Culture | July 23rd, 2022
This 152-year-old African American Schoolhouse Has No Time To Wait
By: Kennedy Patton
Tallahassee’s Lake Hall school is the oldest of six reconstruction-era African American schoolhouses in the state of Florida. Leon County and the Tallahassee Trust for Historic Preservation have been advocating for over 20 years to gain ownership of the land and make the school house a historic landmark.
After the Civil War ended in 1865, freed slaves from Maclay Gardens bought plantation land north of the gardens and built homes and Lake Hall School in 1870. The school operated until the early 1960s. Age and current conditions of the building requires urgency, according to Melissa Stroller, who is the Executive Director of Tallahassee Trust for Historic Preservation.
On Lawinsider.com, a lot line is the boundary line of a lot or parcel of land.When Leon County started drawing lot lines, the county drew the lot lines through the school. Causing the Lake Hall school to be on two different properties. Now that the property is no longer owned by the slave descendets, releasement of the land hasn’t been easy.
Stroller confirmed that the building sitting on two privately owned properties is causing problems.
“We have taken the first steps to put the building on the Local Register of Historic Places but the challenge now is the school sitting on two different privately owned parcels, ” Stroller said.
Placing the school house on the Local Register of Historic Places prevents the building from being torn down, according to taltrust.org. In order for the school to be placed on the list, both property owners Sheryl Oslowski and Andy Bailey needed to approve. Gerald Seay, who is a retired FAMU professor, and advocate for the Lake Hall school has been working for three years on this.
Seay reports that she iinformed both property owners on all updates when it came to anything about the school. AndyBailey was more willing to corporate but as of now he is taking another look.
“Mr.Bailey signed the document that said he approved of the historic designation as did Oslowski the other owner …… for him to change his mind is an anomaly no one considered ,” Seay said.
Seay said that both owners knew she was pushing for the building to be on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Historic buildings and neighborhoods add more economic value to a city than any new construction will,” Stroller said.
Current Owner Sheryl Oslowski believes she has been cooperative since she played a part in the school being put on the Local Register of Historic Places. The next steps would be for Oslowski to allow renovations to preserve the building.
As of February 7, the Tallahassee Democrat reported Vince Long, Leon County Administrator , estimated it would run close to $1 million to complete the vision, which includes preservation of the schoolhouse.
There has been a discussion between advocate Seay and the current owners representative on a possible offer to buy. On leonpa.org, the current total market value of the property is $110,528. The asking price is $325,000 and Seay is still figuring out where to find funding.
Professor of History at FSU, Maxine Jones, provided another avenue to preserve the history of the school. “ “ I think there’s more than one way to preserve history. If there was a published piece on the school, it would allow people to have more access to the information,” Jones said.
Bringing this to the attention of the community will only raise awareness. With the current conditions of the home, time will only be so generous. “ If it doesn’t get some attention soon. There might not be much left of it,” Stroller said.