Onetime black school in Forsyth earns state honor

FORSYTH — Most of the time the state’s Historic Preservation Division’s achievement awards recognize projects that have preserved historical treasures.

But the Hubbard Alumni Association in Forsyth did the state one better in earning its award. Not only has the association preserved the women’s dormitory and teacher’s cottage of the former State Teachers and Agricultural College for Negroes, but it also found a new use for the buildings.

The dormitory will be converted to classrooms for a branch of Central Georgia Technical College, tentatively scheduled to open in 2010.

Jeanne Cyriaque, African American Programs coordinator for the Historic Preservation Division, said this project showcases the best of both worlds.

“It’s a rarity,” said Cyriaque, who initially nominated the project for an award. “It’s a great use for the building. In this case, they were able to achieve a new use for (the dormitory). With some preservation, the results aren’t as tangible, but obviously, this is the kind of example we want — when people preserve buildings and find new uses for them. But this is a case where it’s an exception and not the rule.”

According to the alumni association, William Hubbard opened an elementary school for black children in Forsyth in 1900. Hubbard fostered a partnership with white members of the community to create the Forsyth Normal and Industrial School into one building on 10 acres in Forsyth.

Hubbard increased the age range of his classes all the way to the 11th grade by 1916. In 1918, the school was accredited as the state’s first vocational training school for black students.

Four years later, the state added the designation “School of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts for the Training of Negroes,” and it later became a junior college. Unfortunately, that same year the school was destroyed by a fire. But Hubbard rebuilt the school and acquired additional land to accommodate the 2,000-plus students who attended it.

In 1931, the state changed the name to State Teachers and Agricultural College for Negroes, and by 1936, the campus included several buildings.

The school closed in 1938 when the state transferred its resources to what was then Fort Valley State College in Peach County. The school was acquired by the Monroe County Board of Education and reopened as the Hubbard Training School. Hubbard’s son, Samuel, served as the school’s first principal.

In 1955, the school added a building and became the Hubbard Elementary and High School, with Samuel Hubbard acting as principal for both schools. In 1970, Monroe County schools were desegregated. The middle school was renamed for William Hubbard, and the elementary school was named for Samuel.

W. James Green, president of the alumni association, and Lillian Davis, the group’s secretary, were singled out when the award was announced last week. But Green said winning the preservation award is a community-wide honor.

“It’s fantastic,” said Green, who attended Hubbard Elementary. “I’m very humbled and very excited to have received this honor. This is for the whole community. We couldn’t have done this without community support.”

The alumni association preserved the women’s dorm and cottage, getting it listed with the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. Because of that listing, any changes made to the building must get approval from the register. For example, Green said, the windows can be replaced but must conform to the original style.

Green said the organization is a nonprofit group that raises money each year with events such as a black-tie dinner and a golf tournament. The money is used for the preservation of the buildings as well as the endowment of three scholarships every year at Mary Persons High School.

Green said he thinks the organization was honored by the state because of its work over the years.

“It’s the consistency we’ve shown in our efforts over the years, the consistency and hard work,” he said.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.