The Ridgeley Rosenwald School Restored

Posted September 9th, 2011 by

The newly restored Ridgeley Rosenwald School on the day of its momentous dedication.

On September 7, 2011, eighty-four years after its construction in 1927, the historic Ridgeley School celebrated its dedication as a Rosenwald School. Located in Capitol Heights, Maryland the single story building consists of three classrooms, two cloakrooms and a wealth of history. Ridgeley was established as a result of the extraordinary philanthropic efforts of Julius Rosenwald and his work with the African American communities of the South.  A Rosenwald school, built specifically for African American children before the integration of public schools, was not simply a schoolhouse, but more so a symbol of opportunity. Once one of 28 Rosenwald schools in Prince George’s County, today Ridgeley is one of nine that remain, sitting atop two acres of land sold to the Prince George’s County Board of Education (BOE) by Mary Eliza Ridgeley.

The ceremony welcomed community figures from the Maryland State Legislature, Prince George’s County Planning Board, the Department of Parks and Recreation Staff, and the Alumnae Chapter of the Prince George’s County Delta Sigma Theta Sorority who helped restore the building.  Most notable was the presence of the driving force for the restoration, ninety one year old Mildred Ridgeley, daughter of Mary Eliza Ridgeley, and a former student of the school. Her daughter, La Verne Gray, offered stirring remarks to close the ceremony. A number of other local dignitaries addressed the crowd and the tribute saw its successful conclusion in the ribbon-cutting finale. Although the weather called for a gloomy day of rain and storms the inside of the Ridgeley Rosenwald School was filled with warm stories that illuminated the room

A living testament to its origins, the restored school will be available for programs to educate the public on Ridgeley’s incredible history and additionally function as a museum with historic memorabilia and replicas representative of the classrooms at the time of their creation. The school will also be offered for community meetings, events and organizations.

A restored classroom shines on the day of the dedication.

The pioneering Mildred Ridgeley Gray, with Chairman Elizabeth M. Hewlett, receives a standing ovation.

An old-fashioned furnace stands at the back of a classroom.

The Prince Geroge’s County Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Alumnae Chapter, partial funders for the restoration project, smile for the camera and at their success.

Photographs of the remarkable Abraham Lincoln, Booker T. Washington, and Julius Rosenwald line the wall above a classroom chalkboard.

Taking the podium La Verne Gray passionately concludes the ceremony.

A desk displays replicas of books studied in the classroom.

Mildred Ridgeley Gray, along with members of the community, cuts the ribbon at the conclusion of the ceremony.

A shelf contains replicas of school materials used at Ridgeley.

Photographs by Rachel Lesaar