Building Community through Building Rehabilitation: Elizabeth City State University’s Rosenwald Practice School and Principal’s House

Melissa Stuckey, Elizabeth City State University

Between 1913 and 1937, over 5,300 Rosenwald school buildings were constructed in fifteen Southern states. These schools were the fruit of a partnership between philanthropist Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington to improve public school facilities for African American children in the Jim Crow South. Approximately thirteen Rosenwald schools were built on African American normal school campuses to provide classroom training for Black student teachers. One such Rosenwald Practice School building was opened in 1922 on the campus of Elizabeth City State Colored Normal School, today Elizabeth City State University (ECSU). It was one of only thirteen Rosenwald Practice School buildings ever constructed and is possibly the only one standing today. Since 2017, ECSU has been planning the rehabilitation and repurposing of its century old Rosenwald Practice School and an accompanying house that served as the home of university presidents for several decades. Upon completion the buildings will regain much of their original form while being updated for use by present day constituents. In 2022, with grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the National Park Service and support from a dedicated team of collaborators, I completed a comprehensive interpretive and design plan to guide the rehabilitation and to develop interpretive themes for planned exhibit space within the buildings. The interpretive spaces will tell the stories of the varied uses of these campus buildings over the past one hundred years. After it ceased operation as a practice school, for example, the Rosenwald school building served as a YWCA clubhouse, a cosmetology school, a laboratory preschool, a campus laundry, and, most recently, headquarters for ECSU’s ROTC battalion. This presentation will discuss the research, community outreach, and educational methods deployed to connect with the communities that interacted with both buildings in order to build community through building rehabilitation.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 52. Preserving History: Community Building, Deep Mapping, and Scholarly Engagement