Keep historic structures intact

Published 5:36 pm Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

Recently there has been much talk about moving Smithfield’s “Schoolhouse Museum” back out to Longview where it came from.

Many of us recall the very public controversy several years ago when the advocates for this “museum” deceived both the donors and the public by claiming it was a historic “Rosenwald” school. This deception was admitted only after the lot was donated, the money was raised and the building removed from its original foundation and expensively trucked into town. This was well reported in The Smithfield Times.

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The actual historic Rosenwald School building on Longview Drive was left to deteriorate in the woods across from Christian Home Church, the school’s namesake, where it remains today. This travesty of local history was much resented at the time by those who are proud of our real history. They advocated for establishing an authentic African-American Education and Cultural Center at Christian Home Baptist Church encompassing not only the two school buildings but also the historic church and its attendant structures.

As many are aggrieved each time they must bear the sight of this historically misplaced schoolhouse, so too do they understand how many others are “offended” by the sight of our memorial to the county’s Confederate dead, both black and white, in Monument Circle. Both remind us graphically and poignantly of regrettable times that we have now left in the past.

But, to keep peace in the community, I will state that both the Schoolhouse Museum in Smithfield and the monument to our Confederate dead at Isle of Wight Courthouse should remain in place. Although both structures represent horrendous times in our past and are a constant reminder of those times, we cannot deny our past but we can learn from it and dedicate ourselves to our collective future.

So let us now accept each others’ past faults and move on. Destroying symbols of a regrettable past, either real or misplaced, solves nothing and makes no ones’ lives better. The removal of either structure only inflames passions on both sides.

Both should remain in place as educational media so we don’t ever again do this. Relocating historic properties is not the answer. Acceptance of each other’s past is.


Albert Burckard