The restoration of the Fairview School is the culmination of a ten-year effort to reclaim this artifact of African-American education in Georgia from obscurity and neglect. Rediscovered in 2009, Fairview’s First Grade Classroom building had suffered significant structural failure due to lack of maintenance, but it nonetheless persevered as the last standing remnant of the Fairview School campus. Years of fundraising, community organizing, and grant applications followed. This relentless dedication to the cause came to fruition in 2018 with the start of work to repair and restore the building.
Design ChallengeDetermining a Repair Process: Because some grant funding for the project came from the NPS’s Historic Preservation Fund, the processes and tactics for restoring the building had to follow the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards. For a building with such significant damage and a long period of neglect, determining the appropriate treatment was a major challenge, since retaining as much original material is one of the main objectives of an appropriate treatment. When half the building was sitting in the dirt and the other half was ready to fall off its foundation, the process had to be surgically deliberate for each restoration step to build upon the one before it while not causing more damage to the building. In collaboration with the contractor, we defined a scope which was able to retain almost 90% of original building fabric while undoing much of the damage inflicted in the prior fifty years.
Utilities: For forty years the first grade building had no electricity. Not at any point had it been blessed with indoor plumbing or air conditioning. Our restoration brought back the electricity, and we added HVAC for the comfort of the still-living alumni who visit, but there’s still no plumbing at Fairview. Restoration of the privy pits will follow in future efforts.
Physical ContextIn 1924, the Fairview School campus was established on a steep terraced hillside on the outskirts of Cave Spring. This physical isolation is, in some ways, what allowed the campus to be forgotten and lost to the memory of most. In 2009, the First Grade Classroom building was almost one with its landscape, as the kudzu and wisteria had so overtaken the structure that it was largely invisible, and parts of the building had literally turned into dirt. The past ten years of slow progress allowed for the recovery of the campus itself from the thicket of invasives that enveloped it. The restoration of the building has allowed the relationship of the building, on its narrow terrace, to be once again understood in the context of the adjacent terraced agricultural fields and steep forested hillsides.
Fairview was built on a difficult site at the margins of Cave Spring. Its relationship to that site, the fact that only one building could fit on each terrace, so that the campus itself is stepped, is a testament to the marginalization that the African-American community in Cave Spring endured. Despite that, Fairview was cherished by its students. It was a place of hope and opportunity for the African-American community in southern Floyd County.
Standing on the hill today, one is struck by the the modest dignity of the restored First Grade Classroom Building. It is no longer forgotten and its landscape is well-tended. In this new context, the campus’s marginal siting feels like a source of strength and perseverance, much like the people who used the school.