The Peabody-Williams School

The Peabody-Williams School (HMHA2)

Location: Petersburg, VA 23803
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Country: United States of America
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N 37° 13.072', W 77° 24.696'

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Petersburg, Virginia

Disrupted by the convulsions of the First World War, efforts to replace the increasingly inadequate Peabody School on Fillmore Street stretched out from 1913 until 1920, when the new Peabody-Williams School opened on Jones Street. Charles Robinson, who designed scores of other Virginia schools, including four others and the Petersburg Hotel in Petersburg, and executed master plans for Virginia State University and the College of William & Mary, completed his plans for the new school in 1917. They called for twin buildings, one (the Peabody Building) to house the high school and the auditorium, and the other (the Williams Building) to house the elementary school, linked by both a distinctive arcade and a cloistered walkway. The whole was called the Peabody-Williams School. The surviving building is the Peabody Building.

The high school was accredited as a four-year high school in 1921, and served for decades as the training ground for many distinguished African Americans, including hundreds of educators. In 1951, when the new high school to your right was constructed, it took the Peabody name, and the Peabody-Williams complex became the Henry Williams School, serving elementary and junior high school students. Later, the buildings were used as an annex for the high school, and the auditorium converted into a gymnasium. In 1960, Peabody students participated in the sit-in at the City Library; two were arrested. The Williams Building, which stood to the right of the Peabody Building, burned in 1967. Under the court-ordered desegregation plan of 1971, the high school became the Peabody Middle School, and the high school was abandoned.

Renewed interest led to its placement on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000, and to the beginning of efforts to restore the building in 2002.

(Above) The Peabody-Williams School, c. 1920.

(Left) Rev. Henry Williams of the Gillfield Baptist Church. He and others petitioned in the 1870s to have African Americans appointed as administrators and teachers in the African American Schools in Petersburg. They met with success in 1882. The Williams Building was named after him. The Peabody Building was named after George Peabody, whose philanthropy made the Petersburg public schools, and in particular the Peabody School, possible.

Photos of the Peabody-Williams School courtesy of Dr. Germane Fauntleroy from a postcard courtesy of Virginia State University Archives. Photo of Henry Williams courtesy of Virginia State University Archives.
HM NumberHMHA2
Marker Number14
Placed ByCivil Rights in Education Heritage Trail?
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Friday, October 10th, 2014 at 1:48am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 286021 N 4121766
Decimal Degrees37.21786667, -77.41160000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 37° 13.072', W 77° 24.696'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds37° 13' 4.32" N, 77° 24' 41.76" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)804, 434, 757
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 612-698 S Jones St, Petersburg VA 23803, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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