With a new roof, a new floor and mortar repairs, dignity is being restored to the old Banneker School in Parkville.
Preservation efforts — the most extensive in decades — will be celebrated at an annual fundraiser breakfast on Monday at Park University.
The restoration salvages not only the physical structure but also the historic importance of Banneker School. Built in 1885, it was one of only three schools in Platte County for educating children of freed slaves.
“I’m happy about the progress,” said Rosetta Scott, a member of the Banneker School Foundation. “My sister worked so hard for this.”
Scott’s sister was Lucille S. Douglass, a Parkville social worker and teacher who helped save the school from the wrecking ball in 1988. She then spearheaded a campaign to restore the one-room brick schoolhouse.
Volunteers hope the breakfast will bring in some $10,000 to continue the repairs and realize Douglass’ vision to preserve the school and honor its history.
Douglass died in 2004. In 2008, the foundation was organized as a nonprofit and in 2010, an architectural assessment of the building was commissioned. In the assessment, the school was described as “extremely deteriorated.”
In the spring of 2015 with $100,000 in the treasury and a grant for a new roof, volunteers pushed forward with the restoration, fearing for the collapse of the building.
“All I could think of was that the building is going to fall,” said Carla Barksdale, chairwoman of the foundation.
Tuckpointing — repairing mortar joints in the brick walls and rock foundation — was the first step taken in 2015.
At that time, a door on the east side of the building was removed because it was not part of the original structure. The doorway had been created from a window when the school was altered for residential use as a one-room efficiency.
The space was converted back to a window for historic accuracy.
A new floor was finished in November and a roof of fire-treated wood shingles was added in January. Interior mortar repairs and a new ceiling are next.
Concerns about collapse were justified.
“If the roof hadn’t been done this year, the building would have slipped back to its pre-failure state,” said Grant Shifflett whose company, G S Structural specializes in historic restorations.
Shifflett observed the original structure to be “well built and above grade for the time.” Materials in the 1885 construction came from a nearby brick factory in Parkville and a saw mill within five to 10 miles of the site, he said.
Shifflett’s goal is to use materials that are as authentic as possible to the structure’s time period or that closely resemble what would have been appropriate at that time. Shifflett will use modern materials to restore the ceiling, for example, but will finish it with a “an old-world look that will mimic plaster and lath.”
Working inside the old schoolhouse, Shifflett discovered two blackboards with some old writing in chalk still visible on them. The blackboards were created by painting over the plaster on the wall with flat black paint.
When tuckpointing on the interior north and south gables and the ceiling are completed, Shifflett said the school should last another 200 years if the roof, gutter and downspouts are maintained.
Repairs and replacements to make the building completely secure, structurally sound and watertight will cost some $60,000, said Kiki Fane, vice chairwoman of the foundation and head of the construction committee.
To realize the full vision of the 2010 master plan was projected to cost more than $500,000. The school, when fully restored, was designed to be much more than a monument — a museum where “school kids could take field trips and learn about how African-American children were educated in the late 19th century,” Fane said.
The goal is transform the school into a living-history museum and to build an interpretive center to re-create the classroom conditions of black students in the late 1800s.
Banneker School on Eighth Street was closed due to overcrowding around 1905 and a second, larger school for black students was built nearby. Over the years, the original school was converted into a home and a kitchen, fireplace and porch were added. Such alterations have since been removed.
Additional work includes addressing accessibility issues, building areas for off-street parking and for school bus parking and creating an outdoor recreational area.
Rosetta Scott plans to attend the breakfast on Monday and support the restoration of Banneker School as she has ever since her sister, Lucille S. Douglass, launched the campaign nearly 30 years ago.
Restoration has been a long time coming and Scott, now 98, said she hopes the plans will be finished before she turns 100.
When: 7:30 to 9 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 29
Where: Park University, 8700 River Park Drive in Parkville. The breakfast will be held in the Park Distance Learning Center in the commercial underground on campus.
Cost: Reservations are $35.
To make a reservation, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website, www.eventbrite.com and enter “Banneker School.”
The breakfast will be held in the Park Distance Learning Center in the commercial underground on campus.