Wells School

Status: Preserved

Address: 4140 Tennessee 205 (Airline Road; formerly 4140 Collierville-Arlington Rd.), Eads

Built: 1924-1925

Architectural Style: Rosenwald School Plan

Original Function/Purpose: Education

The Wells School was placed on the National Register on Mar. 31, 1995.

History: Wells School was built between 1924 and 1925 with the Julius Rosenwald Fund (JRF) and served as an African-American school until desegregation occurred in 1966. In 1915 Julius Rosenwald, a Sears, Roebuck and Co. mogul, funded his first school for Tennessee African-Americans, beginning a process in which rural communities in the south could establish schools for black children. By 1922 Shelby County led all southern counties in the number of Rosenwald schools built. According to historian Mary S. Hoffschwelle, “Schools like Wells School offered a thorough curriculum in vocational education, focusing on industrial training for boys and home economics for girls. White officials supported these new classes, and even provided more money for supplies and equipment, because the vocational classes produced, in white eyes, a “better trained” and “more reliable” workforce.” The Wells School still remains in its 1925 condition, with the exception of a few add-ons from the 1950s. It is an excellent example of standardized school architecture associated with JRF schools and the ethnic heritage of the area’s African-Americans in the early twentieth century, as well as that era’s development of public education for African-Americans and the physical tools of educational reform combined with social centers for the community.

 

City Council District: N/A

Super District: N/A

County Commission District: 1

DON NEWMAN