Group wants to use historic black orphanage buildings

Memorial Industrial School Administration Building

Group wants to use historic black orphanage buildings
November 07
11:00 2018

By Todd Luck

The Chronicle

County Commissioners heard a proposal last week for using the former Memorial Industrial School orphanage to again serve children and the greater community.

The Memorial Industrial School originally began as the Colored Baptist Orphanage Home in Winston-Salem’s Belview neighborhood in 1906. It moved to 425 acres of land near Rural Hall in 1928, where it was renamed Memorial Industrial School and was the only African-American orphanage in the state to serve a single county. The county bought the land in 1977 and now uses it for Horizons Park and leases a portion of the land with buildings formerly used by the orphanage, to Horizons Residential Care Center, which provides comprehensive services for people with developmental disabilities. 

Last year, Horizons Residential Care reduced the amount of land it was leasing from the county from about 27 acres to about nine acres. This meant several of the buildings from the old orphanage are now back under the county’s care, including the Administration Building, Girls’ Cottage and Baby Cottage.

Last week, English Bradshaw of the Memorial Industrial Community Development Corporation gave a presentation on some possible uses for those buildings. It’s a personal cause for Bradshaw, 81, who was just two years old when he was placed at the orphanage. He described living, learning and working there until he was 15 years old, after which he was placed in foster care. He helped get Memorial Industrial School added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2015 and is now hoping to restore a sense of community back to its former buildings.

“We are aware this project is a heavy lift and there are many moving parts,” said Bradshaw, who is former political science professor.

Consultant Kenneth Reid of the Easton Reid Group did an overview of some possible uses for buildings, which he called the Children’s Village. This included using the Administration Building as a multi-use community center and using the Baby Cottage as a supervised residence for children in the foster care system waiting to transition for permanent placement. The group is still exploring uses for the Girls’ Cottage, but possibilities included a battered women’s shelter, senior co-housing, transitional housing to foster care children uniting with their parent or parents, and training facilities for Social Services and other organizations.

“Our whole goal is to see how we can restore a national historic site while serving the children of Forsyth County and also addressing other problems the county may have,” said Reid.

He said Memorial Industrial CDC would work with the county, community leaders, other local CDCs and organizations– including the Children’s Center of Surry County– to find the best use for those buildings and make them a reality.

Bradshaw said the commissioners may want to give the CDC a resolution of intent to give it a year to work with Horizons Residential and the county to come up with the best adaptive use for those buildings.

The Administration Building’s gym and occasionally other parts of the building are still used by Horizons Residential. The county’s Facilities Division assessed the building and found it would take minimal repairs to make it a community center. County Manager Dudley Watts said that there are plans to use 2016 bond funds for the building’s renovations, but that’s still years away. The cottages are in need of more extensive renovations.

Bradshaw said afterwards that he’s still forming the board for the CDC, but his working team of advisors includes Rev. Paul Robeson Ford, Rev. Alvin Carlisle and Ritchie Brooks, the retired head of the city’s Community Development department.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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