Sixth Avenue School

The Sixth Avenue School was constructed at the northeast corner of Sixth Avenue and Valley Street in 1916 on one half acre of land that was bought for $700 from G. W. Justice.  The new school replaced one that was located at Ninth Avenue and Justice Street. For the year that it took for the school to be built, classed were held at the Star of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church.    In 1916, the school opened with three teachers: W.M. Robinson (also the Principal), Miss Hattie Butler, and Miss Teetie Sanders.  Like his predecessor Rev. John Wesley Neill, Professor Robinson had to fulfill many roles.  There was no janitor  or central heating system, so Professor Robinson needed to be at school early to fire up the pot-bellied stoves, clean the rooms and then assume his role as teacher and principal.

The Sixth Avenue School building was a two-story frame structure that had classrooms on the ground floor and an auditorium that doubled as classrooms on the upper floor.  The upper floor was divided into three classrooms separate from each other by curtains.

The school year lasted only six months for Sixth Avenue Students until, in 1936 through state-mandated regulations, the school year was extended to nine months.  In 1936, the number of teachers increased from seven to nine and a high school curriculum added.  That year, a federal works relief project built a new stone gymnasium for Hendersonville High School, and the old wooden frame structure was dismantled and moved to Ninth Avenue site to serve as a high school annex for the Sixth Avenue School.  Dubbed “the Gym” it functioned as classrooms, auditorium and gymnasium.  Prior to 1936, black students had to leave the county to attend a black private school.

Spencer Durante became principal of Sixth Avenue in 1939 following the death of Professor Robinson.  Mr. Durante encouraged a former college roommate of his, John Marable, to come to Hendersonville.  Mr. Marable then took over as principal when Mr. Durante resigned in 1946.  He would remain principal for thirteen years.

For 34 years Sixth Avenue School served not only as an educational center but as a community center as well, often hosting plays, dances and community meetings.  The Sixth Avenue School served the community well until 1951 when a new school, Ninth Avenue School, was built.  After it closed, the Sixth Avenue School was sold and renovated into private apartments.  By 1982 the building was so dilapidated, it was burned down by the Hendersonville fire department as a practice fire.

(Excerpts from A Brief History of The Black Presence in Henderson County by The Black History Research Committee of Henderson County with Gary Franklin Greene)



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