Community invited to tour Claflin building Wednesday

May 20, 2014 

An official with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources will tour the old Claflin school building Wednesday as part of a community effort to preserve it as as a historic site.

Jeanne Cyriaque, African-American programs coordinator for the Historic Preservation Division of the natural resources department in Atlanta, will survey the building on Fifth Avenue with a group of community leaders, contractors and city officials.

Others in the community interested in seeing the building are invited to attend, said the Rev. Richard Jessie, who is organizing the tour. The group will walk through the building at 3 p.m., then hold a community planning meeting across the street at Metropolitan Baptist Church, 1633 5th Ave.

“We want to make the restoration of Claflin School a community project,” Jessie said. “We’re not only developing a plan for restoring the building, but also want to look at how we can make it self-supporting.”

The building, located on Fifth Avenue, sits on the site of the first black public school in Columbus built by the Freedmen’s Bureau after the Civil War. The original building was destroyed by fire. The current building, built in 1958, can be used solely for educational purposes, according to the deed restriction. But city officials said they’ve found no developer interested in the project.

At a recent community meeting City Manager Isaiah Hugley and city planners agreed to ask Council to postpone turning the building over to the federal government, giving the community six months to develop a plan to save it.

Jessie, who was once a certified general contractor, said a plumber, electrician and roofer will be among those touring the building Wednesday. He said he would like to see black contractors in the community work together on the project, and hopes it will lead to the restoration of other black landmarks such as the Liberty District.

“The Claflin School was built by former slaves,” he said. “It would be great if the sons of former slaves could restore the building.”

For more information about the project contact Jessie at 706-393-9393 or

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