By Randy Jaye
On Feb. 6, the Florida National Register Review Board unanimously approved my nomination for the Espanola Schoolhouse for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
I was in attendance for the Florida National Register Review Board meeting in Tallahassee, made comments and answered a few questions about the Espanola Schoolhouse.
The Florida Division of Historical Resources will now send the nomination to the National Park Service in Washington, D.C. for final approval by the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places.
The final decision should be announced by the end of April or early May.
The Espanola Schoolhouse will be the first piece of Flagler County black history to be recognized nationally for its historical significance to education and black ethnic heritage.
The Espanola Schoolhouse is a one-story, one-room rural school building that has survived from the Jim Crow racial -segregation era. It is the last standing one-room schoolhouse in Flagler County. It is located at 98 Knox Jones Avenue in Espanola (the mailing address lists Bunnell).
The Espanola Schoolhouse operated as a segregated, Flagler County elementary school for blacks only. From 1950 to 1957 it had just one full-time schoolteacher, Essie Mae Giddens. Mrs. Giddens arranged all eight grades into separate groups in the one-room building and taught different lessons to each group throughout the day. The community provided several volunteers and teacher’s aides who assisted with the building operations and teaching lessons. After the 1957 school year, the Flagler County School Board moved the first through eighth grade students in the Espanola area to another black-only segregated elementary school in Bunnell.
From 1958 to 1970, the Espanola Schoolhouse operated as an independent kindergarten for the Espanola area. Teacher Ida Mae Wiley taught approximately 30 children each school year over that span. The Espanola Schoolhouse building was closed, at least as a school, at the end of the 1970 school year.
Starting in 2001, a community renovation project led by Rev. Frank Giddens and Queenie Jackson led to considerable exterior and interior repairs. Air conditioning was installed and a bathroom added within the building, which enabled it to be open to the public as a clubhouse or youth center.
Today, the Espanola Schoolhouse retains its historic appearance and character and now serves the community as the St. Paul Youth Center, which is used for academic tutoring, a social center and summer camp for the area’s disadvantaged youth.
Randy Jaye is the author, most recently, of “Perseverance: Episodes of Black History from the Rural South.” A member of the Flagler County Historical Society, he has also written a centennial history of Flagler County.