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Preservation Site of Hooper-Renwick School Reveals Plan to Create First Themed Library in Southeastern United States

The City of Lawrenceville and Gwinnett County entered into an Intergovernmental Agreement to create a new themed library as part of the Gwinnett County Public Library system at the site of the former Hooper-Renwick School, Gwinnett's only African-American public school for decades.

Hooper Renwick School students socialize outside the school in this undated photo. For years, the school was the only facility that African-American students from across Gwinnett County attended until desegregation occurred in the late 19060's. Photo Courtesy of City of Lawrenceville

The agreement was formally approved at the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners Meeting on December 15 and at the Lawrenceville City Council meeting in December.

“The preservation of the Hooper-Renwick School is the capstone of the SouthLawn development,” said Mayor David Still. “We are delighted to see this important piece of our community’s history preserved. This is local government at its very best – a creative partnership between city and county sparked by a dedicated committee of community volunteers.”

“The new Lawrenceville branch of the Gwinnett Public Library will be the first themed library in the Southeast,” said Gwinnett District 4 Commissioner Marlene Fosque. “As a themed library, it will incorporate cultural and historic objects and artifacts with the library’s resources and information to benefit the patrons it serves. The new library will encourage people of today to learn about the history of segregation and desegregation in Gwinnett County through the stories, accomplishments and personal items from people who attended the Hooper-Renwick School in years past. I am truly excited about the creative and educational opportunities this presents and am grateful for the collaboration between the County, the city, and residents to make this happen.”

Gwinnett County will utilize the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) to fund construction costs and the City of Lawrenceville will provide the land, 3.8 acres, at no cost. The approximately 25,000 square foot themed library will preserve and honor the legacy of the former Hooper-Renwick School through architectural design elements, exhibits about the school’s history, as well as segregation and desegregation in Gwinnett County. Both the City and County will fund the construction and operation of the exhibits. Details of the new facility are:

· The library will be constructed by renovating 11,400 square feet of the existing facility and constructing a new approximately 13,600 square foot addition, which will include a second-floor entrance facing Neal Boulevard.
· Twenty original windows on the front façade of the original building will be restored to their original appearance.
· Architectural design elements of the Hooper-Renwick School will be incorporated into the Library design.
· The building will meet the minimum LEED standard of “certified” as defined by the U.S. Green Building Council.
· The new Library will include approximately 1,500 square feet of community space, accommodating approximately 100 people and equipped with a sink and counter space for food preparation.
· The County will be responsible for the management of the new facility.

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In addition, the City will provide streetscapes, sidewalks, pedestrian lighting, landscaping and on-street parking. A final name for the facility will be selected by the County with input from City.

The City has agreed to pay the County a sum of $1,695,000 to cover its share of costs and expenses to develop and construct the new Library. The property transfer is expected to close no later than April 1, 2021.

The City has agreed to donate artifacts from the former Hooper-Renwick School, such as wood flooring from the gym, scoreboard, a cafeteria window, and lettering from the existing building. The City and County also plan to work closely with the Hooper-Renwick Legacy Preservation Committee (HRLPC) to gather additional artifacts and memorabilia to display in the Library.

The Hooper-Renwick Legacy Preservation Committee (HRLPC) was formed in 2017 to explore the possibility of preserving the historic site of Gwinnett County’s only school for black students for decades. Rocky Knob School in Lawrenceville served black students from 1885 until destroyed by a tornado in 1924. In 1944, Mack Renwick donated three acres on Neal Boulevard for a school for black students. A three-room building was constructed on the property and in 1951, the 12-classroom brick structure currently on the site was built, serving Gwinnett’s black students until desegregation in 1968.

“While there was give and take in reaching the Agreement between the city and county, the Hooper-Renwick Legacy Preservation Committee is excited that the Hooper-Renwick School building will be preserved for future generations and will re-emerge as the Hooper-Renwick Library,” said Theresa Bailey, chair of the Hooper-Renwick Legacy Preservation Committee. “This historically significant structure will stand as a tribute to the African American community, past, present and future, and their experience in Gwinnett County.”

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Gwinnett County plans to designate a liaison to serve as the “Interpretive Resources Project Coordinator” to assist the HRLPC with the collection of artifacts, coordinate educational messages, associated programming and interpretive displays used to showcase artifacts, and develop and implement strategic initiatives.

“We are very pleased that the creation of the Hooper-Renwick Library has passed one of its last major hurdles with the signing of this agreement,” said Joyce Moore, vice chair of the Hooper-Renwick Legacy Preservation Committee. “Our committee is delighted and poised to continue the essential work of designing education programs and acquiring artifacts to make the vision we’ve nurtured for the last four years a reality.”

The members of the Hooper-Renwick Legacy Preservation Committee are: Theresa Bailey, Chair; Constance Brown; Marlene Taylor-Crawford; Ronald Dunnigan; Gary Glenn; Rory Johnson; Greg Lott; John Maxey; Joyce Moore, Vice-Chair; Rubye Neal; Gwendolyn Brown Taylor; Vivian Summerour-Daniel.

According to County officials, the existing Lawrenceville branch of the Gwinnett County Public Library system, located at 1001 Lawrenceville, Highway, will be used for administrative offices