Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

History Moves on Old School Building Gets New Home

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

History Moves on Old School Building Gets New Home

Article excerpt

Byline: Caren Burmeister, Shorelines staff writer

JACKSONVILLE BEACH -- Excited whoops and applause rang out from a group of preservationists Thursday as the ignition started on a moving truck and a six-decade-old schoolhouse was on the way to its new home.

"Here we go, ya'll," shouted Janet Cousnard as the truck rolled at a turtle's pace east on Fourth Avenue South, carrying the 100-ton brick building on steel beams balanced on round hydraulic platforms and 32 rubber tires.

"I wish I could drive that truck down the street," said Cousnard, chairwoman for the Jacksonville Beach Elementary Preservation Committee, swinging her arms back and forth.

Despite hard rain and tornado warnings, Hygema House Movers moved the four-room brick schoolhouse at 10th Street and Third Avenue South to its permanent home at Fourth Avenue and Fourth Street South. The land was donated to the preservation group by Nadia and Chris Hionides.

The schoolhouse was built in 1939 and was once the only school for African-Americans east of the Intracoastal Waterway. It became part of Jacksonville Beach Elementary School and housed students until December. Twice it came within a hair of being demolished to make room for a playground at the elementary school at 315 10th St. S.

The Duval County School Board granted extensions for the preservation group to find property and raise money to move the building, which is eligible for placement on the National Register of Historic Places.

"It's just wonderful," said Cousnard, who woke at 4 a.m. Thursday and was too excited to go back to sleep. "It took a lot of faith and prayers."

City employees removed stop signs and some utilities to make room for the wide load. A Jacksonville Beach electrician was lifted onto the building's roof to lift the telephone wires. He held the wires and walked along the roof's ridge as the truck carrying the brick building passed underneath.

Former students, teachers and principals who came to watch the event praised Cousnard and the Jacksonville Beach Elementary Preservation Committee for their persistence in saving the schoolhouse.

Within a few years, the group intends to transform the empty building into a living history museum with life-size figures of students and teachers surrounded by original furnishings from 1939 to 1960. …

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