By Carol Vaughn —
The community celebrated the opening of the Davis Center in Whitesville with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house Monday.
Family members of the late Willie “Bill” Davis Sr., who operated a pool hall in the building, organized the event, after they announced plans a year ago to refurbish the 1960s-era brick building, which was left to them upon Davis’ death, for use as a community center.
Since then, the structure has undergone a stunning transformation.
Inside the Davis Center, there is Wi-Fi, a library, games, computer workstations, study areas, a snack station, and a conference room — all intended to provide needed resources to the community and a safe place for young people and adults to gather.
“When we came in 2018 and looked at it, it was covered with vines,” said Nzinga Henderson, one of Davis’ granddaughters, who led a tour of the building.
Still, an engineer said the structure was sound, making it a good candidate for renovation.
“This building was still standing for a reason,” Henderson said.
Henderson, along with Aya and Ola Ofunniyin and their mother, Doreen Simmons, participated in Monday’s celebration.
“We are so proud and excited and energized to show you all all the progress and what this center is going to be for this community — a community that has long been forgotten — but we are here to revive it, restore it, bring back the energy that once was,” said Ola Ofunniyin, before cutting a ribbon to ceremonially open the center.
She noted Whitesville has produced doctors, lawyers, Naval senior officers, and business owners, among other community leaders.
“We come from these streets and so it’s time for us to have a new energy to change this block, to change the view of Whitesville — and that is what the Davis Center is here to do,” Ofunniyin said.
Whitesville, population around 210, is just south of Parksley. Likely named after Harry White, an early landowner, the community was developed by Lizzie Chadbourne after she purchased 50 acres, according to a Parksley walking tour booklet published by the Eastern Shore Public Library.
When Parksley was incorporated in 1904, the town limits did not include the Black community of Whitesville.
Whitesville at one time was a central location where Black Eastern Shore residents came for services and entertainment.
It had a Rosenwald elementary school, built in 1925, which operated until 1964. The building now is the meeting place for the International Brotherhood of Yahshua’s Disciples, according to the booklet.
Whitesville also was home to a movie theater, a grocery store, restaurants, a dance hall, Davis’ pool hall, and more, including Adams United Methodist Church, which is still active.
The ribbon cutting ceremony Monday was followed by a week-long series of special events at the center, including a business startup event, an event focused on financial planning for teens, a painting and music event, and a family movie night Friday, Oct. 15 — doors open at 6 p.m. and the movie starts at 7 p.m. — and a Small Business Saturday event Oct. 16 at 1 p.m. Events are free, but registration is required for the Saturday event. Register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/177419054167
The Davis Center will be open seven days a week, from 1 to 7 p.m., according to Henderson.
“We’re going to do whatever it takes to keep the doors open,” said Henderson.
The Davis Center is at 23531 Parks St.
The mailing address is P.O. Box 463, Parksley, VA 23421.
The website is http://www.daviscenteresva.org/
Email: [email protected]
The Davis Center welcomes volunteers and donations, including books and board games.