County commits to save Lake Hall Schoolhouse

The Lake Hall Schoolhouse. Photo courtesy

At Tuesday’s Leon County Commission meeting, the audience cheered after commissioners voted in favor of preserving the Lake Hall Schoolhouse.

Word to preserve the oldest African-American schoolhouse in the state of Florida, located off Thomasville Road, will finally begin.

In a unanimous vote, the Leon County Commission voted to seek to acquire the land around the schoolhouse in its first phases of it becoming a state park.

The property the county will attempt to acquire is also located on Thomasville Road.

The current listing price for the property is $425,000.

There are also a few other properties along with the schoolhouse that will need additional direction from the county. The first phase is to acquire the surrounding parcels. The second phase would be to get funding for the building. The Friends of the Lake Hall Schoolhouse struggled to obtain funding through grants for the building’s preservation.

The leader of the Friends of Lake Hall Schoolhouse, Geraldine Seay, says they need to own the property in order to receive grants.

“No, there aren’t any grants in place because you can’t write a grant if you don’t own the property … you can’t write the grant unless I own the property or you own the property,” she said.

This led to the county’s consideration of purchasing land around the schoolhouse for the preservation efforts.

In late March, the county voted to seek state funds for the historic schoolhouse’s preservation.

In the updated analysis during Tuesday’s meeting, county documents proved the state could not provide any funding. The county administrator, Vincent Long, confirmed that state funds would only be available if state preservation offices assisted.
Commissioner Kristen Dozier shared her concerns about preserving the historic schoolhouse.

“We have so many needs in this community, and this is one incredible need to be sure, but if Leon County is left with property on Thomasville Road and with a historic structure that needs improvement, we cannot meet those requirements with that limited amount of property,” Dozier said.

According to county documents, the school was built in the 1870s and taught a small African-American community off Thomasville Road.

In 1870, a small community of former slaves decided to build the school for their children to receive an education. The one-room structure is at risk of being destroyed because of its poor condition.

Other Tallahassee residents said the county should do everything in its power to save the school.

“It’s not going to stand there forever; its [the schoolhouse] days are numbered …you can hide behind all of your staff reports; you’re not putting your heart out there,” said Anita Davis, a Tallahassee resident.

According to county documents, Seay and other community members will attempt to create a state park once they acquire funds.