East Suffolk school marker approved

Published 9:17 pm Tuesday, July 17, 2012

East Suffolk: Members of the East Suffolk Alumni Association recently learned their former school, located on South Sixth Street, has been approved for a historical marker. (Tracy Agnew/Suffolk News-Herald)

The Virginia Department of Historic Resources has approved a historical marker to inform passersby of the history of the East Suffolk School Complex. Now, the school’s alumni association is gearing up for a fundraising campaign to get the money to erect the marker.

It was among a group of 13 markers approved by the department’s Board of Historic Resources on June 21.

“We’re excited about it,” said Ross Boone, the immediate past president of the alumni association. “We feel this is a history that should be recognized through a historical marker.”


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The alumni association is sponsoring the marker, meaning that it applied for the marker, will negotiate the wording with the historic resources department and will raise money to pay for it.

The elementary school, which is located on South Sixth Street, was built in the late 1920s with money from the Julius Rosenwald Fund, which provided seed money to help construct schools for black students in the rural South from 1917 through 1932.

In 1939, the high school was added to the complex. The first class graduated in 1940, and the last graduated in 1965, when John F. Kennedy High School was built.

After the school closed, the buildings served as offices for a variety of programs, including the S.T.O.P. organization.

“For a long time, it just kind of laid dormant,” Boone said. “But the alumni association pushed, and the city of Suffolk decided it was a good area for parks and recreation.”

One of the buildings was converted into a recreation center, and the other now serves as offices for the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

“It has been a godsend and a real boon for that area of the city,” Boone said. “They do a lot of good work there.”

Boone said the organization will negotiate the wording on the sign. The wording proposed by the state leaves out some important details, Boone said, like the name of the high school’s principal, W. Lovell Turner, and a mention of the current uses for the buildings.

He said the organization hopes to have the sign in place within the next year.

“We felt that it was about time we had some national historical recognition,” Boone said. “We see that as a very important history that needs to be remembered.”

The new markers will be added to a roster of about 2,400 historical markers throughout the state. The other recently approved markers recognize sites in Albemarle, Buckingham, Gloucester, Hanover, Nelson and Pittsylvania counties and the cities of Alexandria, Hampton, Portsmouth and Richmond.