Developer plans to restore Bailey-Johnson School to honor history education for Black students

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Chains on the doors and boards over the windows greet visitors to the old, long-abandoned Bailey-Johnson School in Alpharetta.

A planned redevelopment of the property on Kimball Bridge Road promises to preserve the story of segregation and Black history at the site.

[DOWNLOAD: Free WSB-TV News app for alerts as news breaks]

“The best thing they did was built the school, but they built it for the wrong reason: to keep us separate,” said Charles Grogan, a 1965 graduate of the once all-Black school.

Now 74 years old, Grogan has mixed emotions about seeing the condition of the school today. It closed in 1967, and then Fulton County Schools used it as a maintenance facility.

“When they closed it, was kind of heartfelt because a lot of people put their faith in this school. It was our school,” he said.

Commercial developer Bruce Fernald, partnering with the city of Alpharetta and a local historical society, plans to turn the school into office space and build another three-story office building on the site, while preserving the original buildings.

“The school and the gym will look virtually the way they did when they opened in 1950. Our plan is not to change any of the facades at all,” Fernald said.

TRENDING HEADLINES:

The school first opened as “The Alpharetta Colored School” with grades kindergarten through 12. At the request of the first graduating class, the name changed in 1953 to the Bailey-Johnson School, after the man who donated the land for the school and a former slave who pushed for education in the Black community.

The final sale and construction on the property should begin in June. The redevelopment will include some graphics and galleries with old photos showcasing the school’s history. They’re also still considering other ideas to help tell the history of the school and the segregation era of the 1950s and 1960s.

Grogan says he wants to come back and visit, walk the old halls, and bring his 3-year-old great-granddaughter.

“Bring her up and show her where her great-granddaddy went to school,” he said. “That’s something I’m looking forward to.”

[SIGN UP: WSB-TV Daily Headlines Newsletter]

To learn more about the school and its history, the Alpharetta and Old Milton County Historical Society is partnering with the Roswell, Johns Creek and Milton historical societies to present a Black History Month special. The program will examine the history of education for Black students in North Fulton on Sunday, Feb. 27 at 2:00 p.m. at St. James United Methodist Church at 3000 Webb Bridge Road in Alpharetta.

IN OTHER NEWS: