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Renovations coming to St. John Rosenwald School in Albemarle County

Updated: May. 18, 2021 at 8:03 PM EDT
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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - The Albemarle Planning Commission approved the renovation of a 1,500 square foot building that was once a school for African American children.

Thousands of Rosenwald schools were built all around the south in the early 1900s. They were started by Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald to bridge the gap between education and Black people.

St. John Rosenwald School, built in the Gordonsville area in the early 1920′s, is one of seven Rosenwald schools identified in Albemarle County. Most others are now private homes. St. John’s was a residence before St. John Baptist Church bought it, with plans to renovate.

“The St. John Family Life and Fitness Center is restoring the school to be a community center for the neighborhood and to also be an education place -- a museum -- for the history of the school,” Building Goodness Foundation Executive Director Courtney Polk said.

“We might be on track to start at the end of the summer. “It’ll be a years build so if we don’t start in the summer we will start in the winter,” Katherine Garstang, Building Goodness Foundation’s local projects and operations director, said .

The Building Goodness Foundation, St. John Family Life and Fitness Center, and others on the project have big goals for how this space will serve people.

“It’s going to meet the varied needs of the community. There will be an exercise area in the building. The way the school was originally constructed was conceived as being a community center, even then in 1923,” Jody Lahendro, historic preservation architect, said.

The county is involved because this renovation requires a permit.

The Planning Commission approved the project on May 18, 2021. Now, the Board of Supervisors will decide how the renovation moves forward.

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