County officials, former students and historians celebrate the restoration of the New Monrovia One-Room Schoolhouse
County officials, former students and historians celbrate restoration of New Monrovia One-Room Schoolhouse...

The Martin County Board of County Commissioners, staff, former students and historians cut the ribbon on the newly-restored New Monrovia One-Room Schoolhouse this morning. The event included remarks by Martin County District 4 Commissioner Chair Sarah Heard and county staff. Event attendees viewed historical displays, were treated to a performance by local middle school bands and enjoyed food prepared by Martin County Fire Rescue.

"The schoolhouse was carefully restored and we are thrilled to return it to the New Monrovia community," said Chair Heard. "We are proud to have completed this project and in doing so, preserved an important piece of Martin County history."

The historic schoolhouse is located in what is now known as Port Salerno, adjacent to the Costella Williams Learning Center. The building is believed to be the only remaining one-room schoolhouse on the Treasure Coast. Constructed circa 1930, the 800-square foot wood-frame structure was one of the first schools built in Martin County to educate African-American children. The distinguished teacher most associated with the schoolhouse, Costella Williams, taught there until around 1960.

Boyize Herring, Jr., a former student at the school said, "I am very happy about the dedication because it recognizes one of the most important historical buildings in Martin County. I am very grateful to the County for realizing and recognizing that old school has significant value to the citizens of New Monrovia."

Over the decades, the schoolhouse fell into disrepair, and some thought it could not be saved. However, restoration and reconstruction efforts, led by Martin County's General Services Department, have ensured that this historical treasure is preserved for future generations. The majority of funds used for the project came from District 4 and insurance proceeds.

"The restoration signifies a new beginning for the schoolhouse," said General Services Department Director Harold Markey. "The public will now be able to step inside this building and learn about the history that took place here."

The school received a new roof, new floor and ceiling, new windows and doors, and a fresh coat of paint. Three of the original walls were saved. Inside, green chalk boards hang from the original locations on the wall, and replicas of the students' original wooden desks, built by South Fork High School carpentry students, line the room.

County staff hope local students will be able to visit the schoolhouse to experience a living history lesson. The Historic Preservation Board is in the process of considering Martin County's petition to place the New Monrovia One-Room Schoolhouse on the Martin County Local Register of Historic Landmarks.

Joette Lorion Rice, chair of the Historical Preservation Board said, "By restoring this historical treasure, Martin County has preserved an important chapter in the County's history. Because of their tireless efforts, the lessons of the one-room schoolhouse will live on for future generations."

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