The Bolling School building in Lewisburg W.Va. is a historic part of the community and progress on its modern renovations continues.
The school has roots going back to 1869 when it was established by the Freedman’s Bureau as Lewisburg Colored Grade School and held in the Masonic Greenbrier Lodge No. 19.
An official school building was constructed in 1933, and at that time it was named the Bolling School after local educator, Professor Edward Bolling who had taught the local children of color for generations.
Bolling was born on November 28, 1860, and was a native of Greenbrier County. He attended public schools in Richmond where he grew up. Once he was ready for college, he attended Morgan College in Baltimore. After graduating, he taught in Richmond for four years before moving back to Greenbrier County where he eventually became the principal of the Lewisburg High School.
Professor Bolling was granted a State Life Certificate by the West Virginia State Board of Education in 1915. The group of people that have been bestowed this honor is incredibly small. According to the W. Va. Department of Arts, Culture and History, Bolling is the only Black education from Greenbrier to ever receive the award and “one of only about ten colored men” awarded it in the entire state.
The original building was, unfortunately, destroyed in 1936 by a fire. It was rebuilt and completed in 1940. This building served as Bolling School until 1963. In later years it became the Lewisburg Middle School and after that was transformed into a community center. The Greenbrier Community School acquired the building in 2018 with plans of restoration.
According to Rece Nester the head of school for the Greenbrier Community School, they purchased the property with the intention of having “a permanent school location for our growing student body and a facility that can be utilized by other organizations as a centralized community center.”
She further stated that they firmly believe that renovating the historic building “is an investment in our children and our community.”
The Greenbrier Community School offers classes for students 18 months of age through fifth grade. According to a statement on their website, they strive to be an inclusive and comprehensive school. The statement goes on to say, “We actively seek out faculty and students of diverse backgrounds and traditions in the belief that they bring something to be valued and respected, and because we would like to be broadly inclusive of the community we serve.”
Nester stated that the students will work with the Greenbrier Historical Society to ensure that the artifacts and photos from Bolling School are researched. They will also ensure the photos and artifacts are properly displayed after renovations have been completed.
Fundraising efforts to complete the restoration have been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nester said they are “thankful for the support from local banks who have helped finance the project so we could complete the planned Phase one and Phase two renovations.”
They still need to raise $350,000 for the property restoration project. Anyone wishing to make a donation can do so by visiting the Greenbrier Community School website www.greenbriercommunityschool.org and navigating to the Bolling School Campaign page. There is a donate button located in three places on the page. Clicking it will take the user to PayPal to complete the donation.
For more information on getting involved with the project, making a donation or learning about the school, visit the Greenbrier Community School Facebook page or reach out directly to Head of School Rece Nester by emailing email@example.com
According to Nester, the Greenbrier Community School intends to host an open house for the project as soon as gatherings are safe.