Daytona News-Journal on the All Kids Are First Old Schoolhouse
The News-Journal has followed the small Espanola community for years. The article writer Annie Martin, has an interesting take- the historic building, put out of commission by the sands of time and desegregation, makes a return not to “days of old” but to youth of the future- past and present thus combine in the building. Credit should be given to Rev. Frank Giddens Sr. whose hard work over several years restored the building structure bit by bit and grandson Reggie Williams who recruited local youth hard to participate.
Historic Espanola schoolhouse returns to its youth
By Annie Martin
Published: Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 5:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 at 2:00 p.m.
BUNNELL — Nestled on a residential street in rural Espanola, unknowing drivers could easily mistake the white one-story building for a modest home.
Look closer, though, and you’ll see an orange and black “Open” sign in one of the front windows and a handful of bikes parked on the grass. Walk through the front door on a weekday afternoon and you might find children sitting at a row of computers, playing board games or chatting on a couch at the St. Paul Youth Center.
The building, formerly the Espanola schoolhouse, is now a supervised “teen hangout.” It’s a place where Espanola children can play with friends, work on homework and hone their reading and writing skills. About 20 children between 8 and 17 years old use the youth center about four days per week.
It was once a single-room schoolhouse — the only local school for black children in the 1950s and early 1960s. Children in first to seventh grades gathered in the building, which had no indoor bathroom or electricity. The school fell into disrepair after the children were integrated into the county’s other schools.
The Rev. Frank Giddens, pastor of the neighboring St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, started the renovation process about 10 years ago. The building is now air-conditioned, with new plaster on the walls and carpet and tile on the floors. The church picks up the tab for insurance and utilities.
Within the last year, volunteers have added new sinks, along with computers, blackboards and history displays. The outside could use “a fresh coat of paint,” but children have been using the building regularly for about a year, assistant director Mark Noel said.
Espanola, a tiny town west of Bunnell, thrived during the early 1900s. It was a way station town on the railroad line and a center for timber and turpentine production. But now, residents say there’s little for Espanola children to do outside of school.
Elsie Chappell, an Espanola resident since the early 1950s, led the charge to build a community center that’s within sight of the youth center. She was disappointed when it closed a few years ago.
“They’re going to find something to do and if you keep them busy, that will keep them out of trouble,” Chappell said.
Teacher and Assistant Director Mark Noel