'Preserving history': Acworth Rosenwald School reopens after renovation

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May 10—ACWORTH — A monument to Cobb's Black history reopened this week, with more than 50 people in attendance to see the ribbon cut on the newly renovated Rosenwald School.

Acworth Alderman Tim Houston has been involved with maintaining the building since the 1990s, and said the upkeep of the building is important to him.

"It's preserving history, so I'm really excited about it, because it's actually a part of the community, and it's been here from the 20s," Houston said. "So to be able to preserve it and be here for our kids going forward is just exciting."

The historic building today sits on Cherokee Street in downtown Acworth, but its nearly 100-year-old story began a few blocks away, on School Street.

The school's origins are traced to Julius Rosenwald, the philanthropist who gave the school and hundreds like it their name. An Illinois native, Rosenwald was a part-owner and top executive in Sears and Roebuck during the early 20th century. At the urging of Booker T. Washington, one of his initiatives was funding the construction of thousands of schoolhouses for Black children across the South.

Acworth's was one, and construction began in 1924.

By the late 1940s, the new Roberts School was built to replace the uninsulated, wooden Rosenwald School. However, Acworth's Black community elected to disassemble and rebuild the Rosenwald School at its present location rather than scrap it.

It reopened as a community center in 1953 and has undergone numerous renovations since then. The city of Acworth owns the building and rents it out for private events.

The most recent upgrades to the building — the first total renovation the city has undertaken — cost about $700,000, helped in large part by Cobb's Community Development Block Grant program.

Drywall that covered the old tongue-and-groove walls was removed, according to Acworth Parks and Recreation Director Kim Watt, and crew removed the roof to stabilize its supports, and replaced the beams under the floorboards.

Houston has plenty of personal connections to both schools. He attended the Roberts School for two years before it closed in the 1960s.

The Rosenwald School is located in Doyal Hill Park, named after Houston's half-brother Doyal Hill, Acworth's first Black alderman who served four terms beginning in 1983.

Acworth Mayor Tommy Allegood praised Houston's commitment to preserving the building and the city's Black history.

"It's about living in a community that's unified, that intentionally works to unify through our leadership and makes sure that we bring everyone together," Allegood said. "In doing so, we give everyone that special voice."