Moore Street School’s History

During the years 1886 and 1887, a sixteen-classroom, two story brick school was built in the City of Richmond  “to afford accommodation for the outlying schools in the neighborhood of Brook Avenue”.  It was the first school in Richmond intentionally built for African American children after the Civil War. The building fronted on Moore Street and thus was named Moore School, more often called Moore Street School.  It was one of five school buildings constructed between 1887 and 1898. Two survive and Moore Street is one of them. The other is Stonewall Jackson, now repurposed, also built in 1887, specifically to educate white children.  These two historic buildings are similar except for the population they were erected to serve.


Institutionalized public education in Richmond began in 1869. The new Virginia Constitution provided for a public education system in June of that year and Richmond City Council established its local public school system for the City soon after. Many of the earliest public schools operated out of buildings originally designed for other uses or out of rented spaces but Moore Street was an exception.  It was designed specifically as an elementary school - a “purpose-built” structure - by Colonel Wilfred Emory Cutshaw, Richmond’s City Engineer from 1874 until 1905.  It was the first of three such schools built in Richmond in the 1880s, finished in the Italianate style, with a combination of wood framing and load-bearing brick masonry. The interior of Moore Street School still contains its original plaster walls, wood floors, detailed trim, paneled doors and high, pressed tin ceilings. Wide halls, beaded wainscoting, interior stairways, multi light transoms, tall windows and chalkboards and bulletin boards all remain.


The building was and still is a beautiful and potentially functional structure, designed by an important architect and built with wonderful materials and grand detail. It retains excellent exterior and interior integrity.  That it was specifically designed as an elementary school for African American children at a time when all public schools were segregated by race and at the same time as Stonewall Jackson School is an amazing story unique to its time and place and one worth telling!! The fact that Moore Street School still survives is as significant and perhaps even more important, especially considering the number of other schools built in Richmond for African American students in the 19th century that have been demolished.  Moore Street School tells part of the larger history of public education in the City of Richmond after the Civil War and beyond. Schools built for African Americans never received the support or funding given to schools built for whites, but this grand building itself seems to acknowledge the importance of education for all, despite the unfair advantages always afforded white children. In addition to this, Moore Street School is an integral part of and socially and culturally connected to the Historic Carver neighborhood and the many African American families with whom it has co-existed these many years. It is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places and on the Virginia Landmarks Register. It should be saved!


The Moore Street School Foundation has been created to come to the rescue of this historic and beautiful civic structure!  Left vacant and barely used for over two decades, the building is in need of help but continues to have great potential as a unifying “community center” with much to give to the citizens of Richmond and beyond.  The Foundation hopes to immediately stop any further damage to the Moore Street property and to develop a plan to acquire, stabilize, restore and use this amazing building in many creative ways for the good of us all…now and for years to come. 


Historic Maps

Currently the Moore Street School Foundation is taking every effort to rehabilitate as well as preserve as much as possible of the 1887 school building’s remaining details.  You can follow the journey via gallery pictures as well as on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube platforms.  There are also opportunities on this site that will provide you with before, during and after tours of the rehabilitation efforts.


Once the construction efforts have been completed, the building will offer rehearsal space for dance, choir, and music.  The building will also provide event and meeting space.  The archives of the Sheep Hill/Carver Community will be housed along with the restoration archives of Moore Street School.  There will be a reading room that will house the archives of The Sheep Hill/Carver Community, the Moore Street School as well as other aspects of historical value of the Carver Community and the Richmond Region.  The space will also offer a small cafe and gift shop. 


The main focus once completed is to program the building as a performance training center with an emphasis on jazz.



Gallery tour 


Current Conditions

Concept Designs

Acquisition

The Moore Street School is located at 1113 Moore Street in Richmond, Virginia. The building was constructed in 1887 and was the first of three very similar structures designed by Colonel Wilfred Emory Cutshaw, Richmond's City Engineer from 1874 – 1905'. The school was originally built as an African American Elementary School' and most recently has been used by George Washington Carver Elementary School.


The building is currently part of the Richmond Public Schools inventory of buildings, it is currently unoccupied and unused. Richmond Public Schools currently maintains the building. The building is physically connected with Carver Elementary School by openings located in the southeast corner of the School's original perimeter walls. On the first and second levels, these openings have been closed off with wood frame construction.

Carver Elementary School and Moore Street School are currently recorded as one property consisting of (4) separate property addresses. The buildings share utility services including electricity, water and gas. The Moore Street School Foundation recommends that a new property line be established that allows for the separation of Moore Street School from Carver Elementary.


Timely action is paramount in that the building is decaying quickly, and the further the decay the more the cost to renovate thereby reducing its appeal even more. For these reasons, it is recommended that the City sell the Moore Street School Building and property to The Moore Street School Foundation.

Stabilization 

The Moore Street school, totaling 21,600 square feet, can be reused in its entirety through comprehensive renovations and improvements. The building is currently unoccupied and unused, and although it has been minimally maintained by Richmond PublicSchools, it is deteriorating due to water infiltration and temperature changes and the moisture associated with a building with no controls over temperature or humidity.


Thorough inspection in September revealed that deterioration is progressing at an accelerated rate. Space that had remained stable in recent years is now showing increasing damage from  the elements. Before beginning restoration of the building for new use, we must take some immediate steps toward stabilization.


A recent assessment of current building conditions led by board member Nick Cooper of Hanbury highlighted the following needs:


  • The gutters are built-in gutters which have been patched at the corners where the gutter was separating from the building. Gutters are separating from the building in other areas as well and starting to fall off on the east façade. Downspouts have deteriorated in places with some patches in places and other areas of deterioration where there have been no patches. This leaves areas of entry for water, birds and rodents. Patches are needed on the root as well as the downspouts and areas surrounding downspout leaks and holes.
  • A cleanup or the interior of the building is needed. Years of built up debris animal droppings, and water damage need to be cleaned up and hauled off in order to see clearly what needs to be done.
  • Prevention of further water intrusion and subsequent damage by making any needed roof repairs. Leaks are now permitting excessive water damage after rainfalls. Floors that were stable, even a year ago, are now buckling several inches up across the length of some rooms. Repair or possible replacement is needed.
  • The Building is mostly surrounded by asphalt, but asphalt does not slope away from building at all points. There are examples where water has come down from downspouts, hit the existing wall, taking off the existing paint and deteriorated the mortar between the bricks. We must spot patch the brick and repaint where paint has tailed.
  • Where the building meets the asphalt, there is a gap. water can get down this gap and deteriorate the wall and present moisture problems in the basement. Best solution is sloping the asphalt away from the building and sealing the perimeter where the building meets the grade.
  • Stabilize building humidity levels with dehumidifiers that will minimize further interior damage.
  • Provide plywood protection over the windows. A number of the beautiful MSS windows appear to be original with their 4 over 4 light configuration. However, they are currently an attractive target for anyone with a rock or a soccer ball, and they need to be covered to prevent further destruction. Coverings will also prevent water intrusion through the broken out windows. Windows, doors, door openings, and their surrounds have deteriorated and can let in water and critters. We must board up windows and other openings and patch and caulk existing surrounds, as required.
  • Sever utility connections that are currently linked to Carver School. For the Moore Street School building to sustain better stabilizing conditions, the utilities will need to be independent of the contiguous Carver facility so that the MSS building can have lighting, water, and electricity for dehumidifiers.

Preservation 

MAINTAINING THE HISTORIC APPEARANCE OF THE EXTERIOR 

The Moore Street façade and Harrison Street elevations are primary, however, the DHR and NPS reviewers will closely review any proposed changes to the building's exterior. Changes to masonry openings should be minimized. The proposed new west entry is likely to be approved with the current strategy of separating the new porch, ramp and stairs from the historic masonry wall.


HISTORIC WINDOW REPAIR AND REPLACEMENT 

HISTORIC WINDOW REPAIR AND REPLACEMENT is an extremely sensitive issue. Preservation of existing windows is the preferred option, since a number of windows appear to be original. Replacement windows would have to be selected based on the replacements closely matching the original windows (a 4-over-4 light configuration). It should be acceptable to block in 5 windows at the southeast corner of the building for fire code reasons. This comer of the building is all but hidden from public view.

MASONRY CLEANING AND REPOINTING 

MASONRY CLEANING AND REPOINTING must be specified in accordance with NPS guidelines. Masonry repairs must be executed by a contractor/sub contractor with demonstrated experience in historic masonry work. Brick can be painted or unpainted, as long as the paint removal process is non-destructive (no sand-blasting).


INTERIOR: SCHOOL BUILDING CHARACTER 

Maintaining the character of the building includes retaining historic classrooms, hallways and stairs on all three levels. New partitions can be added, as proposed, particularly where spaces were already altered, since many original classrooms are proposed to be maintained intact. In order to install HVAC and other systems, the proposed strategy of dropping a ceiling in the middle of typical classrooms will likely be approved, although a more typical strategy would be building a "bulkhead" along the corridor side of each classroom to hide mechanical systems.

SIGNIFICANT MATERIALS AND FEATURES 

SIGNIFICANT MATERIALS AND FEATURES INCLUDE: Original plaster walls, wood trim, paneled doors, and pressed tin ceilings should be preserved where possible. Where plaster is damaged beyond repair, laminating drywall to the plaster, or replacing plaster with drywall is acceptable. The proposed dropped ceiling may only be permissible because a wide band (approx. 3') of historic metal ceiling and cornice will be visible at the perimeter of the dropped area.

The beaded wainscot, the principal interior stairways (with upgraded handrails), the multi-light transoms, the blackboard and bulletin board framing and trim, and wood floors are all significant interior features and materials.


CEILING HEIGHTS 

If possible ceilings in the public areas should be maintained at their original height with metal ceilings. Where ceiling heights are lowered in individual areas or enclosed spaces the detailing of ceilings as they approach windows at perimeter walls is critical; dropping ceilings below the heads of windows must be avoided. New ceilings should not interrupt window openings.


BUILDING SYSTEMS 

The addition of mechanical, electrical, and data systems to a historic building can be problematic; in this building the new systems should be concealed in chases rather than exposed within the classrooms or hallways
The goal is to minimize the impact of these systems on the appearance and character of the 1st and 2nd floors of the building. It is typically preferable to place ducts in the basement and attic and to set mechanical units back from the edge of the roof of the building, rather than on the ground at the building perimeter. Minimizing destruction of masonry walls for systems installation is necessary.


STRUCTURAL NARRATIVE 
EXISTING CONSTRUCTION 

The original Moore Street School is constructed from a combination of wood framing and load-bearing brick masonry walls. The roof and floors are primarily wood framed while the interior and exterior walls are constructed from load-bearing brick masonry. The foundation system is unknown but is presumed to be shallow concrete or masonry spread footings, common for this type of construction in the late nineteenth century.

The roof is a low-slope, hipped structure. It is constructed from "A" wood decking that is supported by wood rafters spaced at approximately 22-0” centers. The wood rafters are rough-sawn hardwood and range in size from 2" to 2 " wide and 8/4" to 9 " deep. The rafters are supported by wood trusses built from rough-sawn 4"x6" hardwood timbers. The trusses appear to be located directly over brick masonry walls. The hips are formed by double 2"x8" rafters which frame into the trusses.

The second and third floor classroom areas are constructed from "4" hardwood flooring over /"x4" decking. The flooring and decking are supported by 2”x14" rough-sawn hardwood joists spaced at approximately 16" centers. The joists typically span approximately 26'-6" and bear in pockets in the brick masonry walls. There is a layer of sand-aggregate, lightweight mortar between the floor and the ceiling below. The mortar is supported on /2"x4" decking located approximately 11" from the bottom of the joists. The typical floor construction is illustrated in Sketch 3.

The floors in the classroom areas have been reinforced with metal rods and wood beams. The beams are 4" wide by 6" deep and occur at approximate 1/3 points along the original span. The metal rods are approximately % in diameter and are typically spaced at 5'-4" centers. The ends of each rod are anchored to the corresponding wood joist using a metal shoe and two bolts. Each rod has a turnbuckle at mid-length.The reinforcing does not appear to be original to the structure. It was likely installed to balance a portion of the floor dead load and compensate for the long term deflections associated with wood framing.

Community Impact 

Create an entity that does not duplicate services readily available elsewhere. Give the community a focal point it will respect, admire and utilize. Generate ownership within the community and attract interest, endorsement and participation.


Find and integrate public and private sector service providers in life skills, job skills health and quality of life sectors into a self-sustaining operation unique to Richmond.


Find us on social media

Moore Street School Foundation

P.O.Box 25305

Richmond, VA 23260

info@moorestreetschool.org