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Iron Hill Museum (Iron Hill School No. 112C)
Delaware's ensemble of one-room schoolhouses shrank from 178 in 1930 to just fourteen in 1962, including this one for African Americans on the lower slopes of Iron Hill. In 1920–1935, Pierre S. du Pont gave over $6 million for new Delaware schools. By 1938, he had expended $2.6 million on eighty-seven facilities specifically for African Americans. The Guilbert and Betelle firm of Newark, New Jersey (carried on by Wilmington-raised Betelle after Guilbert died in 1916), received its professional direction from the du Pont commissions, eventually designing hundreds of schools in five states, with an office staff of up to seventy-five. A museum has occupied the building since 1964, and its director informs me that “the smaller black schools were commissioned after a population study (financed by du Pont, and conducted by Columbia University) determined that scattered populations of African Americans would make larger consolidated schools less feasible.” Betelle brought skill and sensitivity to even the most economical schoolhouses, the example here showing good proportions and design within the context of a simple frame structure clad in shingles and with a pedimented portico. As a group, the former du Pont schools have attracted great interest in recent years, but most are dilapidated.
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