Salem School project gets grant funding

Published 8:00 am Friday, April 12, 2024

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A group of citizens working to restore the former Salem School into a community center has received a blessing, one that will help the group continue its mission.

The Department of Historic Resources (DHR) and the Virginia Board of Historic Resources (VBHR) have announced that funding from the first round of the 2023 Virginia Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Historic Preservation Grant Program will be used to support nine projects in the Commonwealth.

The Salem School Stabilization Project is one of those projects that received funding for $335,000.

A history of Salem School

Located in Red Oak, the former school constructed in 1924 is part of what is known as the Rosenwald Schools.

Julius Rosenwald, an early partner in Sears, Roebuck, & Co., established a fund in 1917 to improve the “well-being of mankind,” particularly the Black race. According to the Museum of Charlotte County, 363 black schools in Virginia were constructed or improved with Rosenwald funding, seven of which were in Charlotte County.

Sonja Ingram with Preservation Virginia said the school building is not in too bad of shape considering its age.

“It does need some roof and foundation work,” Ingram said. “They will also need to upgrade the kitchen and bathrooms at some point. The work they have done so far involves a lot of clean-ups and taking out some interior parts.”

Out of the seven Rosenwald schools built in Charlotte County, Salem School is recorded as being the most significant, three-teacher type constructed and the most expensive, with a large donation coming from the Rosenwald Foundation. 

Salem School is the only known Rosenwald School to still be standing in the county. 

The school consisted of three classrooms, a cafeteria with a freshwater well, an entrance hall, and a cloakroom. 

The two rear classrooms were divided by folding doors that were opened to provide ample meeting space for weekly devotional services, May Day celebrations, graduation, and other community events. 

The school was in operation until 1959 when the new consolidated Bacon District School was built. 

About the preservation fund 

On March 21 following a multi-step review process, DHR recommended nine projects for a total of $2,514,254 to the VBHR for approval. The list includes six rehabilitation and stabilization projects, two data recovery projects, and one cemetery project that calls for data recovery and rehabilitation. 

The General Assembly established the Virginia Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Historic Preservation Fund in April 2022 under Virginia Code Section 10.1-2202.5. 

The purpose of this legislation is to create a grant program to protect and support the Commonwealth’s historically underserved and underrepresented communities as well as the cultural and historical sites associated with them. 

The fund will provide grants for the acquisition, protection, and rehabilitation of historic and archaeological sites of significance associated with Black and Indigenous communities and People of Color in Virginia.