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St. Louis County will reopen oldest 1-room African American schoolhouse

"We clean it up and add a fresh coat, replaced some logs, but I would say 85% or 86% is in the original building," Faust Park's cultural site manager said.

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — Nestled in its new placement, Missouri's oldest surviving, one-room African American schoolhouse has found a home at Faust Park in Chesterfield.

African Schoolhouse No. 4 becomes the 29th building in the Historic Village.

This year marks the 129th anniversary of the schoolhouse, which was originally located on Wild Horse Creek Road in Chesterfield.

It opened in 1894.

Jesse Francis is the cultural site manager at Faust Park and has worked at the park for 35 years.

He admitted they've been yearning to get this schoolhouse on their property for two decades.

The school was built after Black residents of the area sued in 1893 because there was no school for Black children.

And the group won and built the school for $600.

There was no playground equipment or restroom inside.

Black students were often given inferior buildings and instructional materials.

The school remained open into the 1950s and it merged with the Orrville School.

The remaining African American schools in the area were closed in the 1963-1964 school year, when the schools integrated. This decision was made 10 years after the United States Supreme Court's landmark 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education that ruled racial segregation of children in schools was unconstitutional.

Francis said the schoolhouse highlights a significant history. 

"The group of people that built this down in Wild Horse Creek had to go to school across the street from this park called the Jackson School. It was seven miles away, that was a long way to go. So if you could prove you had 20 students, you could have a school. It's part of the development of people reaching out, struggling, pushing forward and making it," Francis explained.

Just a few days before the grand opening, Doris Frazier visited the restored site.

Back in the 1950s, Frazier was 19 and in her 20s as a substitute teacher.

Credit: KSDK

In a spot she's familiar with, the 91-year-old stood in the 15-foot by 19-foot, single-room, log structure. 

As she panned the room, she said, "Over here we would do lessons. All around were blackboards. We taught kindergarten, first, second and up to eighth grade. I've learned patience."

She explained patience with children tied with tolerance, as she waited for equality.

"Our Black kids suffered greatly, I think, in education and I fought very hard," she said. 

Frazier told on 5 On Your Side she fought hard to end segregation in schools, as well.

After integration, the schoolhouse fell under different owners.

One of the owners converted the school into a one-car garage. 

Francis called this a blessing in disguise because the school could have collapsed during the 1993 floods.

Eventually, it was attained by St. Louis County Parks and ended up at Faust Park.

It took four weeks to move it.

5 On Your Side was there in November, while it was being restored.

"We clean it up and add a fresh coat, replaced some logs, but I would say 85% or 86% is in the original building," Francis said.

Preservation and restoration was about $35,000.

An effort, Frazier believes is something you can't put a price on.

"I want them to imagine to sit in a one-room school being taught and how blessed they are today to have the kids of the schools that we have, the kind of education that is for everybody," she said. 

Credit: St. Louis County

The schoolhouse will have its grand opening Saturday, March 25, 2023, in a ceremony beginning at 1 p.m. at Faust Park.

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