From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Howard School / Normal Institute / Chandler Normal School / Webster Hall (Lexington, KY)

At the end of the Civil War, the first schools for Negro children in Lexington, KY were located in the churches: First Baptist Church, Pleasant Green Baptist Church, Main Street Baptist Church, Asbury CME Church, and Christian Church.

Howard School opened in 1866 with an enrollment of 500 students and three Negro teachers. Classes were held in a building called Ladies Hall, located on Church Street in Lexington. It was a free school for the children who could not afford the tuition of a private school. The facility had been purchased from the money that had accumulated after a year of fund raising by Negro women in Lexington.

Howard School was named after Freedmen's Bureau director O. O. Howard. The school was supported by the Freedmen's Bureau, the American Missionary Association (AMA), and the Lexington Negro Public School Fund. AMA took over the school in 1866, adding six white teachers from the North. Two years later, the enrollment had increased to 900 students; $540 was received from the public school fund to pay the teachers' wages.

In 1870, the Freedmen's Bureau assisted in the funding for a new building for Howard School located on Corral Street. Several other Negro schools were consolidated into that school, thereby making it the largest school in the region for Negro students.

By 1874, Howard School's name had been changed to Normal Institute, and again public funding was used for a portion of the teachers' wages. A year later, AMA ceased supporting the school, so the city of Lexington operated the facility as a public school. At some point prior to 1888, the school was closed. AMA had the building repaired and reopened the school, adding industrial classes. Soon the enrollment exceeded the capacity of the building.

Mrs. Phebe Chandler, a philanthropist from the North, donated funding for the purchase of land away from the city and for the construction of a new school building. The new school, Chandler Normal School, opened in 1890 on four acres of land on Georgetown Road. Webster Hall, a home for teachers and the principal built around 1914, was designed by African American architect Vertner W. Tandy, Sr. The Chandler Normal School closed in 1923, but the building remained and an auditorium was added in 1960.

Webster Hall at 548 Georgetown Street was used as a parsonage for the National Temple of the House of God. In 1980, both the Chandler Normal School and Webster Hall were placed on the National Register of Historic Places [#80001509]. The property around Chandler Normal School and Webster Hall was used for the building of the Lincoln Terrace Housing Projects.

For more see "Normal Institute, Lexington, Kentucky" on pp. 43-44 in History of the American Missionary Association [available at Google Books]; A History of Blacks in Kentucky, by M. B. Lucas; and "Lexington: Chandler Normal School Building - Webster Hall" in Black Heritage Sites, by N. C. Curtis. See also entries for African American Schools in the NKAA Database and Miss Apple: letters of a Maine Teacher in Kentucky, by E. W. Cunningham, for information about the white teachers from Maine who taught at the Chandler Normal School.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Fayette County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Lexington, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Howard School / Normal Institute / Chandler Normal School / Webster Hall (Lexington, KY),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 25, 2024,

Last modified: 2022-09-21 14:50:48