Calfee Training School Added to Virginia Historic Landmark (Copy) | Local news


Robert Freis The Roanoke Times

The Calfee Training School, a 20th century building associated with the African American history of Pulaski County, has been added to the prestigious Virginia Historic Landmarks Register.

The State Department of Historic Resources announced Thursday that the educational site has been added to the registry, a list of places of historical, architectural, archaeological and cultural significance.

According to the VDH, the training school building on Corbin-Harmon Drive in Pulaski dates from 1939, when it was built with federal funding from the Public Works Administration.

The separate elementary school catered for African American children.

It closed in 1966 when Pulaski County desegregated its public school system and reopened in 1968 as a Pulaski Integrated Elementary School for kindergarten students. It closed permanently in 2010.

A planned African American history, education and community center at the site will receive $ 160,000 from a state fund that was previously used for land conservation.

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The Virginia Outdoors Foundation announced in 2020 that Calfee Training School and TG Howard Community Center have received grants from its Open Space Lands Preservation Trust Fund.

After laws governing the Preservation Trust Fund were amended earlier this year by the General Assembly, the foundation’s board of directors adopted the broader mission of supporting community outdoor recreation and education. .

The downtown Pulaski school and community center have each received funding that will be used to help restore what is described as “the centerpiece of a potential African American historic district.”

Founded in the late 1800s to educate black children, Calfee School will be renovated into a museum and daycare. Plans also call for offices and an event center in the 13,000 square foot building.

A lawsuit to secure educational equality for the school’s students was one of the legal victories that led to the landmark Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. The school building was then used by various public and private tenants before closing in 2010.

African-American high school students in Pulaski County were forced to travel to Montgomery County daily and attend the Christiansburg Institute, as were other blacks in the New River Valley in search of public education. The order of the public school desegregation court also put an end to this system of racial discrimination.

On adjacent land, the TG Howard Community Center was established by a black minister in the early 1960s, when the local YMCA was still separate. It quickly became the focal point for African American recreation, political events, education, and vocational training before closing in 2013.

The Calfee Colonial Revival style one-story training school, built to standardized plans provided by the Virginia Board of Education, reflects the desire of state and federal governments to improve facilities and programs for ‘teaching’, declared the VDH, announcing the new historic designation of the school.

Among the 12 other sites listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register are properties that are home to Southside Virginia’s oldest continuously operating radio station, the country’s oldest horse show, and, in West Virginia, the first and possibly the only national forest recreation area for African Americans during apartheid, which was located in Alleghany County.

The Commonwealth Historical Resources Council approved the Virginia Landmarks Register lists at its quarterly public meeting on December 9.


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