28ºF

Roanoke community raises money to buy back historic Dumas Hotel

The fundraiser adds on to the more than $60,000 raised already

The Roanoke community came together Saturday, July 1, for a festival to raise money to buy the historic Dumas Hotel. The building, which is currently owned by Total Action for Progress, is up for sale and community members want to buy it. The community's push to own the building is rooted in its historic past.

What is now called the Dumas Arts and Cultural Center used to be one of the only places the black community could go in Roanoke to see music during segregation. Helen Davis and Evelyn Bethel are in their 80s now, but they remember when the Dumas Hotel was the center of their community.

"If you said the Dumas, oh boy that was it," said Davis. "By virtue of segregation and discrimination, we were not permitted to go to any place like that, so we built our own and operated our own," Bethel added.

"I've been in this community 33 years. I've never seen this kind of moment before," said festival organizer Martin Jeffrey. Jeffrey said the cause is quickly gaining support. The money-raising campaign has been underway for about a month and has already raised more than $60,000.

"As we're hearing from people who are writing thousand-dollar checks that they believe that this is a moment unlike any other," said Jeffrey. Davis said that enthusiasm comes from a hope that the Dumas can once again represent African American music and culture in Roanoke. "Us old folk remember it, and we would like to have it and operate it to show the young people what can be done," said Davis.

But Jeffrey said his group's initial offer of $800,000 for the building and 10 months to raise the funds was denied. "They countered by raising the price to $975,000 and cutting the time the community had to raise it to two months," said Jeffrey.

Regardless, Jeffrey remains positive the community and TAP can strike a deal. He said he doesn't have a timeline for when a deal might be met with TAP over the building, but said he's glad the organization is at least at the bargaining table. And those who still remember the Dumas in its heyday are holding out hope they'll see it again.