$12,000 gift will help town restore schoolhouse

Sykesville plans to use building as museum

June 18, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Proceeds from a home and garden tour will help restore a historic one-room schoolhouse, once the only elementary school for black students in southern Carroll and western Howard counties, in Sykesville.

Sykesville will receive nearly $12,000 to begin renovations to the wooden building, which sits on a half-acre off Oklahoma Road. The town plans to restore the building for use as a museum and community center.

"We are hoping to bid the project and begin construction soon," said Barbara Lilly, town preservation projects coordinator.

Although the building is of the simplest design, it was solidly built, she said. It has suffered from weathering and neglect. The roof, some siding and windows must be replaced, and the side entrance will be made handicap accessible.

"We are happy to finally get the ball rolling on this project," said Mayor Jonathan Herman. "This building represents a piece of our history that would otherwise disappear."

The Maryland Historical Trust had pledged $32,000 to the effort in 1996, but required a $24,000 matching contribution from the town. The town has budgeted $5,000 for the project, bringing its contribution to $17,000 -- enough money to move forward with exterior renovations. With in-kind contributions, the town will be eligible for the money from the trust.

"The contribution makes a significant difference," said Lilly. "This project has historic merit, and we have been working hard to figure out a way to match the grant."

The cost of the restoration will be about $50,000. Sykesville officials are looking to apply for more grants to cover the rest of the cost.

The $12,000 donation comes from the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage, which toured 13 sites in Carroll County last month. All the county sites had to agree on a recipient. The schoolhouse project was also chosen for the pilgrimage's statewide project and earned a $1,000 bonus.

"This is a worthy cause, and it is in the same area as the tour," said Harriet Fauntleroy, tour organizer. "We wanted to do anything we could to keep this building going for another 50 years. It will be a museum that will allow children to see what it was like in a one-room school."

Kay Smith, a Goucher College intern, researched much of the building's history last summer, using records at the Board of Education and the Historical Society of Carroll County.

"Much of what was known about the building was from oral tradition passed around the community," said Smith.

Smith found that the school opened in 1904 and closed in 1938. At times, as many as 60 students were enrolled in several grades.

"We now have information on how children of different ages were taught in a one-room building," she said. "These schools generally got second-hand equipment, less funding, and the teachers were paid less."

The museum hopes to re-create the setting and give students an idea of a turn-of-the-century classroom.

"They could spend a day in a one-room schoolhouse, and we could tie in the local history elements," said Lilly. "A school built in times of segregated education for black students is an important part of town history. We will be able to tell all the pieces of the mosaic that is Sykesville history."

Pupils usually stayed at the Sykesville school through sixth grade. Older students traveled 90 minutes by bus to Robert Moton in Westminster for high school classes.

"Restoring this building means a lot to the local African-American community," said Smith. "It is part of their history. It actually is bringing the black and white community together, working toward a common goal.

"This is something the community can build, and, maybe, other communities can look to it as a model."

The town will schedule several community planning sessions at the schoolhouse this summer.

"We want to bring residents into this history," said Lilly.

Pub Date: 6/18/99

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