Marietta’s Black community worked to establish the Lemon Street Elementary School in 1894. Marietta Industrial High School was completed in 1929 and was the city’s first Black high school. The school was later renamed Lemon Street High School. Ten years after the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education ruled that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional, Marietta High School still had no Black students. That changed in 1964 when a group of Marietta citizens sent a letter to Marietta Schools Superintendent Henry Kemp asking him to allow Daphne Delk and Treville Grady to enroll in classes at Marietta High School. The school board accepted the request and Delk and Grady became the first Black students to attend Marietta High School on August 27, 1964. Following integration, the Marietta Board of Education closed the Lemon Street High School and Lemon Street Grammar School. The c. 1930 Lemon Street High School building was demolished in 1967. The c. 1950 Lemon Street Grammar School building was used for storage by the Board of Education.
In 2019, Cobb Landmarks met with Marietta City Schools to discuss the uncertain future of the Lemon Street Grammar School building. Cobb Landmarks emphasized the importance of saving the historic structure. After a series of meetings, plans were made to return the Lemon Street Grammar School to its original use: educating Marietta’s students. Marietta City Schools worked to preserve the building’s exterior and key architectural features while rehabilitating the interior, creating a modern learning environment for students. A small exhibition inside the school tells the story of the once-segregated school system, while outdoor interpretive panels focus on the history of the surrounding community.
We sat down with Chuck Gardner, Chief Operations Officer at Marietta City Schools, to discuss the rehabilitation of the Lemon Street Grammar School building.
Why do you think it was important to reuse the building?
“The history of Lemon Street is much deeper than the 1951 structure that we saved. This campus dates back to the 1890s and is an incredible part of the Marietta City Schools story.”
Was there a particular moment during the renovation that stood out to you?
“The most powerful moments in the renovation have been walking alumni around and hearing them tell stories about their school experiences in the 1950s. One former student pointed out the corner where she would warm up her teacher’s lunch for her on the radiator. These stories can’t be forgotten.”
How were you able to preserve the historic integrity of the structure while still bringing it up to modern codes?
“Our approach to the construction project was to do the demolition/abatement months before design was complete. This allowed us to see the structure. During demolition we saved a lot of the old glazed block which is a non-standard size these days. The demolition was done by hand so as to not damage the block. We used the salvaged block for infill so that it would not look different. We were also able to design new windows with muntins to match the old ones.”
What part of the project are you most proud of?
“I’m proud of the fact that we have created beautiful modern spaces which are suitable for learning, while honoring the history in such a way that when alumni visit they still recognize their former school.”
Cobb Landmarks was proud to advocate for the rehabilitation of this important landmark. It's been a pleasure to see Marietta City Schools revive the building for classroom use.
Cobb Landmarks & Historical Society is celebrating Black History Month with a new Black History Walking Tour of downtown Marietta. The tour will take participants on a journey through time, from the founding of Marietta through the Civil Rights Movement. "While this walking tour presents a number of important Black heritage sites in Marietta, it's just a start. We hope people will be inspired to go learn more after the tour," said Executive Director Trevor Beemon. The walking tour is approximately 1.5 miles long and should take about one hour to complete.
The tour features many significant sites in Marietta, including Zion Baptist Church, one of the earliest Black congregations and churches in the state of Georgia. The tour also features the newly rehabilitated Lemon Street Grammar School, and includes stories about the desegregation of public schools in Marietta. "My hope is that tour-goers will walk away with a better understanding of the events, people, and places from Marietta’s past that formed the city we live in today," said Beemon.
To take the tour, visit cobblandmarks.com/blackhistory.
Last year Cobb Landmarks met with Marietta City Schools to discuss the uncertain future of the c. 1950 Lemon Street Grammar School. Cobb Landmarks expressed the importance of maintaining the historic structure. “The question was whether we could afford to save the building while being good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” said Grant Rivera, Superintendent of Marietta City Schools. “We are pleased to say that, after careful study, we will be able to do both.”
Parrish Construction Group successfully performed the demolition portion of the Lemon Street Project during December 2019. On June 16th the school board approved a renovation budget, allowing the renovation to begin. Plans call for replacing all doors and windows and installing new plumbing and electrical systems, fire sprinklers and alarm systems, security systems and the technology required for the school system to operate the building. Crews will also install new asphalt, sidewalk, fencing and landscaping. The building is expected to open to students by the end of 2020.
Earlier this year, Marietta City Schools announced plans to relocate its Central Office to the site of the old Lemon Street High School near the Marietta Square. The new structure would be designed to replicate the c. 1930 Lemon Street High School building that had been demolished in 1967. Plans for the new building included a museum dedicated to telling the story of Marietta City Schools from 1892 to the present day. The plan was very exciting, but one thing wasn't clear - the future of the c. 1950 Lemon Street Grammar School located directly across the street. The district needed more space, and the old Grammar School building was in need of substantial upgrades and repairs. A rumored demolition plan prompted Trevor Beemon, Executive Director of Cobb Landmarks, to reach out to Marietta City Schools.
"For me it was important for Cobb Landmarks to get in touch with Marietta City Schools early in the planning stages of their project," said Beemon. "I want Cobb Landmarks to be a resource for our partners. I have found that opening up a dialogue and helping walk through different options usually leads to a successful outcome for everyone." When Trevor met with Grant Rivera, Superintendent of Marietta City Schools, he was happy to hear that preserving the Lemon Street Grammar School was a priority of his. "We have always known, due to its unique history, that the building is worth saving," said Rivera. Cobb Landmarks expressed the importance of maintaining the historic exterior of the structure at the very least, but hoped for more. "The question was whether we could afford to save the building while being good stewards of taxpayer dollars," said Rivera. "We are pleased to say that, after careful study, we will be able to do both."
Currently used as a warehouse for the District, the Lemon Street Grammar School will be returned to its original use: educating Marietta's students. Marietta City Schools plans to preserve the building's exterior and key architectural features while rehabilitating the interior, making it conducive to a modern learning environment. The building is slated to open in 2021 as the new home to the Marietta Performance Learning Center, a division of Marietta High School. A small exhibition inside the school will further tell the story of the once-segregated school system, while outdoor interpretive panels will focus on the history of the surrounding community. "When historic buildings are torn down, a part of the past disappears forever," said Beemon."Preserving buildings like the Lemon Street Grammar School means we care about the places where our community's character was shaped."
The Marietta Board of Education voted unanimously to support the rehabilitation of the Lemon Street Grammar School during their June 11, 2019 meeting.
Cobb Landmarks held its Annual Membership Meeting on January 24th. The event took place at St. James’ Episcopal Church and drew a large crowd. Attendees enjoyed a buffet of delicious food provided by the Cobb Landmarks Board of Trustees and countless volunteers. During the meeting, Board Chair Abbie Parks and Executive Director Trevor Beemon reviewed milestones from 2018, highlighting the relocation of the c. 1830 Manning Cabin from Powder Springs to Cobb Landmarks’ Root House Museum campus in downtown Marietta last September. David Freedman led the awards portion of the program, which celebrated preservation projects throughout Cobb County. Among the award winners was the City of Marietta's Elizabeth Porter Park, the Elizabeth Porter History and Mural Committee accepting.
Construction for Elizabeth Porter Park began in August 2017 and was completed in 2018. Located at the intersection of Allgood Road and North Marietta Parkway, it features a walk/run track, spray pad, and pavilion. A great recreational amenity, the park was also designed to ensure the preservation of local history through the use of public art. Most prominently, a symbolically rich 130-foot mural depicts activities relevant to the site and surrounding neighborhood over time. Secondly, a statue of Elizabeth Porter, the park's namesake and former recreation center director, was incorporated into the park entrance. The statue design shows Mrs. Porter beside two children representing those she worked with during her 22 years as director.