The New Monrovia One-Room Schoolhouse is located adjacent to the Costella Williams Learning Center at 4455 SE Murray Street in New Monrovia Park. Constructed circa 1930, the 25 x 30 foot wood-frame building is a vital part of Martin County’s history. It was one of the first schools built in Martin County to educate African-American children. Its former students fondly remember it as, “Mrs. Williams School.” Costella Williams, the distinguished educator and teacher most associated with the One-Room Schoolhouse, taught there until around 1960.
According to an article in the Florida Cracker Sampler entitled Costella Williams and Her One Room Schoolhouse: “Little did Costella Williams realize when she came to teach in rural Martin County in September of 1929, that she would stay more than 50 years to educate some of the most successful and prominent people in Martin County’s history.”
It was initially thought that this storm-damaged school, which is so important to the African-American community and Martin County, could not be saved. However, the General Services Division of Martin County conducted an extensive reconstruction and restoration effort designed to preserve this historical treasure for future generations. The renovation cost was $115,000. The major funding sources for the repairs came from an insurance settlement and district funds provided by Commissioner Sarah Heard. Some Fixed Asset Repair funds were also used. There was never a document or Certificate of Occupancy for the building. It is believed to be the only surviving one-room schoolhouse on the Treasure Coast.
After meeting with local residents to discuss the renovation of the school, which was moved back close to its original location in the 1970s, its original colors were restored. The school received a new roof, new doors, a fresh coat of paint inside, and three of the original walls were saved. The two front doors on opposite sides of the building, where boys and girls once lined up separately, are once again dark brown. Inside, the wood floor is now the original dark color and lanterns once again hang from the dark ceiling. Green chalk boards cover the original locations on the wall. The stage has been rebuilt and will hold a teacher’s desk and a piano. Wooden desks that copy the historic design were built by carpentry students at South Fork High School. A potbellied stove, like the one Mrs. Williams used to cook corned beef and cabbage on, is located in front of the stage on the left side. The flag and flag pole, so important to Mrs. Williams, and her students, once again stands outside of the school.
On March 9, 2013, the restoration of the New Monrovia One-Room Schoolhouse was celebrated at a ribbon cutting ceremony in New Monrovia Park and was attended by many of its former students. Martin County plans to use the restored schoolhouse as a living history experience for generations of students to come.