“John L. Dart of Charleston, S.C. takes a leading role in African – American education – post Civil War.”
City Directories and History: The house at 17 Kracke Street is currently used as a rental property, but its historical significance is tied to an important educational
program of the 1890s. During the era of strictly segregated public schools, the municipal schools could not provide a spot for every African American student, and many were crowded out entirely.
In response, John L. Dart (1854-1915) created his own coeducational school to train Charleston’s black children in vocational area including blacksmithing, painting, carpenter, and domestic skills. Mr. Dart had been the valedictorian of the Avery Institute (a school of training teachers), and remained committed to public education throughout his life. In the promotional material for his new school, Mr. Dart described the enterprise this way: “In view of the startling fact that there are more than 5,000 colored children in Charleston without free public school advantages, and knowing that the many boys and girls who are now growing up in ignorance, idleness and crime must become, in future, a large criminal and dependent class, a number of the leading and progressive colored men of this city undertook the work of establishing a school for colored children, where they could be taught not only reading and writing, but the lessons of morals, temperance, sewing, cooking, nursing, housework, carpentering, etc.”
Mr. Dart began raising money for his school, the Charleston Industrial Institute, in 1894, and he bought three lots from Joseph F. Kracke for $700 in 1895. The first building he erected was a two-story wooden building known as Dart Hall which included classroom space and a kindergarten area. The building, costing $1200, was 25 feet wide and 50 feet deep and could accommodate 300 people. In early 1896, a workshop with a similar footprint was added to the rear of that property using volunteer labor so that the cost was kept to just $400.
The school was an enormous success and quickly needed a new building to hold all of the students and facilities. A fundraising campaign began in 1897. In May 1898, the cornerstone was laid for a much larger two-story building (62 feet by 85 feet) with 12 classrooms, an audience room, and a library was built that could serve 900 students. Fundraising continued throughout the construction, and the new building had its grand opening on Thanksgiving Day of 1899. The campus’s three buildings included a variety of educational spaces. (The third building was no longer needed after the John L. Dart Library on upper King Street was opened, and the old building was demolished in 1969.)
Perhaps because the new building could host all of the school activities or perhaps to help with the finances of the school, the smaller building at 17 Kracke Street was converted to a residential use early on. Rev. and Mrs. Dart occupied the building themselves from 1904 until 1911, sometimes with another teacher as a boarder. Soon after, the house seems to have become a more traditional duplex with Unit A and Unit B being occupied by blue collar workers and their families with no apparent connection to the school.
Researched and written by Kevin R. Eberle – 2016
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 “The Colored Industrial School,” Charleston News & Courier, Nov. 23, 1894 at 3
 “Industrial Education,” Charleston News & Courier, April 28, 1895, at 3
 “To Make Them Self-Supporting,” Charleston News & Courier, May 28, 1896, at 5
 “Elevating the Negro,” Charleston News & Courier, Nov. 13, 1897, at 5
 “Industrial School,” Charleston Evening Post, May 11, 1898, at 4
 “Highly Endorsed,” Charleston News & Courier, May 14, 1899, at 11
 “Our Duty to the Negro,” Charleston News & Courier, Dec. 6, 1899, at 3
 “Mr. Kaufman’s Mission,” Charleston News & Courier, Feb. 16, 1900, at 12
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