June 2016: A nomination put forth by Chowan Discovery, historic preservation consultant Joanna Braswell and Pleasant Plains Baptist Church has resulted in the placing of Pleasant Plains School on the National Register of Historic Places. This was just in time for the 150th anniversary of the school’s founding!
The school was founded in 1866 by Pleasant Plains Baptist Church. Among the builders of the first school house were Marmaduke Hall, James Reynolds and church founders Jesse Keene, Willis Weaver and William Jones Sr. William David Newsom, who later served in the N.C. House of Representatives, was the first teacher. Within 30 years, Pleasant Plains School and its leaders were the parents of four other schools: Union School, Cotton School, Walden School and the everlasting C.S. Brown School. Within a few years of the school’s founding, it began part of the Hertford County public school system although the church continued to own the land up to now.
Before the nomination process began, N.C. State Office of Historic Preservation agents, Scott Powers and Reid Thomas, visited the current Pleasant Plains School house and community. This school house, which succeeded the 1866 one, is a Rosenwald building funded in 1920. The school closed in 1950 and the church bought the 3-room schoolhouse from the Hertford County public school system for one dollar in 1951.
After making repairs to the schoolhouse, Pleasant Plains Church added in-house plumbing, gas heating electricity, a kitchen and a bathroom. Playground equipment was purchased for the grounds. Pleasant Plains Schoolhouse then became a community center and fellowship hall, hosting Vacation Bible School programs, the Pleasant Plains Boy Scouts, family reunions, teas, parties, picnics, activities for the Hertford County Office of Aging, and a summer camp for a Washington, D.C. school.
Joanna Braswell, a consultant from Smithfield, Virginia, provided guidance, historical research, architectural assessments and the final writing for the nomination. Using interviews with former students and document research, most of the nomination’s history section was produced by Marvin T. Jones of Chowan Discovery. Part of the research included support for the documentary film ROSENWALD. Jones met several times with the film’s director Aviva Kempner, contributed a blog post about Pleasant Plains School, and spoke to theater audiences at the first public showings of the film. Jones also presented the school’s history at the second National Rosenwald Schools Conference in Durham.
Support for this milestone was made possible by support from the Pleasant Plains Baptist Church deacon and trustees boards, led by Reverend W. Robert Ashe, Deacon Dr. Terry Hall and Trustee McCoy Pierce, and the Chowan Discovery donors, volunteers and advisors.