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Restoration of Okahumpka Rosenwald School moving forward with state grant

The Okahumpka Rosenwald School in Okahumpka. Photo: Joe Byrnes, WMFE
The Okahumpka Rosenwald School in Okahumpka. Photo: Joe Byrnes, WMFE

Earlier this year, the vacant Okahumpka Rosenwald School, built for Black students in 1929, was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Now a state African-American Cultural and Historical grant will help restore the dilapidated building.

The nearly $500,000 grant will enable the Okahumpka Community Club to restore the wooden schoolhouse as a place to learn about the history of this Lake County community and the story of the Rosenwald Fund.

That fund, established in 1917, helped create thousands of schools for Black children across the segregated South.

The project includes a new community center to be named after civil rights pioneer Virgil Hawkins, whose family donated land for the school. Hawkins went on to force the desegregation of graduate programs at the University of Florida.

And UF's School of Architecture has agreed to guide the restoration work and construction of the new center over the next two years.

Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.