Free Hill school gets restoration grant from Lowe’s


FREE HILL-In honor of Black History Month, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Lowe’s last week announced the second round of grants from a joint initiative to restore iconic schools that represent an important chapter in United States history, including the Rosenwald School in the Free Hill community. 


LOWE’S GRANT-Several people were on hand for the ceremony officially announcing the $50,000 grant from Lowe’s to help restore the Rosenwald School in the Free Hill community. Among those at the ceremony were (first row, l-r): Irene Hurt, Free Hill Community Club (FHCC) chairman; Eva Terrell, FHCC community planner; Mary Bartlett, FHCC board of directors; Kyle Whitlow, community supporter, and Anthony Hamilton, FHCC board member. Second row are Phillip Dixon of the Natural Resources Conservation Service; Dale Reagan, Clay County Mayor; Ralph Richardson, FHCC president; Brett Cain, Lowe’s store manager; Danielle Sutton, Lowe’s administrative manager; James Stephens, Clay Soil Conservation District; Louis Hamilton, Jr., FHCC member; Andrezej Kaslikowski, Resource Conservation and Development director; and Kathy Daugherty, Hull-York Lakeland RC & D coordinator. (Staff photo by Kevin Donaldson)

Lowe’s provided a second $1 million grant to the National Trust for Historic Preservation to save Free Hill and 14 other “Rosenwald schools” nationally from permanent disrepair and, through adaptive reuse, to transform them into once-again vibrant facilities in their communities.  In 2008, Lowe’s awarded $1 million in its first round of grants to fund work at 17 Rosenwald schools. The grant amount awarded for the Free Hill school was $50,000. 

“The Lowe’s contribution will help to preserve these iconic landmarks of monuments to African American history,” said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. 

“In a time of great racial inequality, Julius Rosenwald worked with communities across the South and Southwest to improve educational opportunities for African Americans. These schools represent a critical link to our national heritage, and we are pleased to work with Lowe’s in preserving these important places that tell America’s story.”

Free Hill is a unique rural black community located about five miles northeast of Celina.  Settled by slaves of Virginia Hill prior to the Civil War and granted their freedom and the surrounding land, they became a vibrant growing community of stores, clubs, and eateries.  From 1929 to 1930, the Rosenwald School was built at Free Hill on land donated by several families.  It was one of 354 such schools built in Tennessee although only 30 remain today.  For more information, please visit

“The object of this Rosenwald School rehabilitation project,” according to Ralph Richardson, President of the Free Hill Community Club, Inc. “shall be to foster educational plans that will improve the membership in the arts, sciences and civic affairs of the community; to sponsor programs that will foster discussion among the citizens; to promote recreational activities that will benefit youth and senior citizens; and to engage in such other activities that will provide for the human and social betterment of the Free Hill Community Club, Inc.”

In 1912, Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington partnered to pilot a rural school building program for African Americans in Alabama. The Rosenwald Fund ultimately provided $4.7 million in grants, and African Americans donated an additional $4.7 million to build state-of-the-art school facilities between 1918 and 1932. Today, these buildings are called “Rosenwald schools.”

At the heart of many African American communities, these schools served as community centers and provided meeting spaces and school facilities. When the program concluded in 1932, more than 5,300 schools, vocational shops and teachers’ homes had been constructed in 15 states across the South and Southwest.

“The role Rosenwald schools played in the educational and civic lives of communities throughout the South cannot be underestimated,” said Larry D. Stone, chairman of the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation. “Preserving these historic structures and returning them to be valuable gathering places is important to our nation’s history and the communities where they are located — both worthy goals Lowe’s are proud to continue to support.”

In 1954, the Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas Supreme Court decision caused most remaining Rosenwald schools to close. Once closed, these hallmarks of early 20th century African American educational progress and community life fell victim to changing times.  The Free Hills School was closed in 1966.  The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Rosenwald schools to its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2002.  For more information on Rosenwald schools, please visit

The grant will be administered through the Hull-York Lakeland Resource Conservation and Development Council headquartered in Cookeville.  For more than 40 years the Hull-York Lakeland RC & D Council has worked in the upper Cumberland area of middle Tennessee putting projects on the ground that help sustain rural communities, local economies, and natural resources.  On-going and past projects include Cane Creek Park, Granville Park Bank Stabilization, York Institute Baseball Tomorrow, Post Oak Creek Watershed Study, AgriLeadership 20/20, and Regional Envirothon Contest for High School students.  For more information on Hull-York Lakeland RC&D, please visit

About Hull-York Lakeland

The Hull-York Lakeland RC&D project area was approved in 1965 under the authority of the Food and Agriculture Act of 1962, Public Law 87–703 and consists of a board of directors who work to provide coordinated resource conservation and rural development assistance throughout the 14 county area of the Upper Cumberland region of Tennessee.  It is a non-profit 501c (3) organization that provides coordinated resource conservation and rural development assistance throughout rural America.    

About the National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a non-profit membership organization bringing people together to protect, enhance and enjoy the places that matter to them. By saving the places where great moments from history – and the important moments of everyday life – took place, the National Trust for Historic Preservation helps revitalize neighborhoods and communities, spark economic development and promote environmental sustainability. The National Trust for Historic Preservation provides leadership, education, advocacy and resources to a national network of people, organizations and local communities committed to saving places, connecting us to our history and collectively shaping the future of America’s stories. For more information, visit

About Lowe’s

Lowe’s is a proud supporter of Habitat for Humanity International, American Red Cross, United Way of America, and the Home Safety Council, in addition to numerous non-profit organizations and programs that help communities across the country.  In 2007, Lowe’s and the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation together contributed more than $27.5 million to support community and education projects in the United States and Canada. Lowe’s also encourages volunteerism through the Lowe’s Heroes program, a company-wide employee volunteer initiative.  Lowe’s is a FORTUNE® 50 company with fiscal year 2008 sales of $48.2 billion and has more than 1,650 stores in the United States and Canada.  For more information, visit