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Fire Ravages Historic Latta House

Posted January 8, 2007
Updated January 9, 2007

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— Fire Monday destroyed a historic home with ties to a 19th-century effort to educate poor and orphaned black children.

The pre-dawn fire burned in the Latta House at 1001 Parker St. off Oberlin Road near the Cameron Village Shopping Center.

The building was undergoing renovations, and fire investigators were trying to determine what started the blaze.

"It was pretty sad," said Bill Shepherd, who has been the caretaker of the house for more than a decade. "The sad thing is, it's not just me who's losing on this one. I think the entire city of Raleigh is losing this monument to part of its history."

The Latta House Foundation has been seeking to restore the building, which is where Rev. Morgan London Latta founded Latta University in the late 1800s to educate poor blacks.

Latta was born into slavery in 1856 on the Cameron Family Plantation. He wrote a book describing his boyhood days on the plantation, his struggles to feed his family, getting an education at Shaw University, and his work to establish Latta University.

With nothing left of the landmark, many now fear the history will be lost.

"The way the ordinances are written (is that) once the building is lost, it automatically loses its landmark designation as a city landmark," said Dan Becker with the Raleigh Historic Districts Commission.

Supporters of the Latta House Foundation said Monday they hope something will be done to honor Latta's legacy.

"There's very few sites of black history left. And this was one of the last remaining parts of a school that served the community," Shepherd said. "The slaves served the community, trying to provide for the poorest of the poor."
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