Tennessee Preservation Trust

The Cairo School:

The Cairo School, a standard Rosenwald Fund one-teacher school design, was built in 1922 to serve African American children in grades one through eight. The school originally sat on 2 acres and was built for $1900. The Rosenwald Fund funded $500, while the balance was split between the community and the Tennessee public school fund. A portion of the building funds were required from the community as a demonstration of their commitment to the school.

The school looks today much like it did in its earlier years. As you can see from the pictures, it has a gable-end entrance, double-hung sash windows, weatherboard siding, and a stone foundation. Inside, one will find the single classroom. Two rooms, which used to serve as cloakrooms and flank the southern entrance, now serve as a restroom and a closet. A platform, built across the north end when built, saw the addition of a sink and 2 water fountains in the 1950s when the school was wired for electricity and running water to make the building similar in facilities to the county’s white schools. A refrigerator and stove were later added and home economics was taught. Folding wood doors are still in place to separate the platform from the classroom if necessary. The school closed in 1959 when school consolidation was mandated, but the Cairo Improvement Club continued to use the building and nominated their school to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996 (insert link to nomination (get link)).

In 2008, the Tennessee Preservation Trust joined MTSU’s Center for Historic Preservation and was awarded a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Lowe’s to rehabilitate the Cairo Rosenwald School. The Cairo School is one of only three extant Rosenwald Schools still standing in Sumner County. TPT saw that the Cairo Rosenwald School anchored its community, providing a space for education and fellowship that was shared by generations. We are so pleased we were able to preserve this important local landmark.

  • Cairo Rosenwald School structural repairs
  • Cairo Rosenwald School before rehabilitation

Work on Cairo School started on December of 2008. After the structure was stabilized, work began. All of the stonework was repaired along with piers and sleepers beneath the flooring. Termite shields were installed after extensive termite damage was revealed. A wheelchair ramp was rebuilt at the rear of the school and the front steps were rebuilt to look as they originally were. In addition, sill and storm sheathing was repaired and replaced, the crawl space was excavated for placement of steel beams, and jacking was done to correct uneven floors. A new cover was added to the awning and the main roof was repaired and painted. Over half of the window sills were repaired and new upper sashes were custom-made for the side windows. Any original windows that could be saved were repaired and reinstalled. Hands on experience was given to 5 MTSU public history students who prepared the original windows for painting and gently cleaned the original painted finishes in the cloak room. Work on the Cairo Rosenwald School was completed in May of 2009.

Many local individuals and organizations joined TPT to support the Cairo School Restoration Project. Charlie Crawford donated his managerial time and provided his subcontractors to the project. This was an extraordinary donation and gesture that Charlie committed to assist us throughout the project. In addition, we received donated planning and architectural drawings from Matchett and Associates Architects and from George Clements and his company G. Morris Construction, LLC, also. Past TPT board member Reggie Mudd was directly involved with the planning, organization, and daily project management. This project was made possible only through Reggie’s generous donations of his money, resources, and time. Along with Reggie, several TPT board members provided generous support and financing of this project.

Download the Cairo Case Study from the National Trust “Preserving Rosenwald Schools” Bulletin:

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