Sandra Sudduth updates committee
by Susan Di Biase
Special to The Star
May 21, 2013 | 1875 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Councilwoman Sandra Sudduth updated the Quality of Life committee on the work of the Eastwood Preservation Committee, which is dedicated to the restoration of Eastwood School. The first Jacksonville school for black children was located in the Rocky Hollow community over 100 years ago.

A wooden Rosenwald school was later built on Vann Street between the First Baptist Church and St. Paul CME Church, in order to offer a more central location.

After this structure burned around 1925, the sturdy stone-veneered building on Gardner Drive was constructed with help from the Civilian Conservation Corps.

This building is now owned by Jacksonville State University. It was leased by the city for use as the Jacksonville Day Care until November 2011. At that time Eastwood School was boarded up. Sudduth and her colleagues hope to see it returned to a current educational use and valued community gathering place.

In the past year, the Eastwood Preservation Committee has legally incorporated and received a tax ID number.

The application for 501(c)3 tax exempt status is pending IRS approval. Last summer the group held a reunion dinner for Eastwood alumni that was attended by over 100 people. They are planning another reunion in July.

Members of the committee are looking into starting a website that will accept donations for upgrades to the building’s flooring and electrical work.

Their legal counsel is looking into grant resources, and whether the building needs to be purchased outright or can be secured with a long-term lease agreement with the university.

An earlier proposed land swap appears to be on hold. A new goal of the committee is to establish an archive and museum space celebrating the history of the school and the surrounding neighborhood.

Jerrod Brown, chair of the Jacksonville Historical Society, reported that his group has completed an active year, including the restoration of the Doctor Francis Museum which is nearly complete. He expressed a vision for the future of Jacksonville which markets our small-town charm and friendly atmosphere for potential residents and business owners.

Brown said our city’s assets distinguish us from the sprawl of Oxford and the crime of Anniston. We should avoid, he stressed, the “Wal-Mart sprawl effect” that has stripped so many other small towns of their identity.

Instead we should be true conservatives who value our existing and historical structures and neighborhoods, especially near the heart of town.

Brown argued that the current location of Kitty Stone School has merit because of better traffic patterns and tightly-knit neighborhoods near the school and the square, walkability and access for low-resource residents who need a close school building, as well as the value of existing ball fields, skate park, shaded playgrounds, and proximity to JSU and the community center.

He warned that if the school leaves its current home, the resulting void will lead to increased vandalism, crime, drugs, and loitering around the vacant buildings.

Brown stated that a visionary architect skilled in renovation could assess the potential of the existing layout, and would work with citizens to identify strengths and suggest new ideas which incorporate our shared goals.

For example, we could explore the idea of different footprint plans for the new school, such as underground parking which can double as a storm shelter, and can give the students a reprieve from the bad weather when being dropped off and picked up.

This would also allow for a larger footprint for the school on top of the parking area.

Some existing parts of Kitty Stone such as the gym might be reused in conjunction with a new state-of-the-art structure which aesthetically complements the buildings around it. Environmentally-friendly LEED certification may be a worthy and cost-effective goal.

The restoration of Forney Hall, Brown stated, remains a high priority of the Historical Society.

According to Jerry Klug, this Historic Register building is one of the most significant buildings remaining in Jacksonville, as it was part of the original JSU campus.

According to the historic marker, “The building is named in honor of Jacob Forney IV, president of the institution from 1893 to 1899, and his sister, Mary C. Forney, who taught here for 40 years.”

The building needs immediate attention to the roof and uncovered broken windows to prevent decay to the essentially sound structure. A possible use for Forney Hall would be as a new board of education building and classroom overflow or additional office space. The site has the assets of established landscaping and parking.

At the end of the meeting, the Quality of Life committee examined Forney Hall and discussed possible restoration strategies. Decayed woodwork could be replaced with maintenance-free PVC trim, and windows could be replaced with energy-efficient models.

The interior floor plan could be reworked to suit current needs.

The park-like back yard would make excellent outdoor educational space that would complement the Creekside Trail spur connecting the Ladiga Trail to the square and eventually to the Eastwood neighborhood.

The building is still owned by JSU and is in use as storage space for office furniture.

The meeting was adjourned with plans to meet again on at noon Thursday, June 20,Thursday, June 20, at the public library.

The agenda for will include updates from Barbara Rowell of the library and Jack Plunk of the Bicycle Advisory Committee.
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Sandra Sudduth updates committee by Susan Di Biase
Special to The Star

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