This former segregated school is an important site of African American history in Greater Cincinnati. Located in Glendale, Ohio, Eckstein School was built in 1915 and operated as a segregated school until 1958. Members of the Glendale community, neighbors, and graduates of the school are working to save the historic structure and transform it into the Eckstein Cultural Arts Center.
The Eckstein School in the National Historic Landmark village of Glendale Ohio is a highly significant site of African American history. It operated as a segregated public elementary school until 1958, four years after Brown vs Board of Education. The building has been the subject of a decades-long struggle by Eckstein supporters and alumni. The most recent threat to the site involved a zoning request to demolish more than half of the building. Cincinnati Preservation Association, with encouragement from the Eckstein supporters, purchased the building and will assist in the creation of the Eckstein Cultural Arts Center.
This community led project will activate the historic building a local cultural arts center while also presenting the rich history of the African American community in Glendale, a village founded by abolitionists. The underground railroad activity in the Village resulted in many African Americans settling there prior to the Civil War. The project is uniquely suited to present the history of segregation in public schools. The Eckstein Cultural Arts Center will also serve as a center of activity for the African American neighborhood and the Village of Glendale.
William Parrish, Executive Director of the ECAC, welcomed the purchase by CPA stating “After working for years to secure the Eckstein School, our supporters could not be any happier! Cincinnati Preservation Association has come forward with vision, action and funding! They are a welcome partner in this effort to bring the Eckstein School back to once again serve as the center of community life. It will be a site that expands the story of the Village of Glendale by celebrating its rich African American heritage”
More About the Eckstein School
Eleanor Eckstein, the namesake of Eckstein School began teaching black children in a barn behind her house. The community valued Miss Eckstein’s work, first as a volunteer and later as a paid teacher. To support Eleanor Eckstein’s work, Glendale opened its first school “for the education of the colored children,” in 1870. This was known as the “Icehouse School” due to the building it occupied. Eleanor stepped down in 1879 so that an African American could take her place.
Arnett law, passed in 1887 by the Ohio Legislature required public education to provide the same educational opportunities for students of all races. Glendale complied by closing the colored school and sending Glendale’s black children to the larger public school on Congress Avenue.
In 1915 the Glendale school system returned to a segregated system. John J. Burchenal, a Procter and Gamble executive and member of the school board, donated the Verdin house at 42 Washington Avenue “to provide additional room for the colored children of the first five grades.” The new school was named in honor of Eleanor Eckstein.
In 1929 a gymnasium was added and the entire exterior of the structure was covered in stucco. This design, by noted architect Stanley Matthews, unified the additions and created the Mission Style appearance seen today.
The school operated as an African American elementary school until 1958. Four years after the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision a lawsuit filed by the NAACP led to closure of the school and students began attending the new Princeton School District facilities.