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Rosenwald School
922 West Benning Road
Galesville, Maryland
Anne Arundel County

Additional Schools: Hosanna School Rock Elementary School Worton Point School

 

Context History Description
Floor Plan Comparison Preservation Plan
Contact   Works Cited

 

Context
Situated off West Benning Road in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, the one-story Galesville School served as a primary (Kindergarten through Sixth grade) school for the African-American community in Galesville from 1929 to 1956. One of twenty-three Rosenwald schools originally built in the county, today it is one of only ten surviving.

 

History
The inferior standards of black education legalized by Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 provided Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck, and Company, with the motivation to create a fund to facilitate the development of progressive African-American schools throughout the South. Beginning in 1917, largely stimulated by the wisdom of Booker T. Washington, Rosenwald offered matching funds totaling millions of dollars to African-American communities in fifteen Southern states. (Granat, 35) From the time of the fund’s creation until Rosenwald’s death in 1932, some 5000 schools were created and his funding helped establish “[a] viable program of universal education for rural southern blacks.” ("Rosenwald Schools of Anne Arundel County, MD," 6) In Maryland, Rosenwald’s program funded 262 schools.
In addition to a monetary donation, Rosenwald provided recipients with architectural plans to ensure the creation of the most state-of-art, innovative Colonial Revival style school buildings. Designs emphasized providing the maximum amount of space at a minimal cost. The buildings were to be only one story in height with wooden floors and plastered walls. The most characteristic feature of the school was the grouping of tall double-hung sash windows, intentionally facing east and west to allow natural sunlight into the school, reducing the need for electric lighting. Finally, the interior and exterior walls were to be painted in light colors, such as white, cream, buff, and ivory, for aesthetic and sanitary reasons. ("Rosenwald Schools of Anne Arundel County, MD," 7-8)
With funds totaling $1900 coming from the Rosenwald Foundation, the local black community, and Anne Arundel County, construction of the school began in 1929 and took the plan of a typical Rosenwald school, measuring 24 feet wide by 36 feet deep. ("Rosenwald Schools of Anne Arundel County, MD," 14) According to former students, the original building consisted of three rooms, which accommodated the “two teacher plan.” ("Rosenwald Schools of Anne Arundel County, MD," 9) A concrete path led directly to a covered porch on the south gable end of the school, which was originally the front elevation of the building. The front door opened one into the coatroom, which then led directly to the main classroom. North of the coatroom was a smaller room, with a window in the gable end, where one teacher worked with a small portion of the class separately while the majority of the students remained in the larger room with another teacher. On the northwest and the northeast walls of the main room were large chalkboards where students would practice spelling and math problems. Windows on the east wall allowed sunlight into the school and provided a cool breeze on warm days. A pot-belly stove stood directly outside the coatroom and the smaller teaching room, providing heat to both portions of the building. Wood and coal fueled the stove and these materials were kept outside in a structure called the “Coal House;” it is no longer standing.

 

Description
In 1931, the two-year-old school was expanded to accommodate a rapidly growing student population. The current gable-roofed building took shape after the original southwest (front) wall was removed and both the southeast and the northwest wall were extended to the present length of 67 feet wide by 24 feet deep.
The southeast elevation was now the new front façade of the school. Sitting on rusticated stone piers, the southeast elevation faces the road and local housing subdivision. Horizontal wooden board siding sheathes the exterior walls. The southeast elevation now contains six small windows that flank the front double doors that swing away from the school, as well as a covered porch with concrete steps. A seven-light transom is located directly above the door.
The southwest wall contains two windows, both currently boarded up, while the northeast wall has none. On the northwest wall are ten nine-over-nine-light windows, double-hung sash, five on each side of the double doors. Similar windows were originally on the southeast wall, but were removed during the new construction in 1931.

 

Floor Plan
Today, the interior consists of a large open space, measuring 54 feet by 23 feet, which served as the classroom. A chimney stack jogs out from the wall on the south gable end. The floors have modern laminated flooring.
A modern kitchen and closet, each measuring 6’ by 12,’ occupy the north gable end. The walls in the classroom are covered in modern wood paneling, while the kitchen and closet both have painted walls with wainscoting below the chair rail.

 

Comparison
Although it lacked a vestibule that Hosanna, Rock Elementary, and Worton Point all had, the Galesville Rosenwald School maintained a large open space for the main classroom (after 1931), with (at one time) chalkboards and desks to facilitate educational endeavors. While Galesville used similar means to heat the building, a coal-burning pot-bellied stove, as the other schools, it differed from Hosanna, Rock Elementary, and Worton Point with the use of very tall windows to maximize light and ventilation in the school. Much like the other school buildings, the windows and doors were placed symmetrically to maintain an ordered appearance.

 

Preservation Plan
As public education entered a phase of integration in 1956, the Galesville School closed its doors. Two years later, the school was auctioned off for $1000 to William Woodfield, who donated the building to the Galesville Community Center Organization. Following a strong African-American tradition in which school buildings also served as community meeting houses, the Galesville School provided the black community with a social hall and recreation center. As time passed, the building was neglected but never forgotten and currently, efforts are under way to revive the building as a social center for Galesville’s African-American community and as a museum that will focus on black culture and community in the town. Currently, efforts are under way to secure 501-C3 status for the school, which is being funded by the Galesville Heritage Society. Until proper measures can be taken to restore the school, local individuals have boarded up the windows to protect the interior from outside elements. The community is certainly sensitive to the historical significance of the property and is doing its part to preserve its Rosenwald School, a building type which the National Trust for Historical Properties recognized as one of the eleven most endangered historic places in the United States in 2002.(Granat, 35) In addition, NTHP has recently published (2003) a book entitled, Preserving Rosenwald Schools, by author Mary S. Hoffschelle, that will enable citizens of Galesville to save their school, by profits reaped from the publication.

 

Contact
Jack Smith (410 867-1215
Gertrude Makell (410) 867-4612/grandkids_0011/msn.com

 

Works Cited
Granat, Diane. “More Than Blue Skies,” Preservation. (July/August 2003).

National Register of Historic Places Form, “Rosenwald Schools of Anne Arundel County, MD.

 

 

 

 

 
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