Repairs PreservationNation Blog (accessed 9/26/2015).

*Edenton Normal and Industrial College was founded in 1895 as a school for the town’s African American population. It closed in 1925 and was demolished in 1940.

[2] Diane Favro Digital Immersive Reconstructions of Historical Environments Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians Vol 71. No. 3 September 2012

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