Twelve years after a group of Abbeville and Lafayette County citizens decided to begin efforts to restore the abandoned Abbeville School buildings, the property is now officially listed as a Mississippi historic landmark.
The now- Gordon Community and Cultural Center and the old Head Start building, located at 35 County Road 115, were once schools for the black children of Lafayette County before integration was mandated.
The property gained approval from the National Register of Historic Places in June, which opened up opportunities to receive grants to help to continue renovations at the Community Center and begin renovations of the old Head Start building. It also provides some protection to prevent the buildings from being demolished or torn down.
Before being able to apply for a grant, an engineering survey had to be completed as to the cost of the projected renovations. The estimated cost came in at $1 million due to having to remove asbestos in the building.
The grant would cover 80% of the project; however, someone would have to come up with nearly $200,000.
Janice Carr, who sits on the Gordon Community and Cultural Center Board of Directors is hoping the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors will help by either providing some of the remaining 20% of costs or submitting grant proposals to other organizations such as Three Rivers Planning and Development.
“I’ve offered to write the grant myself for the county,” she said recently.
Carr is hoping to get on the agenda to speak to the Supervisors this month.
The school was built in 1949 and opened to students in January 1950 for grades first through eighth. The land for the school was donated by the Gordon family who lived in Abbeville. At that time, the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors agreed to pay $4,000 toward the new school, but the community had to raise another $4,000 to match those funds.
It was the first “real” school many of Abbeville’s black children ever attended. Most had attended one-room schools in church buildings before the Abbeville School was built.
A second building was built a few years later for ninth through 12th grades. In the 1960s, a third building was built for grades first through sixth and the original building served as a middle school for seventh and eighth-grade students.
When schools were integrated in the late 1960s, the Abbeville School was closed and its students were transported to the public schools in Oxford.
The school stood deserted for more than 40 years. In the 1970s, the state opened up a Head Start school in the newer of the three buildings. It shut down years later and moved to Oxford where it is now the Mary Cathey Head Start. The second building that served as the high school was demolished in the 1980s.
In 2014, the doors were finally reopened to educate students with the formation of Abbeville School Educational Summer Enrichment Camp.
The Gordon Community and Cultural Center Board hopes to turn the old Head Start building into a trade school for adults in the fields of carpentry, electrical and plumbing.
Anyone wishing to donate to help the GCCC reach the 20% match goal can mail checks to the Gordon Community and Cultural Center, Inc., P.O. Box 42, Abbeville, MS 38601. For more information, contact Carr at email@example.com or Dale Timothy Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org.