— By DAVID MAY
Raymond George can see the light at the end of the tunnel – and it’s not an oncoming train.
Instead, it’s an approaching deadline and what he hopes is the finish line of his 15-year project to restore the Mount Pleasant Colored School House to as close to its original state as possible.
George is a graduate of the school and has made it his dream and passion to restore the building, then turn it over to the City of Weatherford, which plans to utilize it as a community center and incorporate the 15-acre property into a greenspace area connecting a nearby park and Chandor Gardens.
George on Saturday gave a tour of the building and its ongoing renovation to about 20 people representing East Parker County Genealogy and Historical Society and the Parker County Camera Club.
There is still much to do, but George said he can see completion of the project is practically in arm’s reach. That is, if he can receive the monies he says he needs to finish.
“I think I need about $44,000,” he said. “I have already put in well over $100,000 in donations so far.”
Much has been done. New electrical wiring and air ducts are installed. A new roof is on the building and custom windows, closely matching the school’s original windows, are in place.
Items like lighting, finishing walls and the ceiling as well as flooring restoration remain.
Built in 1917, the building served as a center of education for black Weatherford students during segregation. Classes were taught up to the ninth grade, where students then either stopped attending school or were transported to I.M. Terrell in Fort Worth.
George, who graduated from the school in 1953, said he was 6 years old when he started attending. He said his father provided transportation for he and those students who went on to high school in Fort Worth.
“He would take us to Fort Worth, come back and go to work, then leave and pick us up in the afternoon,” George said.
In 1950, an addition was added to the building – Wilson Hall, named after the superintendent. The hall, donated by Fort Wolters, was used to house grades seven, eight and nine, and expanded the facility to three rooms.
Last June, a series of windows was placed inside the old wooden structure, a gift from DGB Glass Inc., in Aledo, with an approximate value of $23,000.
Others have also stepped up to forward the project, including Morrison Supply Company, which provided A/C work, Lightfoot Mechanicals for installation of the units, and funding for two A/C units by PRO VISION Digital Surveillance.
One of the keys to the project has been the work of those involved in the Parker County Community Learning Center, which acts as a way for young adults involved in the juvenile system to learn job skills and stay out of trouble, a means of working – literally – to turn their lives around. George gives much credit to CLC construction manager David Maisel and the CLC workers for bringing the project to its current point. The work is provided through a grant obtained by the City of Weatherford.
George said the city has offered to take over the project at any point and complete it, but George says his intent is to complete the project before turning it over. He has given himself a deadline of the end of this year and hopes to turn the property over to the city this time next year.
“I don't want any tax dollars being used,” said George of hopes to complete the work using donations, whether cash contributions or donations of materials and labor.
George told the historical group he hoped they could help the property receive historical landmark designation. He said he is currently working with the Parker County Historical Society to apply for and receive such a designation.
To get involved with project or make a donation, contact George at 817-304-3519.