currently being built at Eighth Avenue and Merchant Street
By Nick Browne
More than 30 years after being torn down, James Adams School will have a permanent place in Coatesville, in the same place where the school once stood.
A monument to honor the one-time all African-American school is currently under construction at the corner of Merchant Street and Eighth Avenue. Once constructed, the monument will house the original bell from the school, which had been in the possession of the late Elizabeth Gibson, the last principal of the school.
Why, after more than 30 years, is a monument finally being built in memory of the school?
"Every year we have a picnic where all the alumni come and socialize, it is always the last Saturday in June" said James Adams alumni Paul Johnson. "The Alumni Committee decided to put a monument up once we found the bell."
According to Johnson, the alumni committee stumbled upon the bell.
"It was an accident," Johnson said. "I had gone up to Mrs. Gibson's to talk her into coming to the picnic. She said she had the bell. I asked her if I could have it to see if we can make a monument, to remind the kids of what this was."
In order for the monument to be built, numerous arrangements had to be made and approvals and permission from city council had to be granted.
"We got permission from the two churches because this their land," Johnson said. "Then we went to the historical society and the city council to get permission."
Prior to being torn down in the late 1960s, John Adams was renamed to John Harris after the school was integrated. The school was then sold to a builder who wanted to turn it into housing, but according to Johnson, couldn't use it because of asbestos problems. After that, it was torn down.
"I guess they didn't have any use for it," Johnson said.
CAT Brandywine teacher, Cliff Heisey and his students, Jason Flagg, Charles Revert, and John Umble are constructing the monument. Once completed, the monument will stand around seven feet tall and will, not only house the original bell, but also include two original cornerstones from the school building.
"We were given two cornerstones this morning by Ronald Birch," Johnson said. "There will be plexiglass around the bell, so they can see it from all four sides."
The location where the school used to stand and where the monument is being built has been dedicated to the bell.
"Now that it is dedicated to the bell, it can never be torn down," said Johnson.
There will be a ceremony to officially unveil the monument June 24 at the annual alumni picnic.