Atlanta-Miller Grade School: Case Statement
Our Three Rs: Restore, Renovate, and Re-Imagine an Historic Icon
In 1936, Atlanta-Miller Grade School was built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to serve a small East Texas community. After 40 years of service as a center for education, the old brick building at the heart of Atlanta, Texas and its historic district found new roles as a multi-purpose and storage facility. But time and the elements eventually took their toll, and two decades ago, the City of Atlanta condemned the building because of the unsafe condition of its floors and supporting walls. This icon of the area's rich history had served generations of students, and many members of our community worried that an important part of Atlanta's cultural legacy might be lost forever.
In 2001, a group of dedicated citizens banded together to save the historic school building and bring it back to life. Atlanta Grade School Friends, a nonprofit organization, was established. The volunteers were determined to not allow the school and its rich history to fade away. The fond memories of the school and the commitment to preserving it have resulted in a new mission and purpose for the iconic building. Atlanta Grade School Friends has raised thousands of dollars to stabilize the school building and to begin renovations. The volunteers have enlisted the endorsement of well-known and respected Texas leaders, they have held special fundraising and visibility-building events, they have encouraged media coverage about the work underway, and they have sent out mailings requesting financial support and more.
Atlanta Grade School Friends is grateful for the 21,000 of volunteer hours donated to the cause from 2001 to 2021. The Independent Sector notes the value of a volunteer hour in Texas is $26.43. That brings the value of our hours to $555,030, an astonishing figure. The passion and commitment of a small group of generous citizens has spared the historic school building from the wrecking ball and salvaged an important part of the history of Atlanta, Texas.
Today, the school's front exterior has been restored to its original color and appearance, and a Texas Historical Commission Medallion was awarded. Restoration has been undertaken on many other parts of the building, and documentation is being prepared to request National Register of Historic Places designation. The building's structural revival is underway and its importance as a treasured icon of Atlanta's cultural heritage is now assured.
The efforts of Atlanta Grade School Friends have been highly successful thus far, generating funding, enthusiasm, and broad-based support for the full preservation of the school and the memories it holds. The organization is now embarking on a new phase of fundraising to complete the restoration and to introduce new programs and activities. The auditorium could be used for stage productions, musical performances, reunions, conferences, receptions, seminars, and other events. Former classrooms in the building could offer space for workforce development classes, artistic expression and art appreciation programs, health and fitness programs, and more. Atlanta-Miller Grade School will become “The Meeting Place” for the community and the region to use and enjoy.
The Campaign for Atlanta-Miller Grade School includes three phases:
- Phase I: Preservation, Planning, and Initial Restoration
- Phase II: Complete Interior Restoration and Facility Use Planning
- Phase III: Finalize Repurposing and Plan for the Centennial Celebration
Phase I is complete, and Phase II is in progress, focusing on intensive planning and budget-setting, fundraising and renovation. Phase III will culminate in 2036, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the school's opening and its new role as a regional educational, cultural, and meeting center.
Former classmates of Atlanta-Miller Grade School have moved on with their lives, and they now reside in locations ranging from East Texas to cities across Texas and America. Wherever they live and whatever they do, however, they are bound together by the memories of attending a small brick school on Miller Street in Atlanta, Texas. Grade school is the foundation of education. The best K-12 education seeks to help students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and in life. Atlanta-Miller Grade School lies at the heart of Atlanta, and it embodies the education, history, and traditions of generations. Hence, our Phase II campaign is not only about bricks and mortar, but also about the lives and stories of the people of Atlanta. The mission of Atlanta Grade School Friends is to ensure this historic school building will always remain a place to mentor and nurture, and to preserve the heritage of Atlanta.
Won't you join us? With your generous partnership and support, we will be able to continue our quest to bring the old school building back to life and open its doors and classrooms to new opportunities for future generations.
- February 23, 2022