Former Davis High School in Engelhard listed on National Register of Historic Places

Published 11:48 am Monday, May 8, 2023

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Hyde County’s Davis High Ventures Corporation (DHVC) has recently been notified that their quest to have the former Davis High School in Engelhard listed on National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) was approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service.

The NRHP is an official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation, authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

Davis High School (later known as Davis School) was built in 1953 just west of the rural Hyde County fishing village of Engelhard. It served black students from the nearby communities of Engelhard, Fairfield, Middletown, Nebraska, Slocum and St. Lydia. The Engelhard Ridge School, a black school that had opened in 1923, was located on this same site but had closed in 1952. Davis is one of two surviving black school buildings in Hyde County and is owned by the County of Hyde. It holds a significant place in the county’s history.

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During the Hyde County School Boycott (1968-69), Davis High School played an integral part in one of America’s most sustained and successful civil rights protests. Known locally as “The Movement,” the year-long boycott, aided by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, came about after the Hyde County School Board decided to close the only two remaining historically black schools in the county (Davis and O.A. Peay in Swan Quarter). Following the successful boycott, Davis High School remained open and served as an elementary school until its permanent closing in 1999.

A grassroots effort to save the school buildings resulted in the nonprofit DHVC being formed in 2000. Thus began the journey to protect and preserve the building and its rich black history. DHVC’s mission includes the educational development of the youth of Hyde County and they encourage Hyde County residents to pool human and financial resources to enhance the professional, educational, economic and cultural opportunities within the county. DHVC currently leases the building from the county and operated the Davis Youth Recreation and Community Center, a shared-used community kitchen and a fitness center there until damages to the roof forced a temporary closure.

DHVC first began work on the NRHP project in 2020 by submitting a study list application to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Such potential entries are evaluated by the state using criteria to signify the quality and presence of the entry’s place in American history, architecture, archaeology, and/or culture.

Following a review of the application by the state’s National Register Advisory Committee, the property was added to the study list in February 2021.

The County of Hyde pledged the necessary funds to hire a specialized consultant to prepare the nomination that would eventually make its way to the National Park Service who manages the NRHP program which coordinates and supports public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect our country’s historic and archeological resources.

In December 2021, Fearnbach History Services, Inc. of Winston-Salem, was hired to prepare the official nomination. The nomination was presented to SHPO’s National Register Advisory Committee and on February 9, 2023 it was approved to be sent forward to the National Park Service.

Michael Adams, DHVC’s founder and CEO, was excited to learn that the school had been approved. “It’s taken us awhile to get to this point, and we are grateful to all of those who’ve helped us along the path these past three years,” he noted.

Adams went on to say: “Much needed repair work on the older portion of Davis School should begin within a couple of months. We’ve been unable to use that particular building for quite some time, and we are anxious to get back inside and make it a place all of Hyde County can be proud of.”

– Submitted by DHVC