Preserving a Legacy

Project seeks to save historic 1-room Dupree School

Old photograph of school children standing in front of Dupree School“May she never fall into the condition that she is now. We’re never going to let that happen again.” These are the words of Steve Smith, chair of Friends of Dupree School, as he talks about the effort to save the historic one-room schoolhouse that still sits on its original foundation in Ashford, Houston County. Built in 1904, the school served for half a century as a place to educate children from grades 1 through 6.

A typical rural school with a large classroom that could be divided in two areas by using folding doors, the Dupree School operated for a few decades until it was closed sometime around 1950. After that, the state of Alabama transferred ownership of the schoolhouse to the Center Community Club. Dupree School became the club’s main gathering space and site for various social events — from family reunions to home demonstration classes and Saturday night shows where local musicians would entertain the community.

Unfortunately, the building fell into disrepair in 2018 after Hurricane Michael caused extensive damage to the roof, causing the interior of the building to sustain water damage. The problem was worsened by vandalism  as trespassers broke windows, stole furniture and repeatedly violated the door locks to enter the building.

But simply standing by and watching the old schoolhouse crumble into oblivion was not an option for a group of citizens. In 2021, they started an organization called Friends of Dupree School and began working on the Historic Dupree School Preservation Project. The organization only gathers donations to make it possible to restore the school building to its original condition. It relies on volunteers who contribute skills such as hands-on labor, administration and fundraising to preserve the legacy of the Dupree School for the next generation.

Dupree School buildingTheir efforts are already paying off, as the Dupree School is once again a community gathering place for events and often echoes with the strains of bluegrass music. And that’s not all. “Due to our work with the Alabama Historical Commission and the National Park Service, we are on track to see Historic Dupree School added to the National Historic Register,” Smith says. “It’s going to take all of us working together, because we not only want to preserve this building for generations to come, we want to bring life back into its walls.”

Brad Kimbro, chief operating officer at Wiregrass Electric Cooperative, has joined the effort to save the Dupree School as an advisory board member. “The history of Dupree School has meant so much to people who were educated here,” he says. “That education turned into hope, and the generations that have come through this school helped win world wars for us and built infrastructure all across this country and has been part of what some have called the greatest generation. It is very important that we preserve this history.”

To learn more about the Historic Dupree School Preservation Project and ways to get involved, visit Dupree School website or follow the Friends of Dupree School on Facebook.