State adds Rosenwald School to Virginia Landmark’s Register

September 26, 2023
Rosenwald School

RICHMOND – Among five places listed today in the Virginia Landmarks Register are a Norfolk historic district settled by generations of Greek, Jewish, and African American communities, a 19th-century mountain village that was transformed into a bustling commerce hub by the Shenandoah Valley Railroad, and a school built for Black children during the Jim Crow era of segregation in Virginia.

The Commonwealth’s Board of Historic Resources approved the Virginia Landmarks Register (VLR) listings during its quarterly public meeting today in Danville, Virginia. The VLR is the commonwealth’s official list of places of historic, architectural, archaeological, and cultural significance.

Built in 1929, the Cape Charles Rosenwald School in Northampton County was one of thousands of schools constructed using the Julius Rosenwald Fund for African American students during the Jim Crow era of segregation in Virginia’s public education system. Since the Rosenwald Fund covered only a small portion of construction costs, the school was built primarily using public funds from the state Literary Fund, the Town of Cape Charles, and a community organization known by various names including the Colored School League, the Negro School League, and the School Improvement League. As was typical of schools for Black children during segregation, grades were combined in classrooms at the Cape Charles school with each teacher instructing students of two grade levels simultaneously. Constructed of brick and stone, the school features banks of large windows to provide ample natural light and ventilation. The school’s interior remains largely intact. The building initially had no plumbing. There was a toilet and a water pump on the grounds. The auditorium was used for morning devotions, plays, and community meetings and presentations. Cooking and woodworking classes took place in the industrial room, which was later converted into a lunchroom and, later, into a bathroom. The school closed in 1966 after the county began consolidating its schools. The building was sold in 1968 to George W. J. Robberecht, and the next year it was passed to George Robberecht Seafood Incorporated and used as a seafood processing plant in subsequent years. Cape Charles Rosenwald School Restoration, Inc., bought the property in 2018.

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