NEW LONDON — Though some of the work at Mead’s Tavern has been put on pause recently, the new historic designation of the site is set to open up new opportunities for friends of New London, as well as for those looking to take an in-depth dive into local stories from times past.
Saturday marked the 15th annual New London Day, where locals and visitors alike learn about the area through the eras by unique stories the structures, artifacts and people there can tell. Liberty University and Friends of New London own most of the historic properties in the community nestled at the border of Bedford and Campbell counties, such as the former Bedford Alum Springs Hotel and several churches.
Visitors on Saturday could view a long timeline’s worth of artifacts dug up from the area; try their hand at the sweep of a batteau, which would’ve been a key component of New London’s trade economy before rail; listen to a variety of live musical performances and tour the buildings amid plenty of costumed interpreters.
A fixture of that community dating back to 1763, Mead’s Tavern was added to the Virginia Landmarks Register last month. Donna Davis Donald, LU’s director of public history initiatives and a member of the Friends of New London board, said Saturday the site’s application to the National Register of Historic Places is under review, and the school said in a news release it expects Mead’s Tavern to officially join that register within a few weeks.
Where the coronavirus pandemic has slowed restoration projects at the site, Donald said she’s optimistic about drawing up a new timeline for the building and has two grant applications in progress, opened up by the historic designation.
Friends of New London has turned its focus to the historic African American church down the road, where Delores Hicks — who attended the church since she was a child in the ‘40s — kept tourgoers enthralled with her stories and interpretations Saturday.
Donald said the board is hoping to raise money to restore that building and pulling it beyond its historical shell, including adding indoor plumbing.
“There’s just so much to preserve and tell, and it just adds to our understanding of who we are,” she said.