The Gainesville City School System officially began operating in 1892. Initially, 330 White students and 120 African-American students enrolled in the school system for three months of classes which began on September 12, 1892. Instruction for grades 1-4 was offered to Black students whereas classes in grades 1-7 were offered to White students. Black schools met in the Baptist and Methodist Churches in the Fall of 1892. The Methodist Church housed grades 1 and 4; the Baptist Church housed grades 2 and 3.
Two African-American male teachers were hired to teach in these schools. In 1893, the following year, the two Black schools were combined, and all classes were held at the Methodist Church.
Gainesville’s first African-American school building was built by the school board in 1898 near the old Southern train depot. This school was used until the tornado of 1903 destroyed it. Black students again attended schools housed in Black churches until a new building could be constructed.
Within the decade, a new building was erected for grades 1-8 on the corner of Fair and Hunter Streets. The school, Gainesville Graded and High Colored School, was a one-story wooden building. Since it was located in the Black neighborhood, attendance rapidly increased in the new school which was known unofficially as “Summer Hill”. Two new classrooms and four new teachers were added to “Summer Hill” by 1912. The school was renovated again in 1924.
On June 1, 1925, Professor W.H. Harper, principal of “Summer Hill” successfully campaigned for the school board for the ninth grade to be added. However, the board did not provide any funding for the new grade. Nevertheless, Professor Harper made the ninth grade available to students. In 1929, 18 Summer Hill Ninth Graders petitioned the Gainesville Board of Education to grant an addition of the tenth grade to “Summer Hill”. The petition was granted with funding resulting in the hiring of a teacher for the new grade.
By 1934, “Summer Hill” School’s student enrollment was 431. The school was utilized until April 6, 1936, when it was destroyed by a terrible tornado. The school was replaced and renamed in approximately a year’s time. The new school was named Fair Street School. Fair Street School was dedicated on April 21, 1937. A luncheon funded by the Gainesville City Board of Education was included as part of the dedication ceremony.
And now, fellow classmates and friends, a new structure has been erected as the “new” Fair Street School. I wonder. What will be written in the annals of history about the “new” Fair Street School?