Plans call for restoring a piece of black history -- step by step ELLICOTT CITY/ELKRIDGE

August 02, 1993|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

Beulah Buckner believes that children, fraternities and even little old ladies could be the key to restoring a dilapidated Ellicott City school where hundreds of black children learned how to read and write before county schools were desegregated.

To finance the project, Ms. Buckner is asking residents and organizations to buy the individual bricks and steps that would be installed outside the school. Each can be dedicated and carry an inscription.

"I'm sending out letters to everybody in the community," said Ms. Buckner, the driving force behind the Ellicott City Colored School Project, which seeks to transform the 113-year-old school into a museum and research center on Howard County blacks.

Ms. Buckner said the bricks range in price from $25 to $100 and that each of the 10 steps costs $1,000.

She hopes the idea will raise about $220,000 to refurbish the building near Main Street and Rogers Avenue.

Rhonda Ricks of Columbia has already bought a $25 brick, which she is dedicating to her sons, Jonathan and Justin.

"I thought it was a necessary contribution because it's a history of African-American people and it's not anything I've seen before," Ms. Ricks said.

Ms. Buckner and several volunteers have sold 25 bricks and three steps, raising about $4,250.

"We're coming along slowly," said Ms. Buckner, who expects sales to increase once summer ends. "Service organizations don't meet and talk about their budgets until September, October," she said.

Ms. Buckner expects to sell all of the bricks by next year. Howard County then would provide matching funds, for a total of about $440,000, enough to complete repairs. She hopes the school will open by 1995.

The one-room school, which was closed in 1953 because of its unstable condition, is missing pieces from its stone and cinder block foundation and is infested with termites.

The refurbished school would include a museum and a multipurpose room that would hold about 20 people. Visitors would be able to trace the history of black Howard County residents through marriage records, wills, manumission documents -- the papers that freed slaves -- and registries listing slave owners, slaves and their terms of servitude, health condition and military service.

Records, some of which date back to 1790, would be arranged alphabetically and by subject matter on computers and in a card catalog. Visitors also would be able to peruse lists of the county's black schools, churches and cemeteries.

About 3,000 free blacks lived in Howard County from 1776 to 1860, said Ms. Buckner, who was pleased to find some were landowners, blacksmiths and artisans.

Plans also call for a vestibule, a kitchen, an elevator, a wooden deck and a brick patio that would replace the original playground. Two outhouses also would be restored but would not be functional.

For a nominal fee, people would be able to rent the school for wedding receptions and meetings.

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