At 70 years old, Newell Quinton stands in the wood-planked halls of the school he once attended during the 1950’s, while reflecting back on the memories of his rural Maryland childhood. Though a trim gray mustache sits comfortably on his upper lip, Quinton is just animated and articulate at 70 as he was at 7, as he relives boyhood stories of softball, bib overalls, and eagerly lining up after recess.
In the 1950’s, the school Quinton attended, Sharptown Colored School was located in an unincorporated and segregated country in rural Maryland, and served as a rare educational opportunity for African American children who were often taught in church basements and barns. Some had no access to education whatsoever.
The original school was built in 1919, and spans historical civil right events such as Jim Crow, the Great Migration as well as civil rights movement from the mid 1950’s to the late 1960’s. The was school was one of many built as part of an initiative between a wealthy Jewish businessman, Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington, a former slave turned renowned educator. Both were passionate advocates of empowerment through education.
When the school closed its doors in 1957, it was initally re-purposed as a lodge hall and then later as a day care. The school was regarded as one of the community’s most treasured and important landmarks, and as such, recently underwent massive renovations and reopened it’s doors as community center open to all.
Following its re-purposing, the school’s original wood siding was covered with aluminum siding, linoleum flooring was was installed, and school’s trademark large windows were partially boarded up.
The school was restored with about $200,000 granted by the National Trust, the Maryland Historical Trust, Preservation Maryland, the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore and community donations.
During its restoration and makeover, Quinton and his wife took great care ensuring the school was accurately restored to its original architecture by enlisting historical architect Paul Touart to follow the original Tuskegee plans. Renovation plans including the removal of the aluminum siding and in an effort to keep as much of the original wood as possible. The exterior was then painted a buttery yellow.
The aluminum siding was removed in order to stay true to the school’s original architecture, aluminum siding has become an increasingly popular siding option for homeowners since the 1950’s due to its low-maintenance properties, affordability, durability, and ease of installation. Aluminum siding also offers excellent protection against heat loss, making it a great insulator which in turn can significantly reduce heating costs.