FREEHOLD – The Monmouth County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to transfer ownership of the Court Street School to Freehold Borough at no cost to the borough during their regular meeting on Aug. 11.
The commissioners marked the occasion by presenting Freehold Borough Mayor Kevin Kane, Court Street School Foundation board members and their President Emeritus Lillie Ham Hendry with a ceremonial key to the Court Street School, according to a press release.
“The Court Street School Education Community Center has incredible historical significance and was declared an official historic site in 1995 and the Board of Commissioners is honored to transfer ownership to Freehold Borough at no cost,” Commissioner Director Thomas A. Arnone said.
“We look forward to seeing the Court Street School grow through its educational programming, community awareness campaigns and youth engagement to connect with the community in positive ways,” Arnone said.
“The Court Street School was a source of great pride to the students who went there and it was through the efforts of its devoted alumni, especially Miss Lillie Hendry, that it was so lovingly preserved,” Kane said.
“It was built for all the wrong reasons, a segregated school meant to keep people apart, but restored now, and in its second life, it makes up for that by serving for all the right reasons – to bring people together as a community,” he said.
The original school was organized in 1915 exclusively for the education of African American children by the Freehold Board of Education. The structure was a one-room wooden building located just west of the present site.
The existing school was constructed in two phases, in 1920 and 1926. All African American children in Freehold were educated at the Court Street School from kindergarten through eighth grade until World War II when the school was used as an air raid shelter and a ration station.
Under pressure from war veterans, a court order integrated the school and it reopened for children in kindergarten through third grade in 1949. The school closed in 1974.
In 1990, the Court Street School Education Community Center Inc. was formed as a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization, to restore the school for use as an education community center and to preserve it as an African American historic landmark, according to the press release.