Lemon Street High School is no longer standing, but the Marietta City School System wants to incorporate the look of Cobb County’s only black high school into its new central office complex.
Although the original school dated to the 1800s, the most recent Lemon Street High School building opened in 1930 and served as the high school for all black students in Cobb County. It closed in 1967 when schools were integrated. The high school was demolished after the graduation of its final class.
The school system has begun planning to build its new headquarters on the site, which is now home to the former Lemon Street Grammar School. However, the school system’s plans will be impacted by whether it can save the old grammar school or if it will have to demolish the building. The grammar school opened in 1951 and closed in 1971. It also served as the home of the Hattie G. Wilson Library until the county shut down its operations in January 2013.
Superintendent Dr. Grant Rivera said the proposed 20,000-square-foot office building would feature a replica of the high school’s facade to pay tribute to the school’s place in the history books. The building would also include a museum, community room and a room for the Board of Education. Rivera said the system has not developed an estimated cost for the construction project.
Once constructed, Marietta City Schools would relocate its central office staff from its building at 250 Howard Street to the new site. If all goes to plan, Rivera said he hopes to open the new structure in August 2021.
Felicia Taylor, who graduated from Lemon Street High School in 1964, said she is interested in seeing the school system’s plans move forward, as it could also prevent a piece of Marietta’s history from being redeveloped into expensive homes. Taylor, a member of the Lemon Street Heritage Group, said she and her fellow residents have been working to save the grammar school building from development for some time.
“We just didn’t want one more thing to be gone,” she said.
Rivera said a report commissioned in 2009 noted there were serious structural issues plaguing the grammar school building. If there’s a possibility that it can be saved, Rivera said the system is willing to work with Cobb Landmarks and other historic preservation groups to achieve that goal.
“We are willing to engage anyone and everyone to determine our best options,” he said.
Cobb Landmarks Executive Director Trevor Beemon said his organization is also researching the conditions of the grammar school. Beemon, who said the group didn’t know about the plans until last week, added Cobb Landmarks have scheduled a meeting with the Board of Education to learn more about the project.
Beemon said the group would love to see the grammar school saved, but it needs to research the feasibility first.
“If the building has structural damage … that prevents it from being rehabbed, then what are the next options for the building?” he said of the process.
If the building is beyond saving, Rivera said he will be transparent about the system’s next move. “That’s really what the next several months are about,” he said.
To help pay for the construction, Marietta City School system will sell two properties, Rivera said: The current central office building and part of the Allgood School property that houses the Head Start program. The superintendent said the school system is working with the pre-kindergarten program to find another location.
While Rivera said Marietta City Schools has received positive feedback from the community about its plans, there are some who would like to see the system work hard to save the still standing segregation-era grammar school building where black children received an education.
Taylor, who now lives in Kennesaw, said she hopes the school system can save the grammar school, but added it’s wise for the superintendent and his team to take into account how much of the public’s money will be needed to bring the building up to code.
“I’d love to see the building saved, but I have to be realistic about my tax dollars,” she said.
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