Magazine article Liberal Education

Welcome to Our House

Magazine article Liberal Education

Welcome to Our House

Article excerpt

Tuskegee University architecture and construction science and management students are simultaneously learning historic preservation skills and helping to rehabilitate their local community. In what aims to be one of the first projects of the university's new historic preservation program, students in the Robert Taylor School of Architecture and Construction Science and Management (TSACS) are taking part in renovating the Drakeford House, one of eight historic homes along East Water Street and North Main Street on the north side of the city of Tuskegee.

TSACS faculty and students will use both the Drakeford House and the Willcox E Trades Building on campus as learning laboratories for observing and participating in preservation training as both structures undergo renovation. The school's long-term goal is to develop Centers for Workforce Development and Historic Preservation to advance the craft training skills of its students and the Tuskegee community at large, according to Carla Jackson Bell, TSACS dean and professor of architecture. The center would help make Tuskegee a leader among Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in offering historic preservation skills through its undergraduate, research, and outreach programs. It would also preserve Booker T. Washington's mission of "learning to do by doing" and his belief that by requiring students to build and restore their own buildings, they would feel a degree of ownership in their community. As early as 1892, Washington originally developed vocational training programs as part of the institute that became what is now Tuskegee University, located in Macon County, Alabama.

"Macon County is considered within the Black Belt of the South and has had a majority-black population since before the American Civil War," Bell says. "Tuskegee housing is split between students on the campus and in the community. Many young adults from the county don't have a place to go to acquire a skill so they can raise a family and stay in Tuskegee."

Rebuilding community connections

In 2018, the owner of the Drakeford House, Michael Hicks, contacted Bell. Hicks, a physician who lives in Michigan but is originally from Tuskegee, wanted to know whether architecture students could develop a proposal for what to do with the Drakeford. While Hicks never attended Tuskegee, his mother, brother, and nephew (who graduated this past spring) are all alumni.

With oversight from Bell and Charner Rodgers, senior coordinator of industry relations and associate professor of construction science and management, third-year TSACS students took on the project. The Drakeford is in the Queen Annestyle from the late Victorian period of the 1890s, with a corner shingled turret, a gable roof, a porch curving around two sides, and a lawn ideal for landscaping. …

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