Harrington School House Renovation Project Updates

THE CHARETTE: Sharing Your Vision for the Schoolhouse

Click here to view the PDFOn a warm evening late in August forty persons shared ham, mac and cheese, sweet tea, caramel cake, and their visions for the historic Harrington schoolhouse. Former students who attended Harrington in the 1940s and 1950s joined county officials, members of the St. Simons African American Heritage Coalition and the Friends of Harrington School, state historic preservation officials, and history buffs to show preservation architect from Hansen/Savannah just what they envisioned for the look and use of the restored schoolhouse and the surrounding yard. The attendees worked in six groups using crayons, poster paper and stickers to draw out their ideas. After an allotted time, each group made a presentation on what they had discussed. “All the groups hit on many of the same visions, but each group had one or two zingers which made everyone else, say, “Great idea..” reported Patrick Phelps from Hansen/Savannah. Friends President Patty Deveau reported that the best part of the evening was listening to the former students talk about what school was like at Harrington for them. “Our group wanted to keep listening to Mrs. Ramsey way past the time the bell rang, “Deveau said.

Hansen architects plan to present the restoration and use plans for the schoolhouse in early 2012.

Hansen Architects Selected to Develop Restoration Plans

After careful review the Advisory Council recommended Hansen Architects, Savannah, as the firm to prepare the architectural documents for the restoration of the schoolhouse. “Hansen’s experience with historic preservation projects and their location in coastal Georgia made them a good fit,” SSAAHC President Ron Upshaw stated.

For more information on Hansen, go to www.hansensavannah.com

SSAAHC-0005-5165-final

RFQ and RFP Fall 2010

Nine architectural firms responded to the Request for Qualifications sent out in September. The Advisory Council invited five of the nine firms to submit proposals for architectural services. These proposals are being reviewed now and the Advisory Council will send their recommendations to the coalition by the end of November. Funding for these services is provided in part by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Additional funds are needed to match the $1000 grant and to complete the funds needed for the architectural work.

Background

The Harrington Schoolhouse, formerly known as the Harrington Graded School, was built in the 1920's and served as the main educational structure for the three African-American communities on St. Simons Island. It hosted grades 1-7 until desegregation in the 1960's, when students left to attend St. Simons Elementary.

In 1968 it was converted to a day care center and used for this purpose until 1970. The physical structure has been deteriorating since then, but the rich history still lives strong in the minds of historians, the local community, and former students of the school.

As the oldest surviving educational structures for African-Americans on the island, the restoration and preservation of the Harrington Schoolhouse is of critical importance.

Harrington Schoolhouse Present Day

The St. Simons African American Heritage Coalition was founded in 2000 by concerned individuals and property owners on the island and surrounding areas primarily to serve as a vessel for the preservation and restoration of African-American land, heritage, and culture on St. Simons Island. To preserve the one-room historic Harrington School House Mrs. Isadore Hunter donated her portion of heirs property land to the St. Simons Land Trust and Glynn County in 2004.

Since 2004  the Coalition, in partnership with The Saint Simons Land Trust, has been actively seeking funds to restore the school house. Most recently a committee of interested organizations including the SSAAHC, the Land Trust, the Coastal Georgia Historical Society and Glynn County the Coalition worked on the design and development of a 13-acre multi-use nature park that surrounds the schoolhouse. The park development will coincide with the schoolhouse restoration.

Historic PerservationIn May 2010, the Coastal Regional Commission's Historic Preservation Task Force presented updated Conditions Report that the school house, originally built by skilled craftsmen, was "so solid it could float"  despite termite and weather damage.  Encouraged by this assessment ,new initiatives began to restore the school house led by the Friends of Harrington School, Inc.

Mrs. Isadora Hunter (center), Harrington resident who donated her property to the St. Simons Land Trust so the school house could be preserved, at meeting with (left to right), Jason M. Kotarksi, Historic Preservation Planner, Coastal Regional Commission; Benjamin Hunter {Mrs. Hunter's son); Ron Upshaw, President of the St. Simons African American Coalition; and Cesar Rodriguez, Chairman, Coastal Georgia Historical Society.