National Park Service Awards Grant to James Solomon Russell–Saint Paul’s College Museum & Archives in Brunswick County

Published August 31, 2021

Department of Historic Resources (www.dhr.virginia.gov) For Immediate Release August 31, 2021

Contact: Randy Jones, DHR Randy.jones@dhr.virginia.gov

St. Paul’s College, a historically Black institution dating to the 1880s, closed in 2013; DHR will disburse and administer this NPS grant that enables JSR-SPCMA to document history of St. Paul’s and Brunswick County

RICHMOND – The National Park Service has awarded the James Solomon Russell–Saint Paul’s College Museum and Archives in the Brunswick County seat of Lawrenceville a $46,970 Underrepresented Community Grant to expand and update its historical records and documentation about St. Paul’s, a historically Black college dating to the 1880s that closed in 2013, and the county. The Virginia Department of Historic Resources will disburse and administer the NPS grant, which will enable the museum to convene a “History Day” focusing on Lawrenceville and Brunswick County, conduct oral history interviews about St. Paul’s College and the county, and support the goal of listing the one-time campus as a historic district on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places. The three-year grant project is set to begin in the spring of 2022:
  • Year One will see the grant support gathering oral history interviews about St. Paul’s College and Brunswick County during a “History Day” event at the Brunswick County Conference Center. The Lawrenceville community will be invited to bring memorabilia, historic photos, documents, and other items, and participate in brief interviews about their memories of the area’s history.
  • Years One & Two will see the James Solomon Russell–Saint Paul’s College Museum and Archives continue gathering individual oral histories, with as many as 15 interviews to be conducted for the project. All interviews will be transcribed and digitized for posterity, preserving resources for future use by historians and researchers.
  • Years Two & Three call for updating the state and national registers’ nomination form for St. Paul's College. In 1979, three St. Paul’s College buildings—the Saul Building, Principal’s Residence, and Memorial Chapel—were listed individually on the state and national registers. This final phase of the NPS-funded project will document historic buildings on campus dating up to 1972-73. Listing a historic district on the state and national registers would make historically-contributing buildings eligible for rehabilitation using state and federal historic tax credits.
The Rev. James Solomon Russell (1857-1935), an Episcopal deacon who was born enslaved, founded St. Paul’s as a parochial school in 1883, as no schools existed then for African Americans in Brunswick County. The liberal arts college began with the establishment of St. Paul’s Normal and Industrial School in 1888. The Principal’s Residence was built in 1900 and the Memorial Chapel was completed in 1904. Students in the high school program transferred to James Solomon Russell High School after it was built in the 1950s, during Virginia’s era of racial segregation. The Normal School was renamed Saint Paul’s College in 1957. While the college closed in 2013, a robust network of alumni and former faculty and staff still resides in Lawrenceville and Brunswick County. "DHR is extremely pleased that further research into the historical significance of St. Paul’s College and Brunswick County will be supported by this grant,” said DHR Director Julie V. Langan. “We look forward to listing the former St. Paul’s College campus as a historic district on the state and national registers, one of the goals of the NPS grant.” In 2020, the General Assembly passed a resolution designating March 28 as James Solomon Russell Day in Virginia. Other organizations and figures in the commonwealth have recognized the importance of the history behind Saint Paul’s College, including the Virginia Department of Education and former Virginia First Lady and Secretary of Education Anne Holton. The Underrepresented Community Grant Program aims to diversify the nominations submitted to the National Register of Historic Places to include historic properties and sites associated with underrepresented communities around the country. Grants are provided by the Historic Preservation Fund and administered by the National Park Service. The Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) uses revenue from federal oil leases on the Outer Continental Shelf, assisting with a broad range of preservation projects without expending tax dollars, with the intent to mitigate the loss of a nonrenewable resource to benefit the preservation of other irreplaceable resources. Administered by the NPS, HPF funds may be appropriated by Congress to support a variety of historic preservation projects to help preserve the nation’s cultural resources. James Solomon Russell–Saint Paul’s College Museum and Archives was one of 17 sites in 14 states to receive an Underrepresented Community grant. The grant effort resulted from a partnership between the Brunswick Industrial Development Authority Board of Directors, Mike Dotti, Executive Director and the JSR-SPC Museum and Archives Board of Directors. Key personnel involved in the execution of the grant agreement for the JSR-SPC Museum and Archives include staff members of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, and:
  • James Grimstead, director and board chairman of the JSR-SPC Museum and Archives;
  • Bobby Conner, vice-chair of the JSR-SPC Museum and Archives, as well as other board members;
  • Museum volunteers and Saint Paul’s College alumni; and
  • Community residents, local elected officials; and, local appointed officials.
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