A Group In Bath County Is Hoping To Give An Old Building New Life And Preserve Its History
Warm Springs, VA – A group in Bath County is hoping to give an old building new life and preserve the history surrounding it. A community meeting has been set for Tuesday May 15 to explore the possibility of restoring the old Union Hurst School in Pinehurst Heights. Cynthia Boteler is the Student Activities Coordinator at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College and she is organizing the meeting.
“Union Hurst was built in 1924,” says Boteler. “It was part of the Rosenwald school building program. That was a partnership between Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald. Julius Rosenwald was the President of Sears Roebuck Company. And they met in the mid-teens, just about a hundred years ago, and formed a partnership to build schools for the black community across the south and southwest. And as a result of this they built approximately 5,000 schools and almost 300 schools in Virginia. Only about 10% to 15% remain today. So they are very valuable schools. This is the history of the African American community.”
After Union Hurst was closed in 1965, the building was used for a short time as a small hotel and then it was abandoned. The building was condemned by the county several months ago. The owner is making changes to stabilize the building and is interested in exploring ideas on restoration and uses for the building. Boteler says community support is needed for preserving the school and she hopes those in attendance at the meeting will have ideas on uses for the building. One idea being considered already is to turn the old school into a community center.
Boteler has arranged for Angelo Franceschina to attend the community meeting. He is with a non profit organization called Rural Initiative and he has renovated a number of these schools. And Rebecca Joyce of the Shenandoah Valley Planning District Commission will also attend.
“This is really an opportune time for this whole project to be moving forward, because there’s really a movement going on right now,” says Boteler. “This summer in June the National Trust for Historic Preservation is sponsoring a conference at Tuskegee University and it’s the National Rosenwald Schools Conference. So I think it’s important for the community to know that this is not just this little building here in Bath County. But it’s one of many and to know the historic significance of these schools, it’s very important.”
The community meeting on the restoration of the old Union Hurst School in Pinehurst Heights is Tuesday May 15 at 6 o’clock at Piney Grove Baptist Church in Hot Springs. For more information call Cynthia Boteler at 540-839-9258.