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Progress continues to preserve historic Black schoolhouse in Faust Park

Jason Rosenbaum
St. Louis Public Radio
Doris Frazier speaks at a press conference on Wednesday at Faust Park's Historic Village. Frazier was a substitute teacher at African School #4, which is being reassembled in the Chesterfield park.

The reconstruction of a historic Black schoolhouse is continuing in Chesterfield, with completion possible by the end of the year.

St. Louis County officials are piecing together African School #4 at Faust Park’s Historic Village. It opened in 1894, and county parks officials say it is the oldest surviving one-room schoolhouse for African Americans in the state.

The school was built after Black residents successfully sued in 1893. One teacher taught about a dozen students who were in first through eighth grade. After shutting down in the 1950s, the building was converted into a garage. St. Louis County officials were able to persuade a different owner to turn it over to the county.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said the owner agreed to give the structure away if the costs of dismantling it were picked up by the county. He said dismantling it and bringing it to Faust Park costs $15,000, and the rest of the restoration is estimated to be about $20,000. The St. Louis County Parks Foundation is covering the costs.

“Putting a price tag on this old schoolhouse is tough to do,” Page said at an update on the reconstruction Wednesday. “But it will broaden the history of St. Louis County.”

He said the original logs and bookshelves remain intact. And while crews were dismantling the schoolhouse, they found chalkboards with math equations.

Jason Rosenbaum
St. Louis Public Radio
The reconstruction of African School #4 is expected to be completed at Faust Park in Chesterfield either by the end of 2022 or early in 2023.

Jesse Francis, cultural site manager at Faust Park, said he’s hoping the reconstruction of the facility is finished either by the end of the year or by early 2023. Page said the St. Louis County Parks Foundation wants to furnish the building “so that it captures what it really looks like in a school in this time period.”

Doris Frazier, a Chesterfield resident who served as a substitute teacher at the school in the 1950s, said she’s gratified that a piece of Chesterfield’s history is being preserved.

During a press conference with Page and other county officials, Frazier said she’s “very happy that I had a chance to help Black children.”

“Let me just say one more time how grateful I am for this opportunity to stand before you to tell you how proud I am of being Black,” Frazier said. “Continue to work. And I'll continue doing what I'm doing in helping Black children succeed in life.”

County Councilman Mark Harder said he’s hoping that more people who were associated with the school can share their experiences with the county.

"If anybody in the St. Louis area knows anyone that is associated with this building, we need to see them,” Harder said.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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