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Ball gets rolling to have Baltimore School declared an historic site

Feb 06, 2020 11:57AM ● By Carolyn Henwood

Owner Fred Glenn on the porch of the Baltimore School in Cramerton that he wants to see declared an historic site and preserved. Photo by Alan Hodge

By Alan Hodge

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Work to have the circa 1925 Baltimore School in Cramerton declared an historic site is moving forward. 

At its January 23, 2020 meeting, the Town of Cramerton Commissioners passed a resolution giving the school a local historic designation. Now the issue will go to the Gaston County Board of Commissioners for their consideration. The historical significance of school has also received approval from the North Carolina Dept. of Archives and History.

But wait. Where and what is the Baltimore section of Cramerton and what purpose did the school serve?

Baltimore is a tiny corner of Cramerton wedged between the base of Cramer Mtn. and the South Fork River. It is where the town’s African-America citizens mostly lived. Baltimore St. is not much over 100 yards long, with a couple of even shorter side streets branching off and a dead end. There are just a couple dozen small homes on the narrow pavement, most of which were built during the 1920s by Stuart Cramer. These days, a flock of free range chickens forms a cackling and crowing welcoming committee as you drive along.

The Baltimore School served African-American children first through eighth grades. From there, the kids went to Reid High in Belmont. The school continued to operate until until integration came along. Once that happened, the African-American students from Baltimore were transferred to schools in Belmont and Cramerton.

The school was nothing fancy. A potbellied stove provided heat. Students sat at wooden desks. There were no steps. Kids had to jump off the porch and get pulled back up by classmates. Books were second hand ones from white schools.

Today, the Baltimore School is an abandoned wooden building with basically one large room. There’s a porch on the front corner. Inside, there are several original benches, one desk, and a couple of old washing machines. The windows are blacked and there’s soot on the ceiling. On the bright side, the original clapboards and foundation are in good shape. The roof was replaced several years ago. In other words, a solid core is there for a restoration project.

The building is owned by 75 year old Fred Glenn, a Vietnam vet. He was born at 555 Patterson Street in Baltimore and currently lives in Charlotte. He comes back to Baltimore and tends a garden there.

Glenn’s deep love of Baltimore led him to buy the school building from Burlington in 2003 and is currently driving his desire to see it preserved.

“There are a lot of memories here,” Glenn said. “My mom Mary Lucinda Adams and aunt Helen Falls Holmes went to school here. When I was growing up in the 1950s, we used to come see movies on Tuesdays at the school and sit on the benches that are still inside. Fred Kirby (WBTV singing cowboy star) would come and put on shows for us. He would park his horse trailer at the end of the street and ride Calico to the neighborhood. We also had fish fries.”

Glenn has a dream for the future of the Baltimore School.

“If you think about it, the school was our community center,” he said. “I would like to see it preserved.”

That’s going to take money. 

“Right now I am in the beginning phases of seeking grant funding to help with restoration,” Glenn said. “I want to see the school preserved possibly as a museum for  current and future generations in memory of those who attended it.”