The Rock Hill Herald reported on Dec. 19, 1896 – “An election will be held in Yorkville next Thursday to decide whether or not to issue $4,000. in bonds for the erection and equipage of a graded school at that place.”
City Directories and History: Under the auspices of Bethel Presbytery, the Yorkville Female College was founded in 1852, opened in 1854 and built a three-story brick school on the site of the present McCelvey Center. During the Civil War, college classes continued on and off-site as the building housed refugees who fled the war in lower part of the state. A private boys’ and girls’ school operated here 1882 to 1888. Legislation by the state of South
Carolina in late 1888 established a system of free schools. The building was purchased by the Town of Yorkville to house what became the second public graded school system in the state. It burned in 1900 and a new brick school was constructed in 1902 on the original stone foundation. That building was integrated into the design of the present structure, when an east wing and theater were added in 1922. The York Graded School became an elementary school after a new high school was built in 1951. It was renamed McCelvey Elementary School in 1973 to honor George C. McCelvey (1888-1973), who served as principal from 1912 to 1948. The last day of school in the building was June 4, 1987. Since then, it has been used by the community and the Culture & Heritage Museums of York County to house the Historical Center of York County and cultural materials from the region. [Courtesy of the Yorkville Historical Society – 2002]
Another account states; “In 1855, the Presbytery began building a structure “sufficient to accommodate three hundred
pupils.” The new building, 100 feet long and 57 feet wide, became the Yorkville Female Institute, one of the most widely known educational institutions in the area. The school prospered until 1861, when it closed during the Civil War in order to house refugees fleeing the lower part of South Carolina. A year after the war ended, the school reopened. Boys were admitted into the institution beginning in 1879. In 1888 the school ceased operations as a private academy and became Yorkville Graded School.” [Historic Architectural Survey of York – 2008]
A TRAVELER’S JOURNAL – 1858
by Louise Pettus – An unidentified traveler left the village of Pacolet near Spartanburg in 1858 on his way to Yorkville, the county seat of York District He kept a journal that is short but interesting. He crossed the Broad River at Howell’s Ferry and noted that “fingerboards” pointed the way. Fingerboards were required by state law at every crossroad so that travelers would not be inconvenienced. Some of the sign painters were quite artistic and constructed a pointer that looked like a hand with the finger pointing; others merely cut to the board to a point on one end or painted an arrow with the name of the next town and the number of miles. Because mischief makers were likely to turn the fingerboards around, many roads had permanent stone markers. The traveler noted that there were many hills to Yorkville which he called one of the prettiest towns in the state. He stayed at an inn run by Colonel Stowe, “the jolliest of landlords.” He was surprised at how narrow the main street of Yorkville was but thought there were many handsome buildings. He especially was impressed with the “elegant dwellings.” The Female Academy (on East Jefferson Street and now called the McCelvey Building) was a special object of local pride along with the new buildings of the Kings Mountain Military Academy under the direction of Micah Jenkins and Asbury Coward…… (Information courtesy of and from: YCGHS – The Quarterly Magazine)
The McCelvey Center was the home of the Historical Center of York County for many years until it moved next door into their new archival facilities in 2014. York County and the Museum Commission hope to utilize the space for potential offices and exhibits.
The Herald reported on May 24, 1902 – “Architect H.E. White went to Yorkville Tuesday to submit plans and specifications for the new school building. The plans were accepted, estimated cost is $12,000.” On July 2, 1920 the Herald further reported, “The contract for the YV Graded School has been let to the Keller and Company. The building is to cost $12,500., Mr. H.E. White of Rock Hill is the architect.” (Keller and Co., at 134 West Main Street. John J. Keller and J.R. Logan).
The Herald reported on Oct. 4, 1902 – “J.W. Westerland has secured the contract to cover the Yorkville Graded School building. The roof will be of slate and the work will commence next week.”
The Record reported on Jan. 21, 1907 – “A bill was passed by the S.C. House to provide a practice school building at Winthrop College. Also – “Dr. D. J. Brimm former supt. of the Catawba Military Academy was elected principal of the Yorkville Graded School.”
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ADDITIONAL DATA: An early description of the Yorkville Female Institute from an ad in the Yorkville Enquirer stated, “The building is of brick and large; being about 125 feet long, by 60 feet wide. Besides a large hall for examinations, it contains recitation rooms, and a large number of private rooms for boarding purposes. The building is in good repair, and at least forty or fifty students may be accommodated with boarding in the Institution. The building is located in a beautifUl grove, in the suburbs of the village.”5 Photographs and drawings of the Yorkville Female Institute show a three story brick building with four free standing columns across the front, lots of windows, wide steps leading up to the second level, and a parapet with a bell at the front of the building. Classes were held in this building as early as fall 1855.6 School ads in the Yorkville Enquirer from the 1850s and 1860s identify the school as the Yorkville Female College.
The school offered classes in spelling, reading, grammar, geography, collegiate department, piano, harp, guitar, embroidery, drawing and French. Rates of tuition were as follows: $6 for spelling and reading, $10 for grammar and geography, $15 for collegiate, $20 for piano, harp or guitar, $10 for embroidery and drawing, and $15 for French.7 Students of the Institution were assured in a Yorkville Enquirer ad dated December 20, 1860, “We have ONLY ONE Teacher from the North – die accomplished Instructress in French. She is from Philadelphia and has not one drop of abolition blood in her veins.”8 The school remained in session until 1863. Ads from January 28, 1863 through February 25, 1863 state, “The Exercises of this Institution will be resumed on Monday, the 2d day of February next.” Classes resumed in February 1864 and an ad dated January 20, 1864 lists the rates of tuition as “1st Primary Department $25, 2nd Primary Department $30, Collegiate $35, Music on the Piano $35…payable in advance by Cash or Note or Country Produce.”9 Students were assured that boarding was available with some of the best families…. HISTORY OF THE MCCELVEY CENTER By Nancy Sambets (Information courtesy of and from: YCGHS – The Quarterly Magazine, March 06)
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