This Tuesday, the Cape Charles Rosenwald School Restoration Initiative (CCRSRI) closed on the purchase of the old Cape Charles Rosenwald School.
Chairman of CCRSRI Tevya Griffin told the Mirror that the process began in 2009, and the initiative has been negotiating some way to purchase the historic building. With the help and gumption of some local investors, including Developer Eyre Baldwin, the financial capital plan came together.
The building had been used as a seafood processing plant in the past, working mainly with bay eels. This posed a problem for the purchase, as most of the refrigeration equipment was left behind, and there was some worry that toxic chemicals may have leeched into the structure. A thorough inspection in December found no sign of trace elements, so the purchase was green lighted for January.
Tevya Griffin told the Mirror that they are in the process of discussing future uses for the building. In a previous conversation, Baldwin told the Mirror that hope was to return the building to a functioning educational facility for everything from hospitality training to possibly high-tech.
The board is already rolling up its sleeves and getting to work. Several grants are in the process of being completed. Once funding is secured, architectural and design work on the structure will begin, Ms. Griffin told the Mirror.
Below is the official press release:
The Cape Charles Rosenwald School Restoration Initiative (CCRSRI), a 501(c)3 non-profit, purchased the Cape Charles Rosenwald School on Old Cape Charles Road on January 22. Nine years ago a group of alums and friends of the Cape Charles Elementary School formed CCRSRI with a goal to acquire and restore this wonderful historic structure that was a focal point and a center of social life for the African American Community in Cape Charles between 1928 and 1968. If you have ever driven into Cape Charles on Old Cape Charles Road or traveled between Bay Creek and the town proper, you would have seen the abandoned building a few hundred yards south of the overpass (“the Hump”).
Beginning in 1912, the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (now Tuskegee University), Booker T. Washington, and Julius Rosenwald, a top executive at Sears Roebuck & Company, formed a collaborative to improve the quality of public education for African Americans in the South during the period of legal segregation. By the time the program ended in 1932, it had built nearly 5,000 schools. Julius Rosenwald and the Rosenwald Fund had contributed more than $4.3 million and the African American communities raised more than $4.7 million.
At the time, new ideas about lighting, ventilation, heating, sanitation, instructional needs and aesthetics were bringing about changes in school design. The Rosenwald school program applied these new ideas to the rural South and created buildings that served as models for all rural schools.
Many of the Rosenwald schools constructed between 1917 and 1932 remained in operation into the 1960s and 1970s when the 1954 Supreme Court ruling against racial segregation was implemented. Afterward, many fell into disuse or changed function as rural populations declined. The vast majority of the schools were clapboard construction and, although many are now gone, there is a growing interest in the history and preservation of existing structures. Several years ago, the National Trust for Historic Preservation designated Rosenwald Schools as one of the 10 most endangered historic entities.
The Cape Charles Rosenwald School is very unique in that it is of brick construction. Although it was sold in 1968 to the Robberecht family to be used as a seafood processing plant and used for that purpose into the 70’s, it was not heavily modified and is in restorable condition.
CCRSRI is now in the process of seeking a number of grants as well as additional contributions to continue with the planning phase of the restoration. If you would like additional information or to learn how to become involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Tevya Griffin at 804-318-0607.