The Hickory Colored School slows traffic as a truck moves it on U.S. 45 on Tuesday morning. The truck traveled 5 miles to Graves County High School, where the building will be renovated.
MAYFIELD, Ky. - Soggy weather couldn't dampen the enthusiasm of Debbie Smith and Kim Wheeler as they stood out in the rain Tuesday morning watching the Hickory Colored School move to its new home on the Graves County High School campus.
“We’re excited to even get it on the road,” said Smith, Gifted and Talented coordinator/teacher for Graves County. “This is the second chapter. We have another chapter to go with it being restored.”
The women found the one-room school on Southern Alley, off Ky. 1241, in Hickory three years ago while researching the Chalk Dust Project, the school system’s initiative to find and chronicle all the county schools. The House family, whose members live mostly out of state, then donated the school to the school system for the purpose of restoration.
The Hickory School, built in 1925 for black students, was funded in part by Julius Rosenwald, a former president of Sears, Roebuck & Co., who started a foundation to build schools for blacks from 1917 to 1932. By 1932, more than 5,300 Rosenwald school buildings, teachers’ homes and vocational school buildings had been built in 15 states, mostly in the South, but the schools are now on the National Trust for Preservation’s list of the 11 most endangered buildings in the United States.
It took most of a $50,000 grant from Lowe’s and the National Trust for Historic Preservation to move the fragile building. A former student, Walter Lynn, 85, even stopped to witness the move. “He was kind of sad to see it go, but happy it was going to be saved,” said Wheeler, community education director.
Edwards Moving Co. of Louisville moved the school, without its roof and floor, to the high school campus. It will be placed on a foundation today in a wooded area visible from the Purchase Parkway.
“We want it to be seen from the parkway so people can see we’re progressive but we also look to our past and heritage because that is what made us today,” Smith said.
Plans are to restore the school and convert it into a museum and learning center. Vocational students are going to rewire it for electricity and work on the original windows. “We’re going to have to beat the bushes to find money,” Smith said. “We’re hoping some civic clubs and even some local individuals will help us out. It’s just kind of fallen together. I’ve talked to teachers and they are so excited about the museum and learning center. They can spend all day and have their kids bring their lunch just like they brought their lunch in the 1920s and ’30s.”
The Chalk Dust book, featuring the history of more than 150 county schools, will be completed next week. It will sell for $10, and is available from Wheeler at