Hosanna School Museum
Following the Civil War, Hosanna School, also known as Berkley School, was established in Maryland in 1867 by the U.S. Freedmen’s Bureau. The Bureau supported the school until Harford County School Commissioners assumed the responsibility in 1879. Thus, it became the first African American public school in Harford County. Although the building was condemned by Maryland in 1907, the African American community pulled together to keep the school operating for almost 40 years. In 1948, the structure was purchased by local residents who created the Hosanna Community House, Inc. It served as a core meeting center for the Harford County African American community, with a brief interruption from Hurricane Hazel in 1954. The building underwent several periods of restoration following this event and today resembles the original two-story schoolhouse. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this present-day structure is culturally-rich with Harford County African American history.
Backstory and Context
Cupid Paca was the original owner of the land on which this museum is located. He was a free African American male during the 1800’s, who would pass a portion of his land onto his son James. Of the inherited land, James sold ¼ acres in order to establish a school for the surrounding community. Freedmen’s Bureau was a department created by Congress in 1865, and their goal was to aid former slaves and poor individuals of the South following the Civil War. Therefore, they provided means for the construction of the original two-story Hosanna schoolhouse. Freedmen’s Bureau financially supported the school until the bureau was discontinued in 1872. Harford County took responsibility of the school in 1879, and operations continued as the building began to decline.
Due to a lack of sufficient support from the county, Hosanna School continued to deteriorate until it was denounced by Maryland in 1907. Educational operations continued through the support and dedication of the African American students’ parents. The main and only teacher of Hosanna School was Mrs. Elva Presberry Cain. She taught both African American children and adults of Harford County who hoped to receive an education. Around 1946, Cain experienced a decline in health that resulted in the Hosanna School ceasing operations. The former Harford County school became a center for activities and meetings within the community in 1948, officially known as the Hosanna Community House, Inc.
Disaster struck the building in 1954, when Hurricane Hazel destroyed its second-story. Through local funds, the Hosanna Community House received a new roof and became a one-story building. In 1983, Maryland provided money for restoration of the site, yet it was not until 1993 until renovations began. The Hosanna Community House reopened on September 10, 1994, after reconstruction of the first floor was completed. Since the restoration of the second floor in September 2005, the building resembles its original structure. The Hosanna School Museum currently holds the history of local African Americans who have helped to shape culture within Harford County.
Historic Hosanna School Museum. Accessed October 02, 2017. http://www.hosannaschoolmuseum.org/about-hosanna/.
Staff, History.com. Freedmen's Bureau. History.com. Accessed October 05, 2017. http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/freedmens-bureau.