Merchants will be asked to help with restoration

February 07, 1994|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Sun Staff Writer

State Sen. Christopher McCabe and supporters of the Ellicott City Colored School restoration project will call on local merchants today to request their contributions to the $468,000 effort.

"It would really benefit if it had public exposure," said Mr. McCabe of the restoration project. "This might be a good first step."

The Central Maryland Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society plans to transform the 114-year-old former school into a museum and research center on the history of Howard County blacks.

But so far, only $10,000 has been raised through sale of the school's bricks and steps, which would be inscribed and reinstalled outside the building, near Rogers Avenue and Frederick Road.

Mr. McCabe, a Republican from District 14 whose district includes the school, invited about 70 merchants from historic Ellicott City to visit the building today and to buy bricks in support of the project.

Supporters have a sense of urgency about the fund-raising effort.

The genealogical society hopes the state will contribute $220,000 toward the restoration, which the society would match through the sale of the bricks and steps.

But with only $10,000 raised through brick sales so far, supporters fear that the state legislature will reject their request.

"They're not even going to consider it because we haven't raised that much," said Beulah Buckner, a Columbia resident and secretary of the genealogical society who has been trying to restore the school since 1989.

Added Mr. McCabe, "You don't need to have the money in hand, but you need to have a commitment and you need to explain how you plan to get that money."

Closed in 1953 because of its unstable condition, the dilapidated one-room school is missing pieces from its stone and cinder block foundation and is infested with termites.

The restoration project, which would be completed in 1995, would include a museum and a multipurpose room that would hold about 20 people.

Visitors could trace the history of black Howard County residents through a variety of records dating back to 1790, including marriage records, wills and manumission documents, the documents that indicated that former slaves had been freed.

Supporters of the project hope to begin sometime this summer -- if the state funding and private donations come through.

Mrs. Buckner said that local black churches, fraternities and sororities have pledged to donate money but have not sent any yet.

"It's coming in slow, but surely," she said of the donations. The county and the state each have already donated $14,000 toward the renovations, which Mrs. Buckner has used to hire an architect and for drawings and a model of the project.

Despite the dearth of donations, Mrs. Buckner has big plans for the refurbished school, which she sees as a tourist attraction for visitors and shoppers on their way to historic Ellicott City.

"You bring in tourists, they want to visit everything," Mrs. Buckner said. "When they visit our center, they will want to visit other places."

Mrs. Buckner said the refurbished site also is needed to make people aware of the county's rich African-American history. Of about 540 historical sites in Howard County, only 2.2 percent relate to black residents, she said.

The Ellicott City Colored School will illustrate "the fact that there were also black people who contributed to this county."

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