Restoring a link to Kent County’s Black history couldn’t come at a more significant time, and a small African American schoolhouse languishing in disrepair is the perfect collaborative project for an alliance of Chestertown organizations.
Officially registered in Kent County as Worton Point Colored School #2, the one-room classroom was built in 1890 to teach up to 30 local Black children in grades one through six who, prior to the 1930s, traveled from as far as six miles by foot or horse and carriage to attend class.
The school stayed open until 1958 and subsequently became a landmark museum under the supervision of nearby St George’s church. Over the years, the structure needed repairs and became ripe for restoration. Lacking funds to take up the challenge, St. George’s looked for help.
The stars aligned when Kent Cultural Alliance Director John Schratwieser got involved.
“When the Cliff’s City schoolhouse was finished, Chris Havemeyer of Preservation Inc and Kent County Questers approached me. They had funds left over from their schoolhouse restoration and asked if I could steward the residual money toward the Worton Point School House,” Schratwieser says.
KCA agreed to act as a fiscal manager with Irene Moore, Elder at St. George’s, and together they surveyed the building. The drop-ceiling, wall panels, and carpet had to go.
After a few consulting ideas failed to put together the team’s need for the job, Schratwieser turned to Rebuilding Together Kent County, the local arm of the national non-profit home rehab organization.
“Rebuilding Together Kent County jumped at the chance of working with us. Their volunteers finished gutting the building and are coming up with basic pricing and guidance for additional work needed,” Schratwieser says. “Our finances will only go so far and eventually we will be looking at the community for help,” he adds.
Before the demolition stage of the structure could take place, the contents of the building had to be saved, and another partner stepped in: The C.V. Starr Center at Washington College.
“Patrick Nugent, Deputy Director of the Starr Center, Jasmyn Castro, Digital Historian and Archivist at the Starr Center, and Raven Bishop, NBCT, Instructional Technologist, Washington College helped pack and store the contents so that we could put things back after the construction. This last weekend, critical items, letters, photos were digitized, 3D scanned, and archived for future generations, Schratwieser says.
Here, the Spy sat down with St. George Church Elder Irene Moore who attended the school as a child. For years she was also a Sunday School teacher and gospel choir director.
This video is approximately eight minutes long. To see more photographs of the project, go to the Rebuilding Together Kent County Facebook page. To contribute to this important project go here or mail your contribution directly to Kent Cultural Alliance, 101 Spring Ave, Chestertown MD 21620.