County votes to table preservation of Lake Hall School House, look at options

Lake Hall Schoolhouse preservation
Published: Feb. 8, 2022 at 8:11 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The future of the Lake Hall School House remains uncertain.

After almost an hour of discussion at Tuesday’s County Commission meeting, Commissioners unanimously voted to table the issue and continue looking at options.

Commissioners instructed staff to continue working on ways to preserve the 1870s building, a former elementary schoolhouse for the African American community in the area off Thomasville Road.

The building currently sits on the property line of two privately owned parcels of land.

Multiple Commissioners said they want to find a way to preserve the building, but they acknowledged they face significant obstacles.

The agenda item says due to its age, the schoolhouse is not well suited for relocation. In addition, if they County did take ownership of the property, the local government may need to construct an entirely new road for public access to the site.

In the agenda item, the County Attorney writes that a historic preservation use could allow the County to acquire the property by using eminent domain.

Multiple public speakers urged the County to use that power.

They said preserving the schoolhouse is an opportunity to save something that’s priceless.

County Commissioner Brian Welch said as a schoolteacher, the issue is very important to him.

“I would support seeking eminent domain to preserve this property. This building is being used as a shed. It’s got paint thinner and paint in it. I know we have a historic overlay over it, but it could go up at any time,” Welch said.

The schoolhouse is one of six remaining Reconstruction-era African American schoolhouses in Leon County.

Another obstacle to preservation acknowledged by Commissioners is the possible price tag. In the agenda item, County Administrator Vince Long said the cost of dismantling, relocating, and rebuilding the structure could be more than a million dollars.

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