The Carver Nursery School is an historic property that tells a unique part of the story of Alexandria, says a new report that will be released this week in an effort to preserve the building.
The 1944 building at 224 N. Fayette St. used to function as a nursery school specifically for African Americans during World War II through funding by Congress.
The City of Alexandria has tried to market and sell the building to someone who could restore it for a new use. It was most recently listed for $675,000. A city brochure suggested the new owner could renovate it as a bookstore, barbershop, bicycle repair shop, grocery store or perhaps a school, convenience store or restaurant with special approvals.
"Alterations must retain the building's character defining features and comply with a conservation easement," said the brochure.
So far, there have been no takers. The 1944 building, which is now known as William Thomas Post 129 of the American Legion, could be demolished and replaced with condominiums if a purchase is not found before February, according to the Greater Alexandria Preservation Alliance, which is releasing the report.
The report, funded by a grant of the Historic Alexandria Foundation and prepared by historic preservation architect Terry Necciai, outlines what is special about the building.
The report said its distinctiveness includes:
- The building is the only known building of its kind (a nursery school specifically for African Americans) funded by Congress to still survive.
- It was the scene of a protest that illustrated unfair treatment and possibly led to the eventual closing of the school, after the federal funding ran out.
- The building retains a majority of its original characteristics, and can be renovated or restored to an active use. Its features represent the purpose for which it was built, as a modest nursery school. The building material and techniques are simple in design and easy to replicate today.
- It was named after G.W. Carver, the scientist at the Tuskegee Institute, and so carries an association with a famous individual. A movie theater and a men’s store were also named after Carver on the corner of Queen and Fayette streets.
- Although built specifically for African American children, the nursery school was part of a larger movement in early childhood education. It reflects a chain of developments in the education of small children that unfolded through several government-sponsored programs across a period of four or five decades. These developments eventually brought kindergarten programs into existence in almost all school districts, and they made daycare centers common and viable that allowed mothers of young children to hold jobs.
- As a school built specifically for African American Children, the Carver Nursery School was part of a long tradition dating from the Freedman’s Bureau to the Rosenwald schools established across the southern United States. While 5,000 schools, similar in design to this one, were sponsored by the program Julius Rosenwald (owners of Sears Roebuck & Co.) started, very few are still standing. Indeed, this building, built in 1944, might be one of the last one-story frame schools built specifically for Virginia’s African American citizens. There could be no greater illustration of the fallacy of “separate but equal” education in the United States than preserving this building.
- Lastly, and not least, is its story as a center of activities for African American Veterans who came home from World War II to find that life was still segregated at home, and so had to create their own veterans’ lodge. Yet these veterans shared the facility with the surrounding community, making it the focal point of many post-War community events that are fondly remembered today by the senior members of the African American community. The legacy of the lodge activities lives on today in the William Thomas Post 129, which has relocated.
A news conference about the Carver Nursery building will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Alexandria Black History Museum, located at 902 Wythe St.