ELKTON — Elkton officials and Wright’s A.M.E. Church announced recently that they will transform the building where the ‘Elkton Colored School’ was once held into a museum, once Cecil County officials transfer the property to the town.
The building was the first school built in Cecil County.
Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy announced Friday afternoon that the administration would be transferring back 205 Booth Street to Elkton, acknowledging that part of the property has historical significance for the town.
The county would transfer the property to the town for $1.
Once the transfer is complete, Elkton officials would negotiate a lease with Wright’s A.M.E. Church so that the church leadership could turn the building into living museum and a community gathering space.
“The building has been vacant for many years and knowing that it will eventually be a welcoming place for many members of our community is very gratifying,” McCarthy said in a release. “I look forward to witnessing the rejuvenation of this centuries-old structure.”
First built in the 1880s, the school was one of the first that taught African Americans in the county. It served as a school until the current administration building, until the George Washington Carver School — the current administration building — opened as a modern school during segregation.
Adding to the structure’s rich history, it was improved upon in the 1920s with funds from Julius Rosenwald, a philanthropist and owner of Sears. He and Booker T. Washington worked to improve the conditions of African-American schools in the south, with Rosenwald providing the money.
“Rosenwald Schools were notable because it was a time when Jim Crow was the law of the land and when ‘separate but equal’ was anything but,” Mike Dixon, a county historian, told the Whig. “The one on Booth Street may be the northernmost Rosenwald School in the Northeast.”
The former school was used for storage by the Cecil County Public Schools until it was declared surplus property in 2017. CCPS and the State Board of Education transferred it to the county.
Since there are several county residents that attended the school until school segregation dissipated in the 1950s, the renovation marks a chance to preserve a long gone moment in Elkton’s past for the community.
Elkton Commissioner Charles Givens was one of the students that attended the school in his early years, and said it was an honor to see the building redeemed.
“There is a significant amount of history that lingers for those in Cecil County who attended and received their formal education there,” he said. “Hopefully, the building will be restored into an African American Museum to preserve the rich history of the school’s foundation.”
The McCarthy administration introduced a resolution to convey the property to Elkton on Tuesday. The resolution is scheduled for a council vote on Dec. 17.
Planning Commissioner Jean Minner said that after the vote, the town would likely negotiate a 99-year lease with a non-profit formed by Wright’s A.M.E. Church. From there, it would be likely that the church would fundraise to start restoration, and there might be some Maryland Historic Trust grants available for the project.
“As a museum it would definitely draw more people to Booth Street and tourism is usually great for Elkton,” she said.
Mayor Rob Alt told the Whig that he felt comfortable that the project would see the assistance of Dr. Dale Green of Morgan University to take this piece of the past and preserve it for the future.
“I was very pleased to find out that it is the first school built in Cecil County, and there’s a rich history here. The goal is to breathe life into this and turn it into a living museum where we can possibly present artifacts. I’ll be very proud to see it done,” the mayor said.