Councill High School Alumni and City Announce Renovation Plans for Historic School
Published on August 25, 2016
The William Hooper Councill High School Alumni Association joined Mayor Tommy Battle and representatives from the Huntsville Housing Authority today in announcing a plan to preserve portions of the historic school property on St. Clair Avenue and to memorialize the site as the first public school for African-American students in the city.
Alumni Association president Brenda Barley Chunn, class of 1966, revealed conceptual drawings by Fuqua & Partners Architects that would save the original gym and create a public memorial and garden honoring Councill and civil rights leaders.
Chunn noted that it has been 150 years since the doors to the first Councill School opened and 50 years since the closing of the school on the St. Clair site.
“Today marks a new beginning in the legacy of William Hooper Councill High School,” said Chunn. “It was on this site that generations of African-Americans acquired the education and training that would prepare them to enjoy better quality life experiences. These doors at Councill High School were the only doors open to them.”
When segregation ended, the abandoned Councill High School property fell on hard times. Structural engineers have now deemed a portion of the building unsafe and beyond repair. Asbestos abatement teams are now removing hazardous materials and taking down the unsafe structure and retaining the primary school building and gymnasium.
“The site of William Hooper Councill High School is an important part of Huntsville’s history, and the City is committed to creating a memorial here that will preserve the legacy of Councill, its alumni, and the spirit of hope, faith and perseverance.”
The estimates the renovations and gardens will cost about $8 million. While funding hasn’t fully been identified, Chunn and Mayor Battle say they are working to secure funding through a public-private partnership and grants. The City has committed the proceeds from the sale of land in the downtown area to this project.
“Our experience revealed that we remain a viable, deeply committed community still possessing all of the strength, faith and character instilled in earlier times,” said Chunn.
William H. Councill was the founder and first president of what became Alabama A & M in 1875. A former slave, Councill rose to become a lawyer, newspaper editor, legislator and Alabama Supreme Court Justice.