SoA & HPP Help Preserve Historic Rosenwald School

By: Kyle Niblett

On Friday, May 20, College of Design, Construction and Planning Associate Professor Bradley Walters, Research Assistant Professor Sujin Kim and graduate student Craig Steckelberg spent time in Okahumpka restoring the Okahumpka Rosenwald School so it can continue to function as a historical site. Representing the UF School of Architecture, Walters spent the day crawling under the building taking precise measurements of the existing structural members and build methods, as well for the window rough openings. Dr. Kim and Steckelberg from the UF Historic Preservation Program processed the entire building, inside and out, using their LIDAR laser program equipment for 3D digital modeling. They also had aerial drone photography and 180-degree imagery done.

Rosenwald Schools were built primarily in the South in the early 20th century. This endeavor was a philanthropic effort to provide schooling for impoverished Black children. It began when Booker T. Washington joined with the philanthropist and President of Sears-Roebuck, Julius Rosenwald, to build more than 5,300 schools across fifteen states between 1912 and 1932. By 1928, more than one third of the South’s children were educated in Rosenwald schools. When the Supreme Court declared segregation in education unconstitutional in 1954, Black children were moved out of Rosenwald schools and integrated into previously White-only schoolhouses. Over the intervening decades, most Rosenwald Schools have fallen into disrepair. In recent years there has been an effort to preserve these historic buildings. The National Trust joined with local activists in this preservation effort, and recently Rosenwald Schools were placed on the National Trust’s 11 most endangered historic places.

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