St. Benedict the Moor Catholic School - Lincolnville Historic District - St. Augustine, FL
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Marine Biologist
N 29° 53.177 W 081° 18.925
17R E 469544 N 3306226
Quick Description: St. Benedict the Moor Catholic School is a contributing building in the Lincolnville Historic District and is the oldest surviving brick school building in St. Augustine, Florida.
Location: Florida, United States
Date Posted: 3/18/2011 9:10:08 AM
Waymark Code: WMB015
Published By: Groundspeak Charter Member BruceS
Views: 6

Long Description:
"St. Benedict the Moor School, located at 86 Martin Luther King Avenue in the Linconville National Historic District of St. Augustine, Florida was an all black Catholic school built in 1898. The money for construction of the school ($7,500) was donated by Katherine Drexel (1858–1955), a nun of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, an order founded “to serve Indians and Colored People.” Drexel a member of the wealthy Philadelphia, Pennsylavania banking family was the niece of Anthony J. Drexel founder of Drexel University. Katherine Drexel was made a Catholic saint by Pope John Paul II in 2000.

The school named in honor of St. Benedict the Moor was constructed of brick and was one of the first schools for black students in Florida. The students were instructed by nuns of a local convent, the Sisters of St. Joseph . There were between 90-100 students enrolled per school year at the school which was opened between 1898 and 1968. The school is located on a parcel of land which includes the school on the southern end of the property, the parish house in the center and the church of St. Benedict the Moor at the north end.

The school was closed partly as a result of school desegregation legislation which arose in the wake of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The events which occurred in St. Augustine, of which Martin Luther King Jr. played a key rule, were an important catalyst in the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

Years prior to the Civil Rights Era, in 1916, three white Catholic nuns were arrested for violating a 1913 Florida prohibiting white teachers for instructing blacks. The three were acquitted on the grounds that the law did not apply to private schools.

St. Benedict the Moor School which sits in the Lincolnville National Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. Despite this designation the building sits exposed to the elements with no roof or windows. The roof was removed during 2006 as part of a restoration project which has been stalled for an alleged lack of funding."

-- Source

"St. Benedict the Moor School, 86 M. L. King Avenue, stands at the very center of Lincolnville as the oldest surviving brick school building in the city. But how much longer will it survive? The northeast corner of its roof is open to the weather and exposure to the elements has resulted in rot to framing systems on both the first and second floors. The school was built in 1898, a saint’s gift to St. Augustine. Money for its construction was provided by Mother Katherine Drexel (1858-1955), a wealthy Philadelphia heiress who was made a saint by Pope John Paul II in 2000. She was a nun of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, an order founded “to serve Indians and Colored People.” It was the Sisters of St. Joseph who taught black students in this building, still owned by the Diocese of St. Augustine. In 1916 three of St. Benedict’s teaching nuns were arrested for violating the Florida law that forbade white teachers to teach black students. A judge ruled that they had not, however, violated the law because the law did not apply to private schools. The nuns were released. St. Benedict was one of the first schools for blacks in Florida, serving from 90 to 110 students. In the middle of the 1960s the building ended its role as an educational facility and was essentially abandoned for about 20 years. St. Benedict School was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 as a contributing structure to the Lincolnville National Register Historic District. St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church is next door to the school building. Both buildings commemorate St. Benedict, who had once been a slave in Sicily. The term “moor” is misleading to speakers of English for whom the word refers to Africans who lived in Spain. “Il moro” is Italian for “the Black.” Of interest to St. Augustine residents is that St. Benedict (1526-1589) lived at the time our town was founded in 1565. St. Benedict the Moor School Restoration Committee is attempting to save and rehabilitate the building. And it can be saved. Architects, engineers and building contractors agree that it is indeed salvageable. The inspectors offer the example of the St. Augustine Lighthouse Keepers Residence, which was in much worse condition than St. Benedict. Today the Keepers House is in beautiful condition. But the school’s roof must be fixed immediately to salvage the rest of the building. Private donations or local-government appropriations are needed desperately. Given the diminished-funding situation at the State level for large historic preservation projects, this building cannot wait for its turn for State dollars."

-- Source

And finally, an historical marker at the site provides the following information:

"This block of property owned by the Catholic Church contains three historic buildings that embody an important part of African American heritage of St. Augustine. It was part of Yallaha orange grove plantation before the Civil War and was conveyed to the church by the Dumas family in 1890. The first building was constructed in 1898 was the school, originally called St. Cecilia, later St. Benedict. It is the oldest surviving brick schoolhouse in St. Augustine. With a tower and original wraparound porch, it was a landmark of Victorian architecture. It was the gift of Mother Katharine Drexel (1858-1955), a wealthy Philadelphia heiress who founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People and established more than 60 parochial schools around the country. On October 1, 2000, Pope John Paul II named Mother Drexel a saint, and two St. Augustinians attended the canonization ceremony at the Vatican. The Sisters of St. Joseph, a teaching order that was brought here in 1866, operated St. Benedict School. They were involved in a celebrated civil rights case when, on Easter Sunday 1916, three of the nuns - Sisters Mary Thomasine Hehir, Mary Scholastica Sullivan, and Mary Beningus Cameron - were arrested for violating a 1913 passed Florida law that made it a criminal offense for whites to teach in a black school. They were released when a judge ruled the law did not apply to private schools. After serving many generations of students (of several religions) from kindergarten through eighth grade, St. Benedict School was closed in 1964 when local Catholic schools were integrated. St. Benedict the Moor Church, on the north end of the property, was begun in 1909 and completed in 1911. It was designed by the Savannah architects Robinson and Reidy, who designed Orange Street School at the same time. The church was named for a Sicilian friar (1526-1589) who was known as The Holy Negro for his charitable work and canonized in 1807. The use of his name here had earlier roots in the St. Benedict Benevolent Society, begun before the Civil War and incorporated in 1872 by St. Augustine's black Catholics. The red brick rectory building between the church and the school was constructed in 1915, and for many years housed the Josephite Fathers out of Baltimore who pastored here. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited the rectory in 1964."

Name of Historic District (as listed on the NRHP): Lincolnville Historic District

Link to nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com page with the Historic District: [Web Link]

NRHP Historic District Waymark (Optional): [Web Link]

Address:
86 Martin Luther King Street St. Augustine, FL 32084 USA


How did you determine the building to be a contributing structure?: Narrative found on the internet (Link provided below)

Optional link to narrative or database: [Web Link]

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