Hidden History: Saving a School

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CURRITUCK COUNTY, N.C. (WAVY) — This month, we’re showing you some of the hidden histories in our community.

A restaurant owner in Currituck County made it his mission to preserve a piece of history.

You may have seen the Coinjock-Rosenwald School sitting along Route 168. 

In the 1920s, Sears-Roebuck Owner Julius Rosenwald financed more than 5,000 schools for African Americans in the south.

Rosenwald partnered with Booker T. Washington and local communities to raise money for the schools. 

“What he was trying to do was remarkable and certainly ahead of his time,” said Paul Robinson, a restaurant owner in Currituck County.  

Nearly one century later, only 10 to 12 percent of those schools are still standing. 

Over time, the Coinjock-Rosenwald School started to fall apart and was going to be demolished.    

That’s when Robinson stepped in and bought the old school. 10 On Your Side was there in 2016 when he moved it onto his property

“I didn’t really want to see it get knocked down. I mean it was literally probably within a few months of getting demolished,” Robinson said.  “It still doesn’t look pretty yet, but it looks a lot better than where it would be if we didn’t take it on.”

Robinson has been working to restore it since then, something that’s taking longer than expected. 

“We’re still in love with the project, we’re still excited to see it come to fruition,” Robinson said. “It’s just certainly more of a time and financial burden than we expected, but we knew when we took on the project that it was going to be more of a long-term thing that didn’t happen overnight.”

The school attracts a lot of attention in its new home. When Robinson talks about it, most people have never heard of it. 

“It’s really one of the sad parts of this whole thing,” he said.  “I think it’s one of the greatest philanthropic efforts in the United States, and yet I tell the story so much and nobody knows what I’m talking about and it’s amazing to me.”

He’s met a few people who went to the school, but he’s hoping to meet more. 

“Try to get any history that we can, while it’s available,” Robinson said.  “The story of this school is part of their story.”

He envisions the school becoming a community space, country store, and a place where everyone in the community can reflect on their history. 

If you know someone who went to the school, or have any memoribilia from it, Robinson wants to hear from you. You can reach him at his restaurant. 
 

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