The Nansemond County Training School was constructed in 1924 at a cost of $18,000. The local African-American community provided $5,000, $11,500 was provided through public funding, and the remaining $1,500 was provided by the Julius Rosenwald Fund. The school housed primary and secondary grades and was designed to accommodate six teachers. The age of the students progressed towards the rear of the building, with the northern-most classrooms reserved for the youngest students in primary school and the southern-most rooms reserved for high school students.
An average day for students attending Nansemond County Training School began with classes at 9am, continuing until 3pm. During the planting and harvesting seasons many students attended school until noon and afterwards assisted on their family's farms. Classes were offered in reading, writing, arithmetic, U.S. history, biology, chemistry, geography, physical education, and French. Female students often took home-economics courses while their male counterparts learned agriculture.
The school became a part of a newer and larger school building called Southwestern High School in 1964. During the 1969-1970 school year the Southwestern High School buildings were closed due to integration and, instead, was converted to the Southwestern Elementary School. The original Nansemond County Training School building sits vacant and is used for occasional storage.
In 2005, the alumni association of Nansemond County Training School began preservation efforts to convert the old school building to a community center. The Nansemond County Training School Heritage Center Inc. (NCTSHC) is a non-profit organization which helps to acquire and secure donations and grants for the preservation of the old school building. Plans for the community center includes classrooms with audio visual equipment and internet access, a museum area, kitchen, and administrative offices. The NCTSHC is partnering with the City of Suffolk on the project.
The building is oriented north-south and generally follows the design of six-teacher school architectural plans provided by the Julius Rosenwald Fund program. The school is a one-story structure over a partial basement. The brick building is a seven course American bond constructed by local black laborers. The building features a tin hipped roof and a recessed, covered porch with flanking wings.
In 1950, an addition was added to the rear of the east wing of the building to house two restrooms and classroom space for the 11th grade. There were also cafeteria and agricultural buildings on the property. The agricultural building was demolished with the construction of Southwestern High School in 1964. The cafeteria, a wood frame building with a front gable, still stands. A highway marker was erected by the DHR in 2007 and in 2004 the school was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Geographical and Contact Information
9307 Southwestern Blvd