City + Citizen News

City Council votes to add Cumming Street School to local historic register

Tuesday, May 10

School was among the first in Spartanburg built for Black students

 

At their meeting on Monday, Spartanburg City Council voted unanimously to add the near century-old Cumming Street School to the City's local Historic Register. Now located on the campus of Wofford College, the building once housed one of the earliest schools to educate Black students in the City of Spartanburg. First opening in 1926 for students in grades 1-9, the school served upwards of 1,000 students each year until closing in 1969, when schools in Spartanburg were finally desegregated. Afterwards the school was used by Spartanburg School District 7 as an administrative building.

 

The move to add the school to Spartanburg's Historic Register comes after signatures were gathered for a petition created by Brenda Lee Pryce and Jim Neighbors that was then submitted to City planning staff. The City's Board of Architectural Design and Historic Review then unanimously approved the school's addition on April 14, then sending the matter to City Council for final approval.

 

Once a centerpiece of a vibrant historically Black neighborhood known as "Back of College" located between the campus of Wofford College and Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System, the Cumming Street School today is part of Wofford's campus. According to Neighbors, several factors contributed to the neighborhood's decline including Wofford's decades-long acquisition of neighborhood property beginning in the 1950s, Spartanburg School District 7's desegregation that led to the closure of Cumming Street School, and the City's unwillingness to assist the areas's homeowners with needed improvements.

 

Designed by architect, J. Frank Collins, The Cumming Street School building's otherwise simple, institutional design is accentuated by 16 large window bays, enclosed with historic nineteenth century window frame anatomy. Each window bay holds 45 smaller window panes, a defining architectural detail that adds character to the building façade. Collins designed more than 53 buildings and facilities in Spartanburg, including Duncan Park Stadium, the Masonic Temple in Downtown Spartanburg, as well as buildings on Wofford and Converse College Campus. Collins is also known to have designed other local educational institutions including, Southside Elementary School and Frank Evans High School, which is now home to Spartanburg Community College's Downtown Campus. 

 

While its addition to the local Historic Register does not require any renovation of the building, any future exterior changes to the Cumming Street School building would now need to be approved by the Board of Architectural Design and Historic Review. Wofford currently has no plans to redevelop the site and did not oppose the building's inclusion in the local Historic Register.

 

For more from Monday's meeting, see the full video below.