• UWA offers support for Pickensville Rosenwald School development

    Posted: May 14, 2013

    Author: Betsy Compton

    The University of West Alabama’s Center for Business and Economic Services has partnered with the Pickensville Community Center to renovate the organization’s meeting house, the historic Pickensville Rosenwald School. The renovation project has also received support from the Alabama Black Belt Heritage Area.

    The structure, with its T-shaped two-teacher design typical of the Rosenwald schools, has been the focus of community efforts for several years, but previous efforts to preserve and restore thestructure were undone during the tornado outbreak that swept Alabama in April 2011. Prior to the storm damage, roof, window, and other exterior repairs intended to protect the interior had been completed.

    Because the schoolhouse serves as a primary meeting place for Pickens County, the Center for Business and Economic Services recognizes the urgency in saving the facility. Under the auspices of the UWA College of Business, CBES awarded the Community Center a $10,000 grant for use in developing the facility.

    “As a board member of the Pickensville Rosenwald Community Center Council, I am aware of the significant impact this building has on the community. Thanks to the generous support of College of BusinessDean Ken Tucker, these resources will ensure that this facility functions not only as a community center, but also a space where industrial recruitment and other economic development efforts can be headquartered,” said J. William “Billy” McFarland, Jr., CBES director.

    The grant has proven imperative in developing a plan for completing the restoration. Among other necessities, the grant funded the assistance of Fitts Architects of Tuscaloosa, who provided a building analysis and a preliminary design for continued restoration that will ensure the building’s continued service to the community.

    The building analysis offers a needs-assessment for the project, which will prove useful to the Community Center as they continue fundraising efforts. The included architectural drawings will alsohelp the organization market its facility as a community hub to prospectivedevelopers.

    “The architectural plans will strengthen the Community Center’s grant funding proposals by illustrating a vision of the completed project,” McFarland said. “We invite regional stakeholders to contact us at the University of West Alabama College of Business and become involved with this important initiative.”

    The Alabama Black Belt Heritage Area, managed by UWA’s Center for the Study of the Black Belt, awarded one of its 2013 County Partnership Grants to the Pickensville Community Center. Through the Partnership Awards, the ABBHA provides up to $500 seed money to each of the 19 counties in its service area for a community project.

    “We’re excited to work with the Rosenwald Community Center in Pickensville. We believe the project will help make a difference in the community and across the Black Belt region, and it is a mission that we share,” said Wimberly Comer, ABBHA interim executive director.

    The ABBHA partners with local communities, state agencies, and non-profit organizations to shape a sustainable future for the Black Belt region through the preservation, interpretation, and marketing of unique cultural, historical, and natural assets.

    “We are grateful to the University of West Alabama and the Alabama Black Belt Heritage Area for supporting the historic Pickensville Rosenwald School restoration. With the funds that were provided, we were able to mothball the building, to prevent further deterioration caused by the outside elements and stop using it for now to make further repairs,” said Paulette Newberns, Pickensville Community Center project coordinator.

    The schoolhouse was built around 1925 and sits on three acres of land donated by community members. The school was foundedwhen Booker T. Washington, principal of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (now Tuskegee University), developed the Rosenwald School programwith funding from Julius Rosenwald, then CEO of Sears & Roebuck.

    The Rosenwald School program was designed to improve the quality of public education for African Americans and consisted of more than 5,300 schools in rural areas of 15 southern states, 389 in Alabama. The schoolhouse is the only remaining of six Rosenwald School buildings constructed in Pickens County. The school closed in the 1960s and was added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in 2010.

    1 of 2: Pictured from left to right are Clara Linder; Pickensville Mayor Mary Fuseyamore; J. William “Billy” McFarland Jr,, director of the Center for Business and Economic Services at UWA; Little Zion Hall; Paulette Newberns, PCC Project Coordinator; Audrey King of Fitts Architects in Tuscaloosa; Joann Hall; Carrie Hughes; and Hattie Hinton.

    2 of 2: Students from Pickens County work to help restore the exterior of the Pickensville Rosenwald Community Center.  

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