In 2021, Cincinnati Preservation Association, purchased the Eckstein School to save the building from inappropriate redevelopment and demolition of half of the original building. The purchase of the building was facilitated through CPA’s Endangered Building Fund.
“The National Trust for Historic Preservation is pleased to hear that the Cincinnati Preservation Association has acquired the Eckstein School to protect and preserve this cultural asset important in Black American history,” said Brent Leggs, executive director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. “By acting as a steward of and champion for this historic site, the Association has set a blueprint for other local preservation organizations to model. We applaud their vision and dogged persistence in the name of racial justice.” Brent Leggs, Executive Director, National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, 9/21/2021
Located at 42 Washington Ave. in Glendale, the Eckstein School, is an important site of African American cultural history. During the era of segregated schools, the school served as a public elementary school for Black children in the Village of Glendale, Ohio, a National Historic Landmark Village.
“Eckstein School wasn’t simply a school. Eckstein School was the center of culture life of the African American community here in Glendale. It served many purposes other than being a school…. There were community dances, …cake walks and pie walks, …community picnics, hog roasts, and the Boy Scouts met there.
Most significantly it was also the center for issue discussions. The whole movement to attempt to desegregate the schools was held there. ….We were a real civic minded community and Eckstein was the center of that life and that community.”
Dr. Raymond Terrell, Eckstein Alumnus, August 2, 2021
A Plan for the Future Use
A group of African American residents, many second and third generation Glendale families, have a plan to reuse the Eckstein School as a cultural arts center. The program of activities is underdevelopment and anticipated to include visual and creative art classes, community meeting space, event rental, film showings and musical performances. The site would also have material to tell the story of the Black experience in Glendale ranging from the 1850s and the Underground Railroad to the segregation practices of the 1950s.
The effort is being led by William M. Parrish, the founder and executive director of Glendale’s Eckstein Cultural Arts Center, and author of the book An Underground Community: How Blacks Settled in the Historic Village of Glendale.
History of the Eckstein School
The school served as more than just a school. It was the center of activity for the Black residents of Glendale. This was the place for social gatherings, meetings to discuss segregation, and celebrations.
Leading up to the Civil War, Glendale was a key location on the Underground Railroad. The community also became a safe place for African-Americans to settle. In 1860, Eleanor Eckstein—the namesake of the school—began teaching Black children in the barn behind her house at 45 East Fountain Avenue. Due to her actions, Glendale opened its first school for Black children in 1870, known as the “Icehouse School.”
In 1887, the Ohio Legislature passed the Arnett law, requiring the same educational opportunities for students of all races. Glendale complied by closing the school behind the Town Hall and sending Glendale’s Black children to a school on Congress Avenue.
When the Congress Avenue School became overcrowded, a new separate school for Blacks was established. In 1915, John J. Burchenal, a Procter and Gamble executive and member of the school board, donated the Verdin house at 42 Washington Avenue to provide additional room for Black children, grades 1st through 5th.
In 1917, science equipment was bought for the Eckstein School and the school’s set-up reconfigured. Additions were made to what had been the original Verdin house but, even today, it is possible to see aspects of the home. A large room was also added in 1918, and a gymnasium, designed by noted architect Stanley Matthews, was added in 1928. It was at this time that stucco was applied to the exterior of the school, and it is the gymnasium that provides the striking Mission Revival-style look of the school. The Eckstein School contains 7,000 square feet.
In 1958, the school was closed following a lawsuit filed by the NAACP, which closely coincided with the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision to end segregation. The Eckstein School holds a unique place in Glendale’s history, and has ties to significant events in Ohio and United States history, ranging from the underground railroad to desegregation of public schools.
It is included as a “contributing structure” on the Village of Glendale National Landmark listing.
Source: Faran, Angeline Loveland, 1955
Glendale, Ohio 1855-1955. McDonald Printing Company, Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio.
Want More? Here Are Some Recent Mentions In The Media:
Preservationists offer to help save historic former school for Black children in Glendale
Cincinnati Enquirer, August 8, 2021
Glendale Residents fight to stop demolition of historic former Eckstein School for Black children
Cincinnati Enquirer, July 19, 2021
The History Of Glendale, The Underground Railroad, And The Eckstein School
WVXU, January 12, 2018