QE Projects Preserving Black History Legacies
Samantha Malott
July 30, 2019

In honor of Black History Month, we want to highlight some extraordinary projects we’ve had the privilege of taking part in. These sites preserve the invaluable legacy of Americans whose experiences and achievements enrich our country, often at great personal sacrifice. Protecting these places enables immersive visitor education and engagement with the past, perpetuating the immeasurable impact these events have on our continued strive for equality.  

Visit this webpage throughout the month of February to explore all of the projects we will be showcasing.

Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument

Charles Young (1864-1922) overcame inequality to become a leading national figure in the years after the Civil War. Not only was he the first African American national park superintendent, but he became the highest-ranking African American United States Army officer prior to World War I. His family’s house and farm, affectionately called Youngsholm, was developed into a pleasant refuge from service as a commander of the Buffalo Soldiers and a military attaché throughout North America, Africa, and East Asia. His legacy endures as a point of pride for the local community fostering numerous partnerships with the new national monument.

Uncovering a lost landscape presents a unique opportunity to interpret the Young family’s story and recapture the historic character of the homestead, farm, and fields.

The planning and design project includes restoration and rehabilitation recommendations for interpretation of the 1922 homestead, compatible gathering spaces, wayside exhibits, parking, and the sustainable management of fields and woodlands. Landscape documentation and recommendations were carefully coordinated with historic architecture and archaeology. Youngsholm will serve as a nexus for understanding the role of the Buffalo Soldiers in American history and evoke the life of its influential leader.

Click here to visit the National Park Service webpage for more information on the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument.

Paul Laurence Dunbar House Historic Site

Paul Laurence Dunbar was an American author, poet, and playwright known for his use of dialect and conversational style in conveying metaphor and rhetoric. A literary talent since childhood, he was the first African American to financially support himself through his writing career. At the height of his success in the 1890s, Dunbar became associated with leaders of the day, such as Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington; he was also a civil rights activist.  

In 1904, Paul Laurence Dunbar purchased this home for his mother and lived there until his death in 1906, at age 33. The home was later purchased by the state of Ohio and dedicated as the first state memorial to an African American in 1936. It is now a National Historic Landmark and part of the National Aviation Heritage Area.

QEA is conducting an onsite survey that will lead to the completion of measured drawings and photographs, historic building and landscape chronology, Historic Structures Report, Cultural Landscape Report, and treatment recommendations for the Paul Laurence Dunbar House and barn on two lots that comprise the property.

Click here to visit the National Park Service webpage for more information on the Paul Laurence Dunbar House Historic Site.

Stratford HB Woodlawn Secondary School - Dorothy Hamm Middle School

This historic school carries an educational and socially-progressive legacy as one of the first public schools in Virginia to fully desegregate after the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

Today, an ambitious expansion and renovation project is underway, renewing Stratford Middle School to accommodate 1,300 students. The modernized facility will promote the values of respect and diversity for all cultures, as well as technology and information literacy, learning through making, and sustainability. QEA’s design team facilitated rigorous community engagement with this project through a series of public meetings and school board work sessions. Based on the recommendation from the project community’s naming committee, the school will be renamed Dorothy Hamm Middle School in fall 2019.  

Dorothy Hamm was an Arlington civil rights activist who worked to end segregation in the local school. Following the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, she joined a 1956 civil action case that successfully challenged the Pupil Placement Act, a statute designed to delay integration under the guise of compliance. Her efforts helped Stratford Junior High School become one of the first Virginia schools to become desegregated. She continued her efforts for equality through challenging Virginia’s poll tax and segregation of Arlington theaters. Hamm was also politically active as a delegate for the 1964 Arlington County and state conventions, an assistant registrar and chief election officer in Arlington’s Woodlawn precinct, and an organizer for the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE). She was recognized for her dedication in 1982 with the first Arlington County Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service, in 2002 by the Virginia House of Delegates, and in 2010 by the Library of Virginia as an African American Trailblazer.

Click here to visit the Library of Virginia’s webpage dedicated to the accomplishments of Dorothy Hamm.

Dorothy I. Height Elementary School

Dorothy Irene Height was a leader in addressing the rights of both women and African Americans as the president of the National Council of Negro Women. A Richmond, Virginia native, Height used her platform to inform young adults on important political issues related to the war against drugs, illiteracy, and unemployment. Prior to her death in 2010, Dorothy I. Height was recognized with prestigious honors including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.

Her namesake lives on as Dorothy I. Height Elementary School, located in Baltimore, Maryland. The school is committed to cultivating a community of lifelong learners by providing experiences that address the needs of all scholars. Quinn Evans Architects is proud to have been involved in the development of an elementary school that values an inspirational learning environment for teachers, students, and the community alike.

Click here to learn more about QEA’s work on the Dorothy I. Height Elementary School project.

Sam Gilliam Art Studio

His art is held by some of the world’s most well-known collectors and museums, yet he isn’t a household name. He doesn’t want his work to be defined by his race, but he’s known for breaking boundaries. Sam Gilliam has had his bright and colorful artwork displayed in some of the most prestigious galleries, including the MOMA. Now you can check out some of his pieces at the Sam Gilliam Gallery of Art in Washington DC’s Brightwood Park.

QEA transformed this urban warehouse into a vibrant, open studio space for the internationally-renowned artist. The site originally included a two-story brick building that had been modified several times previously, serving as a store, gas station, office, and warehouse. The award-winning adaptive use project created a large working studio with a woodshop, office, and storage for paintings and supplies.

Click here to learn more about Sam Gilliam in his 2018 NPR interview.

Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies

Maggie Lena Walker was the first African American woman founder and president of a United States chartered bank. On July 15, 1864, Walker was born in Richmond, Virginia to parents who worked in the home of Elizabeth Van Lew, a local abolitionist. At age 14, Walker volunteered with the Order of St. Luke, a mutual aid society that provided financial and educational support to impoverished African Americans.

As an entrepreneur, Walker founded the St. Luke Herald Newspaper, St. Luke Emporium, and St. Luke Penny Savings Bank. She later became board chairwoman of the Consolidated Bank and Trust Company. Walker died in Richmond, Virginia on December 15, 1934, but her legacy continues to live on.

In 1937, Maggie L. Walker High School was built and named in her honor. It was one of two schools for African American students in the Richmond area during a period of increased racial segregation. The high school was abandoned in 1990 and reopened in 2001 as Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies. Quinn Evans Architects was honored to update and renovate the 1930s-style, double-loaded corridor traditional high school to provide a more functional and accommodating learning environment for the 21st-century high school experience.

Click here to visit the National Park Services webpage for more information on the life of Maggie L. Walker.

(The Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site is not affiliated with Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies.)

Old Courthouse at Gateway Arch National Park

Facing the iconic Gateway Arch along the Mississippi River, the Old Courthouse at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial has been a Midwestern landmark for more than 150 years.  

This site is best known as the setting for the pivotal 1847 and 1850 trials in which Dred Scott, an enslaved African American man, attempted to sue for his freedom. Although the court case was not ruled in their favor, the Scott family did eventually gain their freedom in 1857. Newspaper coverage of this decade-long legal battle raised awareness of slavery in non-slavery states and built support for Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.  

The courthouse is the site of many other important 19th-century trials as well, including Virginia Minor’s historic case for a woman’s right to vote in the 1870s.

Quinn Evans Architects has supported the National Park Service’s program to protect and preserve this Civil War-era building over the past twenty years, providing surveys, assessments, and repair and restoration recommendations for interior and exterior improvements.

Click here to visit the National Park Service webpage for more information on Dred Scott and the Old Courthouse at Gateway Arch National Park.

Pullman National Monument Visitor Center

From the mid-19th through -20th centuries, the Pullman Company manufactured and operated railroad cars, and founder George Pullman is credited with developing the sleeper car. The company is also associated with the 1894 Pullman Strike; a national railroad worker strike that made its mark on US labor laws.  

The country’s first planned industrial community in the 1880s, Chicago’s Pullman Historic District now includes the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum dedicated to exploring African American labor history. Unionization of African American workers led to the founding of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters by A. Philip Randolph in 1925. At this time, Pullman’s workforce was 45% porters- making them the largest employer of African Americans in the US. In 1937, Pullman and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters reached the first major labor agreement between a company and African American union. A. Philip Randolph continued working for decades as an activist leader in civil rights and labor organization movements.

A Work in Progress

Designated a National Monument by President Obama, work is now underway to establish a visitor experience at this National Park Service site. The Quinn Evans Architects team is guiding the process to ensure that the landscape design meets the Secretary of Interior standards for cultural landscapes while providing visitor access, opportunities for interpretation of the historic transfer pit, workers gate, and front lawn park, and sustainable stormwater solutions.

Click here to visit the National Park Service webpage for more information on the Pullman National Monument.

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site,  
Monroe Elementary School

Monroe Elementary School in Topeka, Kansas is a registered National Historic Landmark associated with the breakthrough 1954 US Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education. This case became a cornerstone of the mid-20th-century civil rights movement when the justices unanimously ruled that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. This verdict overturned the precedent of the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case, which had previously established the flawed concept of “separate but equal” public facilities.  

In commemoration of this event’s 50th anniversary, Quinn Evans Architects renovated the school building's masonry exterior and sensitively rehabilitated the interior, transforming it into a dynamic interpretive visitor center and regional resource for scholars of desegregation.

Click here to visit the National Park Service webpage for more information on the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site.

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