RAPIDAN—A new chapter is being written for the former George Washington Carver Regional High School in Culpeper County. Inside its former library, the Carver 4-County Museum is taking shape, telling the stories of the students, educators and staff that formed the facility named for the African-American inventor and botanist.
A project of the GWC Alumni Association, the museum hosted an open house and preview this past weekend. The opening exhibit, “Journey: The Class of 1949,” honors the first graduating class of the school for black students from Culpeper, Orange, Madison and Rappahannock counties.
“We see ourselves as providing a new and exciting resource to the community,” said Carver alumni and history committee vice chairwoman Hortense Hinton, class of 1967. “We see ourselves partnering with the libraries of the four counties, the various historical societies and the public schools in particular in helping them support and supplement their curriculum with respect to local history. I just think there are all kinds of possibilities with what this museum can present.”
Former alumni association chairman Charles Jameson, of Cupeper, introduced the museum proposal in the spring of 2016 to a committee of the Board of Supervisors of Culpeper County, which owns the building. The school operated until 1968, when local schools were integrated.
Today, the facility houses various tenants including a Hispanic church, the Carver Agricultural Research group and alumni programs with more potential occupants to come including Culpeper Extension Office and the Black Farmers. Culpeper County has invested more than $400,000 in renovating the 70-year-old school, and the improvements are really showing.
“I feel pretty awesome,” said Jameson, asked how he felt about the museum nearing completion. “The process helped me get into the history part of it and learn how much I didn’t know.”
Inside the museum on a recent morning, a large mural by Hubert Jackson greets visitors, colorfully portraying images alumni would easily recognize. Fields of corn, the marching band, basketball and football players, a church, the faces of teachers, a family, Dr. Carver, a soldier, the Blue Ridge Mountains and a peach tree are included in the mural.
Other museum walls arereserved for artifacts from Madison or Culpeper and the other counties with one area designated for the class poem. There’s a homemaking display and a display for Carver veterans, including a plaque for Solomon Wise Meney (1931-2015), of Brandy Station. He served in the U.S. Army during the Korean Conflict before coming back home and forming Culpeper Taxi Company, which Meney operated for more than 50 years, according to the display.
“We are asking for a place to be remembered,” Jameson told the county committee back in 2016. “We need to leave a lasting legacy there. Our long-range plan is to foster a greater awareness of, and appreciation for, the educational opportunities afforded students during the years of segregation.”
Historian Terry Miller has served as curator for the museum project, creating various exhibits speaking to the Carver experience. She previously worked to develop a similar history space in Spotsylvania County’s John J. Wright School, noted Hinton.
“She has been able to work with very little money to get us a very professional museum and a series of professional exhibits that have just been wonderful,” Hinton said.
The museum will provide a place not just for display, but for learning and attracting visitors, she added.
“The Carver School is already on the Journey Through Hallowed Ground tour and we see that as another tourism attraction for this region,” Hinton said. “With the new interest in families, genealogy and history we’re thinking too this is a good place for that kind of research. We found that to be very exciting.”
Museum development and operations have been funded with funds raised through the alumni association. The first year budget is estimated at $90,000. Hinton said the association would be revisiting requests to the other counties to support the effort.
The museum will be open to the public some weekends, and by appointment, Jameson said. It is slated to be finished in February.