The Counter Ridge History Project is being undertaken to reclaim the story of the Counter Ridge School and to establish its place in local history. Bedford County hired the preeminent architect of the area, Stanhope Johnson, to design it, and built it to meet standards of quality for public schools at the time. After it closed, it eventually became the Sedalia Center, established “for the Art of Living and the Living Arts.”
Seeking to clarify its own mission — its reason for being — has led Sedalia back to what has generally been considered a motto, but which for its founder, Annis McCabe, was a mission statement and a rallying cry. She wanted a place — a beautiful, quiet place, a retreat — where ordinary people could explore their own creativity, and make room for the unusal and unfamiliar.
Learning its history, finding its way back to that founding impulse, leads the Sedalia Center straight back to Counter Ridge School. Who were the children who attended here? Where did they live? What did they study? Who taught them? Questions like these are not just about the all-but forgotten past of a rural elementary school, but about a groundbreaking time in American history. Where did this school come from? Why was it built when it was? These are questions of great weight and delicacy in our history — big, public questions which don’t get asked but whose answers are at least generally known.
But there are also the personal questions: What did it mean to the children who were educated here? How did it affect their families? What was the role of Counter Ridge in their community and their lives? Was that community important? Are its experiences still important, do they have anything to tell us about who and where we are? We think they are important, and that they have a lot to tell us.
The History Project seeks to return this history to the African-American community by creating a place where it is recognized with dignity and for the enlightenment of the community at large. it is a place to reclaim and remember the lives lived as children during its time, and a permanent testament to those times.