Local history buffs probably know that the Cuffeytown-Longridge section of Chesapeake is the oldest continuously occupied community of free blacks in Virginia. The historical cemetery is the final resting place of 13 Black who served the Union, known as the “Cuffeytown 13.”
Central to the community is the Gabriel Chapel AME Zion Church, established 1866. Listed as a historical landmark by the city, the church still had its original stained-glass windows, not that the significance of a church can be measured by such things.
No, much more than the windows were lost early Friday morning when the church was consumed in a fire. Early indications are that the fierce line of storms that passed through the region on Thursday night caused the fire with a lightning strike.
Chesapeake Fire Capt. Christopher Mackiewicz called the damage “catastrophic” and told reporters, “The building is going to be condemned.”