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?
4 replies on “School Notes: Fair Street School”
Thank you for this informative post. It is a little confusing to me. I have a contract that my mother signed when Gainesville hired her and others to after taking over the schools from the Northwest Baptist Association that ran the first school I attended Northwestern. How does this work into the history here? Thanks
I am glad that you enjoyed the post. You asked about Northwestern School and the role it played in the history. In the early 1950s Fair Street became severely overcrowded because of county consolidation and population growth. Hall County closed all of its Black schools(Cross Plains, Mt. Zion,Belton/Lula etc.) and contracted with the City of Gainesville to educate all of the Black students at Fair Street School. Lumpkin County/Dahlonega even contracted later on to send its Black students to Fair Street and Butler High Schools.(Excuse me, I diverse…smile.)
When Fair Street became overcrowded, the City of Gainesville leased temporarily the old Northwestern School building from the Northwestern Baptist Association to house part of the Fair Street School population until a new wing and gym could be constructed.
I too attended Northwestern School in the first grade. However, I was transferred back to Fair Street for my second grade year. The gym had been completed and partitioned into classrooms. I attended class in one of those partitioned classrooms. My teacher was none other than Mrs. Jennie Harris who in my opinion was one of the greatest teachers to ever grace the halls of Fair Street School.
Eventually, Fair Street was again able to briefly house all of its students under one roof until the construction of E.E. Butler High School in 1962.
I hope this adds a little clarity. If you have other questions or comments please don’t hesitate to post them. Thanks.
I remember doing double shifts at Northwestern in 1954 (2nd grade for me). I did the early 8-12 and my mom taught the afternoon shift. So I rode to school in Mr. Charles Moorehead’s taxi. We picked up Larry Anderson who live in New Holland and we passed this White group of families that lived down the street from Northwestern on Myrtle Street. So Black people lived in New Holland and a group of very poor (like us) White People lived on the Southside.
In 1953 we attended all day at NW (1st grade for me) we had to walk up the Fair Street Hill to the lunch room across from Miss Marie’s store. Does anyone know what we did if it was raining?
Yes, I too remember walking up the hill to the lunchroom. I don’t remember what we did when it rained. Marie and I talked briefly once about when she and her brothers Bobby and Larry Anderson lived in New Holland. I’ll have to ask her again about that. My brother Walt married her daughter Deanna, so we are in-laws.
Mr. Charles Moorehead transported lots of people in his taxi back in the day. It is amazing to me that all of the taxis that existed back then have just “gone with the wind”.
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