Bowman Valley Schoolhouse being restored - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Bowman Valley Schoolhouse being restored

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- To know where you're going you must remember where you've been. That old saying is the thinking behind the restoration of the Bowman Valley Schoolhouse.

It's boarded up, blighted and barely standing but Bowman Valley is the last African American Schoolhouse remaining in Bullitt County.

"It brings back memories, a lot of memories," said Betty Hadnot, who attended the school from 1951 to 1957.

"They had a divider running down the middle and they had first thought fourth grade in one room and fifth through eighth grade in the other room," Hadnot recalled. "At the time it's what it was, and we did what we had to do," 

The entire school gathered in one room at a time when separate was equal.

Tammy Ott said it was so hard to imagine that at first she didn't know what the building was.

"This was a little building that I had rode past on my way to work every morning," Ott said. "When I realized it was schoolhouse, I wanted to know more about it."

Ott learned the property had been purchased by a developer and was heading toward the same fate as the other eight black schools that once stood in this community -- demolition.

So Ott rallied a small group of former students and, historians, and preservationists and got the building donated to the Bullitt County School district.

"In order to move forward I think you have to look back and appreciate what life was like and for students in Bullitt County now, they don't know what segregation was. This is an opportunity for them to see it first hand."

Plans are to create a living, interactive museum, filled with interviews with former students, "so it can all be told through their words."

In one of the interviews a former student remembers no indoor plumbing in the school. "You had to go out here and pump that water into a big tall cooler, and I can remember Mrs. Owens putting drops of Clorox in it to purify it," he said.

But the push from rescue to renewal is costly: $100,000. Ott said it has taken three years to raise a quarter of it. That's enough to repair the roof and move the school from its original location to the school district's central office. 

Regardless of the cost Hadnot believes this piece of history is priceless. 

"If you throw it away, you cannot get it back."

The Bowman Valley School was open from 1916 to 1957. 

If you'd like to make a donation to help restore the schoolhouse, write to Bowman Valley Project, P.O. Box 1714, Shepherdsville, Ky. 40165. 

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