CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA – The City of Charlottesville is proud to announce the official groundbreaking of the Jefferson School Project managed by Jefferson School Partners, LLC. The historic building on Fourth Street, NE has been largely vacant since 2002 but holds a cultural significance for serving as the city’s only African-American high school. Completed in 1926, the school was one of only ten African American high schools in Virginia. Planning for the community partnership began with the formation of the Jefferson School Partners, LLC in 2008 following the commitment by City Council of $5.8 million in funding. Additional donors have added support to the project and the effort was recently bolstered with a low interest loan that provides the additional financing for the $18 million dollar project. Tenants have already been secured for the first phases of the project and include JABA, Common Ground Healing Arts, Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville/Albemarle, Piedmont Family YMCA, and PVCC. In addition, the city’s Carver Recreation Center will be renovated to provide a curriculum of enrichment classes, recreational activities and a meeting place for community events.
“On behalf of City Council and the citizens of Charlottesville I would like to thank those who have moved this project forward and who made this important day possible. This building and these grounds hold so much historic relevance. To the students and the teachers of the Jefferson School who join us today, I thank you for your contribution and for your insistence that we keep this great landmark an active center for learning and remembrance for generations who follow,” said Dave Norris, Mayor of Charlottesville.
The Jefferson School African-American Heritage Center will expand the educational opportunities in the arts for our community. Its permanent and temporary exhibitions will celebrate the accomplishments, past and present, of African Americans. It will house an Arts and Language Academy that offers instruction in the performing (dance, music and theater) and visual arts as well as various languages spoken throughout the African diaspora. Through lectures, performances, film series and its various other programs it will involve a multi-disciplined approach and encourage life-long learning.
The legacy of Jefferson School is a remarkable one. The school has served for over 125 years as the cornerstone for African American citizens of Charlottesville and Albemarle County, providing a venue and focal point for their emergence as a dynamic and vital part of the community's social history during the 20th century. Jefferson School represents a spirit of tenacity and dedication to the highest national ideals of equality and fairness.
Jefferson School is not only a familiar landmark in the Starr Hill neighborhood of downtown Charlottesville, but it is also officially recognized by the United States Department of Interior, National Park Service as having historic significance and is therefore listed in the National Register of Historic Places.