Construction on the first themed library in the Southeast is now underway.
Gwinnett officials, in partnership with the city of Lawrenceville, the Hooper-Renwick Legacy Preservation Committee and the Gwinnett County Public Library Board of Trustees, broke ground on the new Hooper-Renwick Themed Library October 26, 2022.
The themed library will revive and expand the existing 11,400-square-foot Hooper-Renwick School building, which once served as the only public high school for African American students in Gwinnett.
The finished 25,000-square-foot facility will include library amenities, community space and exhibits, which will showcase stories, accomplishments and memorabilia related to the school and highlight the Black experience in Gwinnett.
Gwinnett County’s District 4 Commissioner Marlene Fosque recognized the impact the library will have on both the school’s alumni and future generations.
“This historic facility will highlight the laughter and joy that was shared here, but also the challenges and hardships that the students faced through segregation and desegregation,” Fosque said. “This special community gathering place will celebrate how far we’ve come and acknowledge the work still to be done, providing amazing opportunities for residents and guests to learn and grow for generations to come.”
The Hooper-Renwick Legacy Preservation Committee formed to preserve it and in 2020, the City of Lawrenceville and Gwinnett County entered into an Intergovernmental Agreement to preserve the historic school and create the first themed public library/museum in the southeast. The Hooper-Renwick school in Lawrenceville, was the county's only school for Black children. This themed library will highlight the importance that the school played in the education process during the years it operated, from segregation to desegregation.
The County has set aside $7.6 million from the 2017 SPLOST program to fund the project along with an additional $1.7 million from the city, which also provided the 3.8-acre site and will contribute sidewalks, lighting and landscaping for the project.
Lawrenceville Mayor David Still said, ““The city of Lawrenceville is proud of its partnership with the Hooper-Renwick Legacy Preservation Committee and Gwinnett County in preserving this historically significant site for future generations.”
The project was inspired by the activism of a group of local alumni and stakeholders who wanted to see the former school preserved, forming the Hooper-Renwick Legacy Preservation Committee in 2017.
“We’ve waited a long time to see this day. Though the wait was difficult, and at times discouraging, our faithful patience is at last paying off,” said Committee Chair Theresa Bailey. “I hope today, those who once walked the halls of Hooper-Renwick and stayed focused on preserving its history through petitions, protests and meetings can look at how far we’ve come and be proud. All thanks to my fellow committee members.”
Gwinnett County Public Library Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Wandy Taylor highlighted her experience growing up in a segregated community in South Carolina, where she attended segregated schools up until 10th grade.
“This themed library preserves a history that’s both painful and joyous, and as this library comes to fruition, it will serve as a place to continue these much-needed, tough and healing conversations.” said Dr. Taylor. “The Library Board of Trustees focuses on community awareness and partnerships, and this project highlights the importance of both.”
Officials expect to cut the ribbon on the new facility in 2024.