Cord-Charlotte School Building

 City: Charlotte, County: Independence
 Location: 225 School Road

1936-1937 WPA-built school building.
Listed in Arkansas Register of Historic Places on 4/6/11

SUMMARY

Located in the heart of the small town of Charlotte, Arkansas, the Cord-Charlotte School was constructed by the WPA in 1936-1937 to help unemployed workers find work in their community. Since part of the work that was being done during this times period was focused on public building projects, which included schools, the Charlotte community sponsored the project and a new school was built to better help in the educating of the youth of Charlotte. Therefore, the school is being nominated to the Arkansas Register of Historic Places with local significance under Criterion A for its association with education and social history in rural Independence County. The replacement of the windows precludes the building from being eligible for the National Register, it is still a significant building in the Charlotte Community.

ELABORATION

The community of Charlotte is located on a spur of Arkansas State Highway 25 in the northeast quadrant of Independence County which lies in north-central Arkansas. Independence County was organized in the Arkansas Territory on October 20, 1820, after being carved out of what was once Lawrence County.

The county’s geography is remarkably like a microcosm of the entire state, with hills intersecting river delta along a line that bisects the region diagonally from southwest to northeast. The Cord-Charlotte school district to which the old WPA building has belonged for the vast majority of its life lies on the border of the hills and delta; this location has placed the children of farmers and factory workers together in the classroom for more than 75 years.

The community of Charlotte was named in 1883 by virtue of a new post-office by James N. Churchill, who purchased a significant portion of the surrounding land in 1880. Mr. Churchill named the community after his wife “Charlet”. The community was centered on the confluence of the upper and lower forks of Bayou Dota Creek, near a significant spring. However, four years before Churchill designated the post-office in 1883[1], a group of local citizens deeded an acre of property to the community at the cost of $10 for the purpose of erecting a school, Masonic lodge and church meeting house.[2]

The school was constructed and subsequently torn down starting on May 6, 1936 in preparation for the construction of the current WPA building. It is believed that the school had become dilapidated and many of the boards were beginning to rot. With the deterioration of the building taking a toll on the education of the students in Charlotte, both the school and the community sponsored the project through the WPA. They undertook the project with the understanding that when the project was completed, the school, church and Masonic Lodge would also use the school building.

With the forethought to go ahead and apply for the possibility of getting the WPA to work on the project, the community had to have a design plan ready for the WPA to use, thus showing the responsibility of the local government to the WPA program.[3] As part of the sponsors’ responsibility, the community and school would have to “pay a portion of the cost of the project.”[4] The Work Progress Administration’s role was to “secure useful public improvements and services of various kinds.”[5] In order to accomplish this goal of the program, the WPA focused on improvements of highways, roads and streets, and public buildings.[6] As the WPA program was implemented, many of the building projects were limited to repair work, painting and groundwork. However, over time there was a shift from repair to construction of buildings. Shortly after the program began complete construction projects, construction began on the current building in May 1936.

Throughout the United States, WPA-built structures took on the look of “monolithic concrete construction.”[7] However, in Arkansas the architecture took a turn from the concrete structures to local stone material and design. With the construction of the school building underway, many of the community members helped in the construction of the building including Latha and Alvan Brewer, the latter of which also taught at the school. Many of the community members helped collect the stone used in the exterior cladding.

With the completion of the building in 1937, more than three generations of Charlotte children passed through the halls of the Old Building, most taking classes in the building from the 7th through 12th grades. Starting with the completion in 1937, the building served as the primary Cord-Charlotte school building until the 1950s when additional structures were erected northeast of the WPA built school. The building continued to be used extensively for classes and as a library until 2001 when the building became primarily used for storage. The building continues to be the landmark structure for the community of Charlotte and for the Cord-Charlotte school district. Though the high school closed in 2003 as part of Act 60,[8] and the district consolidated with Newark to form the Cedar Ridge school district, the elementary school remains. The Masonic Lodge, which was once that heart of the small community of Charlotte, has since disbanded with remaining members joining sister lodges in nearby communities leaving this once busy community building vacant in recent years. However, The Bayou Dota Academy Museum plans to preserve the building to house exhibits about local history and culture and has obtained a 75-year lease from the Cedar Ridge School District to maintain the building for the museum. The memories and connection remain for hundreds of people who still live in the area and many more who return every three years for the school reunion.



[1] Russell Pierce Baker, From Memdag to Norsk: A Historical Directory of Arkansas Post Offices 1832-1971 (Hot Springs, AR: Arkansas Genealogical Society, 1988), 43.

[2] The local citizens consisted of Elizabeth O. Moore, J.W. Moore, Eli H. Moore, Virginia C. Moore, Sarah W. Scott, Albert R. Scott, Mary A. Moore, Morgan M. Moore, E.J. Morgan, W.L. Morgan, Maria L. Magness, Perry Y. Magness, Hellen J. Moore, L.C. Moore, Y.A. Moore, and H. Wesley Moore.

[3] United State Federal Works Agency, Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43 (Washington, D.C., U.S. Government. Print Office, 1947), 9.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid, 9-10

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid, 52.

[8] Act 60, or the Equal Educational Opportunity act was created so that any school district with an enrollment of fewer than 350 students was forced to either (1)consolidate with one or more other district(s) to create a new district that would meet the minimum size requirements, or (2) be annexed into an existing district meeting those requirements. A primary difference between consolidation and annexation is the manner in which school governance is reorganized. Under consolidation, the boundaries for school board seats were to be immediately redrawn based on student enrollment numbers and elections for board seats were to be conducted at the next general election. The result, in most consolidation cases, has been a new board with roughly proportional representation from the areas served by the separate districts that formed the new consolidated district.

SIGNIFICANCE

With that, the Cord-Charlotte School was constructed by the WPA in 1936-1937 to help unemployed workers find work in there community. Since part of the work that was being done during this time period was focused on public building projects, which included schools, the Charlotte community sponsored the project and a new school was built to better help in the educating of the youth of Charlotte. Therefore, the school is being nominated to the Arkansas Register of Historic Places with local significance under Criterion A for its association with education and social history in rural Independence County.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Baker, Russell Pierce. From Memdag to Norsk: A Historical Directory of Arkansas Post Offices 1832-1971. Hot Springs, AR: Arkansas Genealogical Society, 1988.

United State Federal Works Agency. Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43. Washington, D.C., U.S. Government. Print Office, 1947.

Interview with William E. Coe, Superintendent of Cord-Charlotte Schools from 1972-1986, 495 Coe Lane, Batesville, Arkansas

Interview with Dorothy Shaw, life-long resident of Charlotte area, 2945 Antioch Road, Cave City, Arkansas

Interview with Jerrell Lillard, Superintendent of Cord-Charlotte Schools from 1987-2004, 7310 White Drive, Batesville, Arkansas

Interview with Uma Churchill, 68-year resident of the Charlotte community and wife of Curt Churchill, member of Lodge #126 for more than 25 years and a bus driver for the Charlotte school district, Charlotte, Arkansas

Independence County Grantee and Grantor Indexes to Deeds and Mortgages, Office of Deed Records, Courthouse, Batesville Arkansas


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