The Charlotte Museum of History, is heading a project intended to save and restore the historic Siloam Rosenwald School. A school built for black children in the 1920s, funded by Julius Rosenwald. The ambitious, $600,000 plan was unveiled last week by preservationists and historians.
The nearly century-old building must be moved more than 10 miles south of its original location near UNC Charlotte to the museum’s east Charlotte campus at 3500 Shamrock Drive. There, it will be restored as closely as possible to its original schoolhouse appearance. It will be filled with exhibits on local African-American history and opened to the public for daily tours. The move will happen in the middle of the night to avoid traffic.
The museum intends to raise the money though community donations, including a GoFundMe page. A campaign kick-off has been set for March 25 at a special ticketed event.
Kay Peninger, the head of the museum, realizes it may not be an easy sell to a community with countless social needs. “A community approach built the school and we want a community approach in saving it,” Peninger said. “I think that’s a very meaningful part of the history of the building. It’s a spectacular achievement to think that in the Jim Crow era, when segregation was strong and legally mandated… the community came together for this, blacks and whites, to give money.”
The Siloam School will be the first in the county to be preserved and opened to the public for daily tours. Thousands of people visit the Charlotte Museum of History each year; many of them are children on field trips. Museum officials believe the building and its exhibitions will help provide attention to the region’s often ignored African-American history.
In years past, the museum focused largely on European migration to the region, aided by the historic Hezekiah Alexander House on the campus grounds. The house was built around 1774.
“We want our history museum to tell as many of the community’s stories as we can,” said museum trustee Mary Newsom. “The Rosenwald story is one of determination, courage and optimism on the part of African American residents, and we hope we can keep it alive for future generations.”