Imagine, a self-supporting college, here in Cheraw.
Let’s say the campus stretches, and includes all of the property from the corner of Front and Powe streets, down to Kershaw Street, and back to the other side of Second Street. To complete the square, the plot would stretch back to the corner where the Save-Way now stands.
The campus, we’ll imagine, should be able to support around 500 students. Using organic farming methods, the college will have a year-round vegetable garden to help feed the students and staff.
There should be a small cafe as well. One that not only caters to the student population, but offers an open mic atmosphere, with poetry readings and local jazz musicians.
That same cafe could also employ some of the students who may be struggling with tuition.
Such a vision is not imaginary, it’s history. Specifically, Cheraw’s black history.
The Coulter Academy on Second Street in Cheraw began offering college credit in 1933, and continued to do so until 1947. But its history dates back even further.
Established in 1881, Coulter Academy was the first school in Chesterfield County to educate black students.
As the building’s on Cheraw’s Town Green are getting the repairs they deserve, perhaps it’s appropriate, in honor of Black History Month, the community recognizes three other significant buildings that helped mold our town’s history.
The following information, provided by David Sides, director of Tourism and Community Development for the town of Cheraw, is a more in depth history of Coulter Academy, G.W. Long Memorial Presbyterian Church, and the College Inn.
G. W. Long Memorial Presbyterian Church, located at 312 Second St., was built in 1927. It is the second sanctuary to stand on this site. Second Presbyterian Church was organized here in 1881 as an African-American “preaching station.”
The church also served as the Coulter Memorial Academy. Both the church and the school were founded by the Board of Freedmen of the Presbyterian Church USA. The school was the first to serve African-American children in Chesterfield County.
Rev. Dr. George Waldo Long, a graduate of Biddle University (now Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte) moved to Cheraw with his wife, Lillian, in 1908. Long served as pastor of Second Presbyterian Church and principal of Coulter Academy.
Together the Longs worked to increase the population of the church and the school, making needed improvements along the way. Under Long’s guidance, a brick building was constructed behind the church in 1924 to house Coulter Academy. The current church was constructed a few years later, in 1927, replacing the original.
Long died in 1943 and is buried in the graveyard of the church. Sometime after his death, the church changed its name to G.W. Long Memorial Presbyterian Church.
Coulter Academy, located at 353 Second St., was established by the Rev. J.P. Crawford in 1881 as the first school in Chesterfield County to serve African-American children.
The academy began offering junior college credit in 1933, and continued until 1947. The school merged with the public school system in 1949 and operated until 1955.
Still located behind the church, the former school building how hosts Freemasons as Sanctorum Lodge Number 25.
Coulter Academy is listed on the National Register as part of Cheraw’s Historic District. G.W. Long is buried in the graveyard of the church that bears his name.
According to Sides, “Coulter Memorial Academy was the first school for African Americans in Chesterfield County. Begun as a day school by the Rev. J.P. Crawford in 1881, the parochial school was sponsored by the Northern Branch of the Presbyterian Church. The school became a co-educational boarding school with a high school and junior college.”
“The academy had a peak enrollment of 509 in 1943,” said Sides, “with students from five states in attendance.”
“The school campus occupied much of the property along this section of Second Street, including the land across the street from the academy - this included housing for the academy’s president and large gardens to provide all the vegetables to feed the students and the school staff. The academy became a part of the public school system in 1949, and was last used as a school in 1955.”
The College Inn Restaurant, during the days of Coulter Academy, was the only place in town where black people were welcomed to sit and enjoy a hamburger and a shake, according to Sides’ research.
The College Inn Restaurant, located at 324 Second Street, once belonged to Coulter Academy and took its name from the school.
Charles “Neil” Cole, a local teacher and businessman, sought to fill a void by providing a lunch counter that served black students during the time of segregation.
Cole opened the College Inn in 1935 and employed mostly students from Coulter. Cheraw native Dizzy Gillespie is said to have frequented the restaurant.
The College Inn is now operated by Cole’s daughter, Carolyn Cole-Green.