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Peake High School served the African-American community in Arkadelphia (Clark County) for decades. Partially funded by the Rosenwald Fund, the building was constructed in 1928 and eventually became part of the Peake Elementary School campus. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on January 19, 2005.
The first school built for African Americans in Arkadelphia opened in 1891. While educational opportunities for black children had existed in the community since 1869, the Sloan School on West Main was the first purpose-built public educational building. Arkadelphia Baptist Academy and the Bethel Institute (later Shorter College) also operated in the city during this period. The need for a newer building increased as the population of Arkadelphia grew, and the local school board worked with private donors and the Rosenwald Fund (a comprehensive nationwide program, funded primarily by philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, established to improve the quality of public education for African Americans in the early 1900s) to secure the needed funds. The land for the school was sold by the J. Ed Peake family with the agreement that the property retain the Peake name. Peake served as a principal at the Sloan School before his death.
The building faces south to maximize sunlight in the school. One story tall, the H-shaped building is wood framed with a brick veneer. It is topped with an asphalt roof. The administrative offices and auditorium are located in the center of the building. The central portion of the building is fronted by a porch accessible from the ground by three sets of steps. Small additions were constructed to the south side of both the east and west wings of the building. Clusters of windows are on all four sides of the building, with nineteen on the east and west sides and eight located on the front of the building. The building’s interior was originally plaster and lath, and it had hardwood floors. The doors are wood paneled with transom windows.
The building served as the only public school in Arkadelphia for African Americans until 1960, when the growing population forced the construction of another building on the campus. At that time, the building began serving as the elementary school, housing grades one through eight. In 1969, the Arkadelphia school district integrated, and the Peake campus began to serve the entire district as a middle school. Between 1984 and 2001, the building served as a Headstart facility. The building was used as a storage facility for several years before undergoing an extensive renovation, which was completed in 2013. It then began housing the school district’s pre-kindergarten program.
As a way to connect the campus to the original school, the mascot of Peake High School, the buffalo, continues to serve as the mascot of Peake Elementary. A marker at the site was dedicated in 1988.
For additional information:
Arkadelphia Public Schools. “Peake Rosenwald: Past, Present, Future.” 2014. Online at https://issuu.com/arkadelphiaschools/docs/rosenwald_brochure (accessed June 11, 2018).
“Peake High School.” National Register for Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Office, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/CL0673.nr.pdf (accessed June 11, 2018).
Henderson State University
Last Updated 6/11/2018
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