Three miles south of downtown Paducah stands a simple structure that many would think in hopeless need of repair. Paducah native Manuel Jones, however, sees a symbol of past and future education known as Union Station School.
Union Station School was built in 1928 with the assistance of Julius Rosenwald, a businessman and philanthropist who established the Rosenwald Fund in 1917. The fund donated more than $4 million to support education of African-American children and led to the development of about 5,000 schools throughout the South.
McCracken County had four Rosenwald schools, but the only one left standing is Union Station School.
Jones attended the school in the late 1940s and early 1950s from first through eighth grade. The school closed after the McCracken County schools integrated in 1966. When he returned to Paducah in the 1970s from his career in the Navy as an aviation electrician, he sought to restore the school and its grounds as a state park that "would show a Rosenwald school and the history of them."
"The school is a part of my heritage," said Jones. "It shows the history of American education."
Located at 3138 Roosevelt St. - now known as Flagman Drive - off Poole Road, the school is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is property of Union Station School Historic Park Incorporated, a non-profit charity. Jones is its director.
He plans to restore the school to its state in 1966, with a large, single classroom, two cloak rooms, a kitchen area and large windows.
With no access to electricity, the school was built on the points of a compass with large windows so that natural light could shine in from the East and West.
Jones seeks to build baseball and soccer fields on the land surrounding the school.
"There was no place to play in the county when I was young," Jones said.
He also plans to build an auditorium for public use.
"The auditorium will be used for presentations, such as projects working to be on the National Register or any other projects associated with education," he said.
Donations for the restoration project can be sent to the Union School Historic Park Incorporated, P.O. Box 416, Paducah, KY 42002. For more information, contact Manuel Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Katie Paxton, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8655.