Site Prep has Begun on the Garnet House

The first Garnet High School

Site preparation has begun on the first home being built by Kent Attainable Housing at the College Avenue property that was the site of the original Garnet High School. Kent Attainable Housing is a new non-profit that is breaking the cycle of poverty by building affordable homes to help low-income, working families become homeowners. Mayor Chris Cerino, stopping by to check on the groundbreaking, shared, “This is a very exciting project that is a win-win for this community.  It’s a fantastic example of strategic infill development for the Town, the neighborhood will benefit from the improvement of a vacant lot, and this is an amazing opportunity for a limited income family to move into their own home.”

The new dwelling will be a two story, three-bedroom home designed by Dave and Ed Minch in the style of Chestertown’s colonial vernacular architecture. The pre-fabricated house will be delivered to the property the third week of October, and then volunteer teams will complete the exterior of the home. ShoreRivers has donated a river-friendly landscaping concept and native plants which volunteers will plant. The family matched with the house will receive homeowner and financial education to prepare them for home ownership.

Built in 1916, Garnet High School was named for Henry Highland Garnet, a prominent Black abolitionist who was born into slavery in Kent County. Although this site is on the Historical Society of Kent County’s African American walking tour, there is no marker to let you know where it is. To commemorate its historic significance, Kent Attainable Housing is collaborating with the Good Seed project and Stories of the Chesapeake to place an interpretive sign near the sidewalk.

Garnet High School graduated its first class of five students in 1925.  One year later the legendary Elmer T. Hawkins became a teacher there and later succeeded George T. Grant as principal, a position he held until Garnet High School closed in 1967. That year marked the end of segregation in Kent County, and Hawkins became principal of Chestertown Middle School.

Photo 1: Shown left to right — Ronnie Edelman, David Biehler, Muriel Cole, Chris Cerino, Lani Seikaly and Ed Minch. (Participant photos were taken separately by Zane Carter and merged photographically to comply with socially distancing guidelines.)

The father of Carolyn Brooks, a Kent Attainable Housing Board member, was a graduate of Garnet, and his 1947 high school yearbook summarized the history of the school, calling 1916 “a history-making epoch. The people of the county felt the need for a high school keenly, and the folk of Chestertown were desirous of better facilities. So under the leadership of Mts. Emma Miller (County Superintendent of Colored Schools from 1911 to 1922), each community taxed itself a certain sum of money which was to be used to purchase ground. Mrs. Miller contacted Mr. William Hubbard and the land upon which the school now stands was bought.” The yearbook narrative went on to say that a bill for approval was introduced into the State General Assembly which, after a hearing, appropriated the funds needed.

More information about Kent Attainable Housing can be found on their website at KentAttainableHousing.org.

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