Historic Name: Tangipahoa Parish Training School Dormitory
Other Names: Old Dormitory of the Tangipahoa Parish Training School, Home Economics Building
Status: National Register
Date Placed on National Register: 7/27/1979
Level of Significance: Local
Area of Significance: Education, Ethnic Heritage
Property Type: School
Architectural Style: No Style
Theme: African-American Heritage, Education
The Old Dormitory is set at the rear of a large suburban lot on the outskirts of Kentwood, Louisiana. Although the building has lost its original setting, the recent move was necessitated by threat of demolition. Because the building was moved, only the building itself is to be included in the nomination.
The plan consists of a large square room at each end of the building, with a corridor running between them. The corridor is flanked by smaller rooms.
The simple pine frame structure is raised approximately two feet on concrete posts. Although the roof is not in place, it is slated to be reinstalled as part of the upcoming restoration. The exterior is sheathed in medium gauge clapboard with narrow gauge wainscotting on the interior. The 6-over-6 sash mounted windows are set in pairs. When the aforementioned
restoration is complete, there will be a small one-bay entrance portico.
The building is completely lacking in embellishments or ornamentation of any kind. It therefore speaks well of the humble beginnings of the Tangipahoa Parish Training School.
SPECIFIC DATES 1920’s
STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE
The Old Dormitory of the Tangipahoa Parish Training School (one of the school’s two oldest remaining buildings) is significant in the areas of education and black history due to its close association with the school. The Tangipahoa Parish Training School, founded in 1911, was the first “county training school” in the entire South. A “county training school” was conceived as the only school of its kind in each county or parish. It would be centrally located and would provide instruction for Negro children in grades one through ten (or eleven) with a stress on “vocational” and “industrial” education at the secondary level. It would also provide teacher training so that its graduates could staff the rural black schools in the parish. The “county training schools” were the real beginning of secondary public education for blacks in the rural South.
The most complete account of the establishment of the Tangipahoa Parish Training School is found in Edward E. Redcay, County Training Schools and Public Secondary Education for Negroes in the South (Washington, D. C.: The John F. Slater Fund, 1935), pp. 24-30. The initiative was taken in September, 1910, by Professor A. M. Strange, who had recently left Mississippi and moved to Kentwood. He wrote to Dr. James H. Dillard, general agent for the John F. Slater Fund (a philanthropic fund for the advancement of Negro education), soliciting aid for a black school that would be located in Kentwood. He wrote Dr. Dillard another letter in November, again soliciting aid and in the process revealing his conception of the school and telling of support in the Kentwood area for the school.
“We have succeeded in interesting the good white people of this section of parish and parish board of education to help us put the before mentioned idea into execution. This school fosters the idea of having boys learn scientific agriculture, dairying and horticulture for girls sewing, domestic economy, cooking, dairying and poultry raising. We have cleaned up 10 acres and will soon begin fencing. We need at least $4000.00 to finish our building and get in running order. We therefore ask you as a conservative southern gentleman, to help us in this movement, the best and conservative white ladies and gentlemen of this section are doing everything to make movement succeed. The mills have donated lumber, brickyard brick, the negro laborers at the mills have signed petition to give 25¢ monthly for support of institution. . . We believe if this school succeeds with this unique idea of education it’s promoters must be southern men who know every phase of negro life.”
Dr. Dillard was impressed with Strange’s plea, for the most part because he saw the school as an opportunity to establish a rural Negro public secondary school. A. C. Lewis, Superintendent of Schools for Tangipahoa Parish, was impressed for another reason. He viewed the school as an opportunity to provide training for teachers who would staff the parish’s rural black schools.
So the school was established in 1911. Lewis, Strange, and Dillard, along with B. C. Caldwell, Field Agent for the Slater Fund, worked out the details which brought into being the Tangipahoa Parish Training School for Colored Children. The school board furnished teachers and equipment, and the Slater Fund gave assistance to the amount of $500 toward the salary of an industrial teacher for the school. The school was the first “county training school” in the South and one of the first rural public schools providing secondary education for Negroes in the nation. Three other county training schools were established in the South later that same academic year. According to Benjamin Brawley in Doctor Dillard of the Jeanes Fund (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1930), pp. 74-75, four years later there were 42 county training schools and by 1927 there were 306.
According to A. C. Lewis and W. A. Sisemore, Special Report on Negro Education in Louisiana: 1923-1924 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Department of Education Bulletin No. 104, 1924), pp. 18-21, Tangipahoa Parish Training School in 1923-1924 was one of sixteen parish training schools in the state. Its grounds encompassed 104 acres, and it had eight classrooms and eight teachers. Its enrollment was 205 and average attendance 189. It had 49 high school students, including seven in the eleventh grade (it was the only training school in the state which offered instruction in the eleventh grade). A total of 81 students lived in its two dormitories. It was one of only two training schools in the state which had a full 9-month school term.
The vocational education classes at the school encompassed such subjects as home economics, agriculture, and carpentry.* The teacher training course could be undertaken by a student after he or she had completed the eleventh grade. It consisted of an additional year of instruction at the end of which the student would receive a teacher’s certificate and academic credit equivalent to one year of college. The teacher training program was usually staffed by professors from the Louisiana Negro Normal School (Grambling College).
The Tangipahoa Parish Training School drew many students from surrounding parishes, including Washington, St. Tammany, St. Helena, East and West Feliciana, and from southern Mississippi, especially Pike County. Thus a dormitory was necessary for the students who could not live at home. School terms usually began in July and ended in March to allow students to participate in the harvesting of the strawberry crop.
The school went through three phases in its development. From its founding in 1911 until 1955 it was known as the Tangipahoa Parish Training School and for most of this period was under the leadership of Oliver Wendell Dillon. From 1955 until 1969, although its operations continued in much the same manner, its name was the O. W. Dillon Memorial School. In 1969 with the coming of integration, it became Kentwood Elementary School.
The Old Dormitory was built in the early 1920’s. At first it housed only about fifteen persons, mainly families of the teachers. Later it housed as many as a hundred girls and female teachers. It remained a dormitory until 1951, when it was renovated and converted to classrooms. In recent years it had been used mainly for Home Economics classes and instruction in remedial reading and mathematics.
In recent months plans have been laid for major changes in the school’s facilities. The Old Dormitory, one of the two oldest remaining buildings associated with the school, was slated to be demolished. But a movement to save the building has resulted in its removal to another site nearby. Plans are being made for the building to be converted to a combination day care center for working mothers and museum providing exhibits on the Tangipahoa Parish Training School and black history.
*The remainder of the information in the Statement of Significance is from Fochia V. Wilson, currently Principal of Kentwood Elementary School (which took over the training school’s facilities); she was formerly a student and a teacher at the training school.
MAJOR BIBLIOGRAPHICAL REFERENCES
Brawley, Benjamin, Doctor Dillard of the Jeanes Fund. New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1930. Pp. 74-75.
Lewis, A. C. and W. A. Sisemore, Special Report on Negro Education in Louisiana: 1923-1924.
Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Department of Education Bulletin No. 104,1924. Pp. 18-21.
Redcay, Edward E., County Training Schools and Public Secondary Education for Negroes in the
South. Washington, D. C.: John F. Slater Fund, 1935. Pp. 24-30.
Wilson, Fochia V., Research Report on Old Dormitory and letter of 28 March 1979 to State Historic
Preservation Office, both located in National Register file for Old Dormitory of Tangipahoa Parish Training School, State Historic Preservation Office, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.