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Community member saves historic African-American schoolhouse

“It was a safe haven," Fred Glenn, who purchased the property and saved years of history from becoming ash, said.

CRAMERTON, N.C. — The historic Baltimore Village School in Cramerton has been closed for quite some time, but a group is working to restore the structure.

Fred Glenn, 77, said it's like stepping back in time when entering the school. 

“It’s solid, the floors are solid," Glenn said. “You heard the term old school? You are standing in old school?”

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The school was built in 1925 for the Baltimore Village community. 

“Eight grades [were] taught here," Glenn said. "K through 8 and a potbelly stove.”

Glenn's mother and aunt were students at the school. They told Glenn so many stories from that time. While times were difficult, the women said it was a place filled with amazing memories. The schoolhouse has indoor plumbing, which was uncommon in schoolhouses at that time, especially in buildings for African-Americans.

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In the 1950s, the school became a community center for the Black community. 

“It was a safe haven," Glenn said. "It was the heartbeat of the community.”

Glenn said, at that time, it was one of the few places in Gaston County where Black people felt safe. He remembers, as a boy, coming to the schoolhouse to watch movies. 

"I can remember watching Hopalong [and] Tarzan," Glenn recalled.

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Over time, the once-beating heart of the community became vacant. In 2002, the Cramerton Fire Department was going to burn the empty building down. Glenn didn't agree with that idea. In 2003, Glenn purchased the property and saved years of history from becoming ash. 

“It goes to show you sometimes [our] history has no value, African-American history,' Glenn said. 

The goal now is to restore the schoolhouse into a museum and offer classes, too. His team said it will take $500,000. The group has raised about half of that so far. They are looking for donations to help achieve this goal. 

"Generations now need to know about the history of how things you to be," Glenn said. "A little boy growing up from the Village, growing up and then purchasing something like this, because we didn’t have the resources.”

Contact Austin Walker at awalker@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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