Historic Colored Schoolhouse, Then & Now
Sykesville Colored Schoolhouse Timeline
- June 1903: Two “colored” men approach the Board of Education to construct a school in Sykesville
- July 1903: Asa Hepner sells just under 1 acre of ground with use of the well pump to the Carroll County Board of Education for $134
- October 1903: Second-hand desks from the Detour “white” school are shipped to Sykesville
- December 1903: Commissioner DeVries orders $530.50 be paid to the builder
- January 4, 1904: This Monday was the first day of classes at the Sykesville “Colored” School
- November 1904: Carroll and Howard Counties reduced the cost of out-of-county school permits for “colored” pupils to $2 per term
- October 1916: George Selby installs a new “iron” roof for $99.38. During 1916-1917, 32 pupils were enrolled
- February 1920 to April 1921: The County contributes $20 for library and supplies plus $25 donated by the local community
- August 1928: The Board matches the $10 raised locally to buy a Victrola for the school
- May 1938: The County approves a consolidation plan for the county’s “colored” schools; Gladys Sheppard is the last teacher at Sykesville
- May to July 1939: The County votes to sell the Sykesville School; it is auctioned on July 5, sold for $100. The building is converted to a residence
Conversion to the Museum
The Sykesville Schoolhouse Museum is a labor of love as well as a work in progress, being restored to its 1916 appearance. Built between July and December 1903, at a cost of $530.50, the building has lived many lives.
Between January 1904 and May 1938 it was a one-room schoolhouse, managed by local community trustees, for children of the surrounding black community from both sides of the Patapsco River during the days of segregation.
Between July 1939 and late 1981 the building served as a residence with its main floor divided into four rooms. Since 1982, the building was repeatedly slated for demolition but was saved each time by the efforts of local residents.
By the mid-1990’s, with support from the Town of Sykesville, the project was in line to receive state restoration seed grants. However, their implementation was delayed while deeds and other issues were resolved. Millennium celebrations provided a major boost in the effort to save the Schoolhouse.
The White House Millennium Council, in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, listed the Schoolhouse as a Save America’s Treasures Project, and the Maryland Commission for Celebration 2000 selected it as a statewide Treasure of the Month. The same year the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage selected the Sykesville Schoolhouse as the county and statewide beneficiary project for the year.
The Schoolhouse is being restored in phases based on structural needs and available budget. Our first phase of work, which is nearing completion, contains the most noticeable work on the building making it weather tight, secure and removing some alterations made to convert the school to a residence.
Even though construction is not complete, we are always happy to open for special events, tours and welcome any opportunity for the community to check on our progress.
Future projects include installing electricity, heat and air conditioning, and refinishing the interior surfaces. Later phases will include the addition of facilities like storage, bathrooms and meeting the landscape demands of our hillside location.
This work will be completed as financial support for the Schoolhouse becomes available. Our goal is to open the site on a regular basis once the basic construction work is complete.
Since the beginning of the effort to save the Schoolhouse, the objective has been to preserve the site by creating a museum and community center. Initially, the effort was under taken by members of the Schoolhouse Road community. As the project developed, the Town of Sykesville offered support in meeting these goals.
A volunteer, non-profit entity, the Sykesville Development Corporation (SDC) was created to oversee and direct the project. The SDC’s mission is to preserve the Schoolhouse by telling the story of the building’s past and ensuring its role in the community’s future.
To accomplish the goal of opening a museum, a living history approach is underway. Visitors will have an opportunity to return to the days when one teacher managed 6 or 7 grades with 40 or more pupils in just one room. To fill in the broad gaps in the Schoolhouse’s history, several research initiatives have been started.
College interns have researched written records from newspapers, land records, minutes from early Board of Education meetings, and the like. A local anthropologist has volunteered to record oral histories about the Schoolhouse and recollections of the community.
Join the Effort to Save the Schoolhouse
Once the Sykesville Schoolhouse is open it will be the first museum in Carroll County devoted to African-American history.
Donations should be made payable to: Town of Sykesville
Town of Sykesville
7547 Main Street
Sykesville, MD 21784
If you would like to consider supporting this effort and need more information, please email Patricia Greenwald at 410-795-8959.