P.O. Box 607 ~ Buena Vista, VA 24416
The Buena Vista Colored School is a one story, brick structure with a hipped, standing-
seam metal roof. The oldest part, to the west, dates from 1914 and is a four bay, tworoom
section with a brick foundation, a brick water table, and segmental arches over its two front
doors. Two 6 over 6 windows flank the two doors. Due to increased enrollment, a second
room, almost identical to the first, was added to the east in 1926. The brick division
between the two sections is clearly evident in the facades. The 1926 brick section added
one room and changed the front, south facade from four bays to seven with the addition of
a central door and two flanking windows. The building served as the only local school for
African American children in grades 1-7 from 1914 to 1957. It is in generally good condition,
although the roof, guttering, and the inside flooring in the newer section needs attention.
Located at the northern edge of the Buena Vista community, the original schoolhouse,
which was built in 1891 but burned in 1914, shared the site with an African American Baptist
church. The church was moved in 1902, and a new schoolhouse replaced the original
soon after it burned, in 1914. A brick coal and wood storage shed were built out back of the
school and a wooden outhouse was built a short distance away. An indoor water fountain,
a sink and electric lights were eventually installed in the building, but indoor toilets were
The school was officially opened January 25, 1892 with 30 pupils in attendance. Mr. John
E. J. Moore was the principal and head teacher from 1896-1924. Professor Moore taught
for 25 consecutive terms without missing a day or being a minute late for school. In
September 1915, an assistant teacher was hired at a salary of $30.00 per month. Mrs.
Frances Price Ragsdale was hired for the teacher/principal position in 1935 and taught
there until 1957. From the onset of her tenure, students in the first through fifth grades were
taught together in one room of the old building. The two room school was finally closed in
1957 and the building was then used for community purposes until 1992.
The little school served the city's African American school population in grades 1-7 for 44
years. When its doors closed in 1957 and a more modern facility was erected closer to the
center of the African American community, three generations of African American children
had received their elementary education at the Buena Vista Colored School. The building
remains a monument to the past, evoking joyful childhood memories of school friends,
strict but loving and caring teachers, and the 3 R's, but also recalling less joyful days of a
segregated society with a second-class citizenship.
The school has seen only very limited use since its closing in 1957. The Total Action
against Poverty program utilized the original room as a clothing distribution center for a
brief period. The local Office of Civilian Defense used the second room during the 1960s to
provide training for local civil defense volunteers, and the American Red Cross has stored
a field hospital there for emergency use, particularly during times of flooding in the city.