CULPEPER STAR-EXPONENT, ALLISON BROPHY CHAMPION
Community members came together Tuesday morning to celebrate continued investment in a Culpeper County school site with a visit from U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger.
The 7th District congresswoman dropped by to highlight $200,000 in recently earmarked federal funding to replace the roof at The Carver Center, and to present a ceremonial big check in that amount.
The 74-year-old brick facility on Orange Road at Cedar Mountain operated 1948-1968 as a regional high school for Black students during segregation.
It became a community center, said Hortense Hinton-Jackson, president of the Carver 4-County Museum in the library of the former school, where she came of age.
George Washington Carver Regional High School, serving Culpeper, Orange, Madison and Rappahannock, became known for its award-winning offerings to young people otherwise denied a secondary public education, she said.
“Those of us that were here had the trajectory of our lives changed by virtue of having this experience. Whole generations of people were impacted by the fact that this school was here,” Hinton-Jackson said. “We’re excited about being here right now in The Carver Center—a footprint in the past but ready to go into the future.”
Looking to the future at Carver
The school named for the famed botanist, inventor and agricultural pioneer continues to honor that legacy with its variety of farming initiatives as well as new technology offerings. Its campus houses various programs, entities and functions, all with an education focus.
“We thank you for the infusion of money,” Hinton-Jackson told Spanberger.
The Carver alumnus then turned her eyes to the front of the building where the inventor’s name used be etched, but was swiftly removed after integration. An artist’s rendering of the new roof shows the school with Carver’s name put back on it.
“That is what we, the alumni, want to see restored to this building, and we appreciate your support in doing that. The roofing project will give us just the right moment to do that, so timing is everything,” Hinton-Jackson said.
The Rev. Frank Lewis Sr., chairman of the GWC Alumni Association, warmly welcomed Spanberger in opening remarks
“We are just so grateful and thankful for all that she has done, for all of her energy and inspiration in acquiring funds that have been given to The Carver Center. When we heard her coming today and being a part of this, we were overjoyed. If we could have had a marching band we would have had that, too,” he said. “It’s always a great thing when our congress people don’t mind being personable with us.”
Looking ahead to next year’s 75th anniversary of the historic school, Lewis noted the alumni association holds the place very dear in their hearts.
“We can continue to remember the struggles because there was struggles for a lot of the kids who had to ride all day long—they left home in the dark, they got back home in the dark—and it was not an easy thing,” he said of the lack of accessible school transportation for Black students.
Momentum has been building for years
Board of Supervisors Chairman Gary Deal said Culpeper is proud of the school. He thanked Spanberger for securing the roof appropriation as part of the federal budget.
“She’s done a lot for our community and continues to do a lot,” Deal said. “If we could be remembered for one thing it would be our efforts to build up our community,” he added of continued investments in local quality-of-life projects. “From a facility standpoint, this project is a major part of our community—the economic development part.”
Over the next 18 months, he said, The Carver Center will realize more than $1.5 million in additional investment—an outdoor classroom, native species greenhouse and commercial kitchen; as well as rainwater cisterns, new windows and renovations to house Culpeper County Extension Office.
A combination of grant funding, local, state and federal investment will pave the way.
“The Carver story is still being written by those with vision—the alumni, Carver partner organizations, the community and staff who are working so hard to revitalize this campus. We have come a long way and have momentum that has been building for years,” Deal said.
The county is pursuing restoration of the original engraving with Carver’s name on the front of the building, he said, through a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Passion for this place
In remarks ending the program, Spanberger said she is grateful for the welcome she receives in Culpeper time and again, calling it the highest honor. She lauded those in attendance for maintaining The Carver Center as part of Culpeper’s growth and development.
“For many years, I’ve heard about the need for a roof replacement,” Spanberger said. “What was exciting during this process was to see the passion that exists for this place and the excitement across the community to bring an extra level of new life and vibrancy.”
She recalled visiting the site a couple of years ago with her family.
“I remember my little girls, who are now medium-sized girls, running about the space, and that was the first time I got to learn about The Carver Center,” Spanberger said.
Its namesake was a pioneer in the world of agriculture and far ahead of his time, she said.
“With this funding, we’re building on his legacy,” the congresswoman said of George Washington Carver. “We’ll be standing under a new roof under this important landmark into the future.”
Spanberger toured the museum with Curator Terry Miller after the check presentation.
“We love this space because we were looking back at what we had done,” Miller told the congresswoman. “It’s not just an origins story of the school, but it’s how we all started as a group to make this museum—we will be adding to this.”
A member of Carver’s Class of 1958, John Strother came with his wife, Vivian, for Tuesday’s program. The retired farmer leaned on a cane and his wife to get around, checking out the exhibits where he attended high school.
“I took the agriculture class,” Strother recalled.
Vivian Strother said it’s fantastic Culpeper is fixing the school’s roof. She said her husband talks all the time about his time at Carver: “He has a lot of stories.”
The new roof is due to be completed within the next year or so, according to the county.