City Councilman Anthony Coleman read the marker aloud to the approximately 50 attendees, who included about 30 former students and teachers as well as Mayor Steve Tumlin, City Council members, Marietta Housing Authority commissioners and other dignitaries
“The Lemon Street Grammar School opened in 1894. The original wooden structure was funded by the Marietta school board and designed to educate Negro students,” he read. “The high school was built nearby in 1930 at the urging of Ursula Jenkins. Professor M.J. Woods became principal of both schools in 1929 and led the high school until 1962. Lemon Street and Marietta high schools merged in 1967 and the Lemon Street building was demolished. The new grammar school was built at the direction of City Council in 1951 and operated as a school until 1971.”
Marietta Associate Superintendent Dayton Hibbs said the structure, which now houses the Hattie G. Wilson branch of the Cobb County Library, is “a very special” place.
“This is part of our rich history that goes (back) over 100 years,” he said about the school district’s 1892 roots.
George Miller, a member of the Lemon Street High School class of 1965, read a proclamation from District 13 state Rep. David Scott.
“‘This institution of early learning had the best leadership of its day. The vision and energy of its leadership had always been to fulfill its mission to educate and assure the advancement of our future professionals,’” Miller said.
Despite less than ideal conditions at the school, its alumni keep its spirit alive, Miller said.
“Even without the best of equipment, you press on. We learned obstacles become opportunities,” he said. “We didn’t always have the best equipment, but we were proud of what we had and we were the best at what we did.”
Historian Tom Scott of Kennesaw State University read then-Journal reporter Bill Kinney’s account of the elementary school’s opening in March 1951.
“‘What a contrast the new facility is with the former half-century-old, two-story frame building, which was condemned as a fire hazard and was a disgrace to the city … The difference between the old broken-down grammar school and the modern new building is indescribable,’” Tom Scott read.
The Lemon Street Heritage Group, which was formed in 2008, wishes to restore the grammar school to its original condition.
“Today, you see the first step in bringing this dream to reality,” Miller said.
The marker was a topic of debate at the May 15 meeting of the Marietta City Schools board, when the Lemon Street group took issue with the wording on the marker, which included the phrase “African-American students.”
“If you had gone to Lemon Street and called somebody an African-American, they wouldn’t have had a clue,” Miller said at the time. “During that time, the word ‘African-American’ was not even around. Didn’t know anything about it. So we thought in order to be historically correct, we did not want to use the title of ‘African-American high school’ because that’s not what it was. It was the Negro high school, and since it’s our history, and we were going to display our history, we wanted to do it the right way.”
The board voled 5-1, with Stuart Fleming opposed, to purchase the new sign with the revised phrasing.
The Lemon Street group paid for the second $1,200 marker.