One of Portsmouth’s oldest African American cemeteries, the Mount Calvary Cemetery Complex is a group of four historic African American cemeteries (Potter’s Field, Mt. Olive, Fisher’s Hill and Mt. Calvary) that adjoin and overlap on approximately fourteen acres in Portsmouth. At least 8,000, and possibly closer to 15,000, individuals are buried in the cemetery complex. American Veterans, including United States Colored Troops who served in the Civil War, are buried in the Mount Calvary Cemetery Complex, as well as many notable African American politicians, educators and artists from Portsmouth.
Threat: Poor drainage, standing water, and flooding due to adjacent Interstate 264 and other nearby highway projects have caused many gravestones to become eroded, sunken and cracked. The greatest and most recent threats stem from new drainage issues due to a planned sound barrier for I-264 by the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Solution: Short term work by VDOT is needed to resolve issues that result from the recently installed sound barrier and other transportation projects. In the long-term, the African American Historical Society of Portsmouth and the City of Portsmouth are tasked to address issues and preservation needs, and the cemetery complex should be included in the area’s comprehensive plan for appropriate heritage tourism.
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