Lunch & Learn: Preserving the Division Street School
The Carnegie Center for Art and History’s October Lunch and Learn program is about the renovation and preservation of the historic Division Street School located at 1803 Conservative Street in New Albany, IN. Presenting this program is Ron Stiller, AIA, who along with his company, RCS & Associates, was responsible for the renovation of this former historically all African-American elementary school.
In 1869 and in the aftermath of the Civil War, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law encouraging school districts to provide black children with free public schools. The law also sought to segregate whites from blacks while providing African Americans with an education. The Division Street School was built with this aim in mind. The school operated from 1885 and closed its doors in 1946. During its heyday, the school typically served between 60 and 70 enrolled students. Division Street School is a one-story frame building with a hipped roof. The interior has two classrooms, one for grades 1–3, and the other for grades 4-6. Division Street School was one of several local schools that served African-American students and also included the Lower Second Street Elementary School and Scribner High School.
Division Street School officially closed in 1946 and after serving as a Veterans’ Affairs office during World War II. The building sat vacant until 1959 when the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corporation turned it into a storage facility. Former school teachers Vic Megenity and Katheryn Hickerson (who attended Division Street School as a girl) formed Friends of Division Street School, Inc., to save the old building. Raising the funds for this big project took ten years, but ultimately the school was preserved. In 2002, Division Street School was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the school is a museum that has been returned to its 1920’s appearance and also houses a small collection of artifacts relating to African American heritage. Every fourth grade student in the New Albany Floyd County Consolidated School Corporation tours this school to learn about its history.
The presenter for this edition of Lunch and Learn is Ron Stiller and his company, RCS & Associates, have worked upon other important New Albany historic structures including the Scribner House and the Carnegie Center for Art and History. Each of these projects has had their individual story to tell. In 2005, the challenging renovations to the Division Street School were completed and the building was opened up to the public once more. Stiller has had a 40 year career as a recognized architect and has owned RCS & Associates for 20 years. His Bachelors and Masters of Architecture degrees were earned from Ball State University.