Local preservationists are working frantically to save the Carver Nursery School building on N. Fayette Street as a deadline nears that could allow it to be demolished.
The building, which is located in the Parker-Gray Historic District, was built in 1944 to educate African-American children during World War II.
It later became the William Thomas American Legion Post 129, but its members stopped using the facility in 2007. The building has since remained vacant.
"To [the African-American community] it's an historic landmark," said Frances Colbert Terrell, president of the Seminary Civic Association. "We're being erased from the city."
Terrell, a Seminary Hill resident, has been heavily involved in preserving the African-American heritage of Fort Ward Park and Historic Site. She said she had only heard of the plans to possibly demolish the building a few weeks ago.
"African-Americans were instrumental and critical to the development of the city during and after the Civil War," she said. "Our very presence is being obliterated."
She would like to see the structure at 222 N. Fayette St. become a museum and said citizens deserve more civic engagement on the issue before the structure's fate is decided.
Preservationists filed a lawsuit in 2010 against Alexandria City Council and the Parker-Gray Board of Architectural Review to prevent the current owner, developer William Crowley, from tearing it down.
For two years the city and a steering committee created out of that lawsuit tried to find a buyer who would save the building, but no one has come forward.
Crowley will be able to submit a demolition permit if he chooses in February.
Parker-Gray BAR member Philip Moffatt told Patch he believes that the building is not historically or architecturally significant.
But Alexandrian Randy Stephens asked City Council this month during public comment period of a meeting covering a range of city issues that council members take action so the structure won’t be torn down.
He noted that 20 years or so ago when the so-called “rebel statue” pointing south at Prince and Washington streets was damaged an ordinance was issued to remove it.
“People came out of the wood work,” stepping up and asking that it be repaired and left alone for its historical significance to Alexandria, he said. It remains standing today.
He compared that situation to the Carver Nursery/American Legion building, saying all of Alexandria’s history deserves to be preserved.
Mayor Bill Euille said the city must make priorities and so far, no one has stepped up to the plate to revive the building.
Its sale price is $675,000.
Meanwhile, members of the Greater Alexandria Preservation Alliance are traversing the Parker-Gray neighborhood, knocking on doors and asking residents to sign a petition to be presented to city council in an effort to save the one story, yellow structure.
Some community members and preservationists interested in saving the structure said they met with Councilman John Chapman and Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg over the weekend to discuss the issue.
Developer Crowley told the Washington Examiner that he “wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with the building” but he doesn’t plan to spend the “hundreds of thousands of dollars” that could be required to restore and preserve the building.
He has expressed an interest in razing the schoolhouse and building private residences there.
The building "may be small and insignicant to most people, but it's really significant to us," Terrell said.