Paul Laurence Dunbar School
Now called the Dunbar Community School, the former Paul Laurence Dunbar School is historically significant as being the first high school for blacks in Fort Myers. Between 1927, when it was built, and 1962, it was also the only high school in the city for black children. The building is also a good example of Mission Revival architecture. It features a stucco exterior, curvilinear parapets (on the roofline and above the main entrance), and diamond-pattern brickwork. The school was named after black poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) who was known nationally and around the world for his poetry. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.
Backstory and Context
The first school for black children in Fort Myers was established in 1887 and it offered classes from grades one to six. Over time, it grew. Initially it operated for three months and then five months by 1900. In 1908, seventy students attended the school. The first school erected specifically for blacks students, called Williams Academy, was built in 1913. The school expanded to include seven through tenth grades in 1916 and was in session for six months. In 1922, another primary school opened outside of town to accommodate the growing black community.
This trend continued, prompting the construction of Paul Laurence Dunbar School in 1927. Finally, black children in the Fort Myers (and in nearby communities) could obtain a full education. The new school was also important in that its design was similar to a white high school in the city. This meant that black children could attend a high school in a building that was more or less equal to that of white children. The school also enabled the black community to become more prosperous, as more people could earn higher paying jobs or go onto college. In 1962, a new black high school was built a mile away and the Dunbar school became a middle school. It is now a community school, providing a variety of classes and programs to teenagers and adults.
Taylor, Tulie W. "Dunbar, Paul Lawrence, School." National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. February 24, 1992. https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/29f8f1f0-bca7-48f0-bb54-f50223ce6f13.
Dunbar Community School