Help Save Siloam School
The Charlotte Museum of History is leading a $1 million community fundraising effort to save the historic Siloam School, one of Mecklenburg County’s oldest remaining African American schoolhouses, and one of our community’s last standing Rosenwald Schools.
Siloam School is on the National Register of Historic Places but is endangered due to its current state of disrepair. The building and the stories it tells are at risk of being lost to time.
Please help us save this valuable piece of Charlotte history and donate to the Save Siloam School Project today.
About Siloam School
Siloam School was built around 1920 to replace an earlier school that was most likely a log structure. Like most of the Black schools of the time, the school was built by the community, utilizing their talents as carpenters and tradesmen. The school was named after Siloam Presbyterian Church, located just north of the school, and served the Black students who lived in the rural Mallard Creek neighborhood.
Though Siloam School was built by members of the community, the county school system provided and paid a salary to the instructor and janitor/caretaker and the students were registered in the county school system. County records for the 1924-25 school year indicate there were 72 Black children living in the Siloam district, but only 63 were registered at the school. Average daily attendance was 39 students that year. In other years, between 40-60 students were registered at the school, with the average daily attendance falling somewhere between 20 and more than 30 each day.
Two of the teachers, Margaret Gilliard (1922-23) and Mattie Osborne (1923-25), lived in Charlotte and commuted to Siloam by bus and by foot each day. Ms. Gilliard traveled from Ward 1 on N Caldwell St, a journey of more than ten miles. Mrs. Osborne lived closer, just south of what is now UNC Charlotte. One of the janitors, Nelson Young walked five miles from his home to the school to light the coal stove and get water from the nearby spring before students arrived each day. His son, James, attended the school as a child in the 1930s while his father worked there.
As the school system expanded, one-room schools like Siloam were gradually replaced with new buildings that separated grades. At some point prior to 1947, Siloam School ceased operations and the students moved to different schools in North Charlotte and the county began looking for a buyer for the property. The Young family, who had attended and cared for the structure since the 1930s, bought the school in 1951, led by their father James Young.
The Young family converted the structure into a home for their family, then later an auto garage. After the 1980s, the structure was no longer used by the family. In the early 2000s, the property was purchased by a developer and turned into a sprawling apartment complex which now looms over the one-room school.
The Rosenwald Fund
In the early 20th century, educators at the Tuskegee Institute, led by Dr. Booker T. Washington, conceived of a program to build high-quality, free primary schools for Black children throughout the segregated rural South. Washington enlisted the aid of Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck and Co., to finance the effort, which led to the creation of the Julius Rosenwald Fund in 1917. The program offered matching funds, detailed architectural plans, and fundraising support to communities that wanted to build schools for Black students. By 1928, a full one-third of the South’s rural Black students and teachers were served by Rosenwald Schools. In all, the Fund facilitated the construction of more than 5,000 schools in the South – 813 of them in North Carolina and 26 in Mecklenburg County, the most of any county in the US.
The program offered matching funds, detailed architectural plans, and fundraising support to communities that wanted to build schools for Black students. By 1928, a full one-third of the South’s rural Black students and teachers were served by Rosenwald Schools. In all, the Fund facilitated the construction of more than 5,000 schools in the South – 813 of them in North Carolina and 26 in Mecklenburg County, the most of any county in the US.
The Rosenwald School designs could be requested by anyone, not just communities that used Rosenwald Funding. They proved to be so popular that the Fund published all of their designs, with clear instructions for paint color, lot selection, and even window treatments in a pamphlet in 1924.
The Rosenwald Fund did not contribute to the building of Siloam School, but it was built according to Rosenwald plans. Based on the 1-A plan, the building accommodates one teacher and was designed to have a central classroom with an industrial space in the rear and two cloakrooms in the front. The door faces North and the building originally had three large windows on each side, to allow for as much light since the school did not have electricity.
To learn more about Rosenwald Schools in Mecklenburg County, visit HistorySouth.org.
The Save Siloam School Project
The effort to save the Siloam School is a partnership of The Charlotte Museum of History, Mecklenburg County, the City of Charlotte, the Historic Landmarks Commission, Aldersgate Retirement Community, Silver Star Community Inc., Tribute Companies, and a growing number of community organizations and individuals as listed below. Silver Star Community, Inc, has been working to save Rosenwald Schools and Black spaces in Mecklenburg County for more than 10 years and were the original champions to save Siloam School. Now, a dedicated committee of partners and volunteers are working to save and restore the historic structure.
Save Siloam School Project Partners:
Fannie Flono (chair), Fred Alexander, Lu-Ann Barry (SpiceLAB Media), Everett Blackmon (Winning Images! Photography), Dr. Rochelle Brandon, Janet Brooks, Jeanie Cottingham, Dee Dixon (Pride Communications), Shayvonne Dudley, Commissioner George Dunlap, Dr. Hugh Dussek, Maxine Eaves, Jett Edwards, Councilman Larken Egleston, Adria Focht, Stewart Gray, Belinda Grier, Dr. Tom Hanchett, Susan Harden, Boris Henderson (Aldersgate), Jerry Hollis, John Howard, Angel Johnston, Shirell Joyner, John Kincheloe, Tiffani Lewis, Ting Li (Pixelatoms), Dan Morrill, Mary Newsom, Len Norman, Councilman Greg Phipps, Eric Ridler, Tracy Ryals, Michael Solender, Queen Thompson, Brigette Tinsley, Tiffany Walker, Lauren Wallace, Peter Wasmer, and Tony Womble.
Save Siloam School Project Champions:
Save Siloam School Project Champions serve as critical community ambassadors of the Save Siloam School Project. Champions share their talents by sharing their professional expertise, diverse knowledge of constituent perspectives, connections to local, state, or national resources, colleagues or peers, and their philanthropic support.
Project Champions: Kobi Brinson, Commissioner George Dunlap, Maxine Eaves, Councilman Larken Egleston, Harvey Gantt, Arthur Griffin, Susan Harden, John Howard, Commissioner Mark Jerrell, Darrel Williams, and Councilman Greg Phipps.
Alongside our community partners, the Museum is leading a $1,000,000 fundraising effort to save the historic Siloam School, one of Mecklenburg County’s oldest remaining African American schoolhouses. We’re working to develop a detailed plan for re-locating the Siloam School, stabilizing the structure, and working with the community to find new uses for it.
The project vision is for the building to be moved to the Museum’s East Charlotte campus to become an educational space for programs and exhibits that foster dialogue, particularly around social justice, racial inequity, and school segregation. The museum also plans to offer K-12 field trips and public tours of the building and to make the space available as a community resource.
The Museum will use the structure as a teaching resource, a window into aspects of life of rural African American families in Mecklenburg County in the early 20th-century – and a prism through which we can better view issues of social-justice in the 21st-century.
This past year saw significant fundraising and planning milestones, including large contributions from Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte, as well as corporate and private donors. As of January 2021, we have raised more than $450,000, including pledged contributions – that’s almost 1/2 of the way to our goal of $1 million!
In 2020, the Save Siloam School Committee and Peter Wasmer, AFM Project Manager for Mecklenburg County, created an initial outline of the scope of work for the project and began the process of selecting an architect. An independent selection committee expects to announce the selected architect before the second quarter of 2021. The next phase of the project includes site selection on the Museum campus and moving the structure to begin restoration work, which we intend to complete by the end of 2021.
Read the full 2020 Annual Report detailing fundraising milestones, project accomplishments, and education opportunities.
We look forward to working with you and thank you for your support of this important preservation project!