Antioch Rosenwald School Rehabilitation

Between 1912 and 1932, through a unique collaboration between Sears & Roebuck President Julius Rosenwald and Tuskegee Institute’s Booker T. Washington, almost 5,000 wood frame school buildings were built throughout The South to provide public education for African Americans. Typically located in proximity to African ME Churches, these schools were built  incorporating the latest ideas in education and health, including instructional needs, lighting, heating, and sanitation, in an effort to create a positive and healthy environment for learning. The Rosenwald Schools building program created a model for all rural schools in this country.

Because many of these schools have been lost after public school desegregation became law in 1954, there is interest in preserving those structures that remain. Under an initiative by The National Trust for Historic Preservation to furnish grant funding to assist local community churches and organizations to preserve these buildings,  I was engaged in November, 2015, by Antioch Baptist Church near Mathews, VA, to furnish consulting services for their historic Rosenwald School building.

(1) Original Rendering & Floor Plan for a Two Teacher School

(2) Front (west side) during construction-1927

Constructed in 1927 as a two teacher pattern school (image 1) the Antioch School was in service a little over 20 years, until 1948, at which time the County closed the school and relocated the remaining students to the Thomas Hunter School in Mathews. Since then, Antioch Church has used the north classroom half of the building as a 3 bedroom dwelling/Parsonage, and the south classroom half as a fellowship hall for parishioners. Around 1970, the building was remodeled into its current appearance.

(3) Rear (east side) during construction-1927


(4) Front view from NE (today)

Unfortunately, all of the original large double hung sash windows were removed at that time, along with the original wood lap siding and replaced with fewer, much smaller modern double hung windows. The entire building was resided with vinyl siding, however, the original tin roof shingles still remain. (image 4,5)

(5) Front View from NW (today)


The objective under the National Trust Grant, is to restore the original sash windows in their former openings, and rehabilitate most of the original exterior appearance. The challenge here though, is to reinstall the new windows, while maintaining the existing apartment/Parsonage configuration to generate some income.



Due to the extensive amount of partition and plumbing rework necessary to shuffle partitions to allow the original window configuration, plus the need to fabricate twenty new wood double hung sash windows (18 are oversized/monumental), I have estimated the cost for this rehabilitation to be around $ 200,000.00. Currently, the Antioch trustees are considering their next steps in terms of pursuing the funding necessary to undertake the construction phase of this project.