Julia Bache and homeowner Elaine Taylor in front of the Buck Creek School
Girls Scouts are well known for selling delicious cookies. But how many of them are known for saving important places?
Julia Bache, a sophomore at Kentucky Country Day School in Louisville, is working hard to earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, Girl Scouting's highest achievement, with a seven-step project to solve a community problem or perform a public service. Her focus: helping to preserve the Buck Creek Rosenwald School.
To date, Julia has written and presented a nomination for the school for the National Register of Historic Places. She's also developed an educational traveling exhibit for the state of Kentucky, called Lessons From Rosenwald Schools: National Treasures. Julia also plans to use oral histories she has collected through interviews with alumni of Buck Creek Rosenwald School in the traveling exhibit.
"Before I started this project I had no idea that Rosenwald Schools even existed," she says. "Now I have the opportunity to tell others and want to make more people aware of these important places."
We caught up with this busy Scout to discover what she's learned from the project so far, what she hopes to save next, and what advice she'd share with other young preservationists.
Julia Bache in front of the original Buck Creek School girls’ outhouse
How did you learn about the Buck Creek Rosenwald School? What inspired you to base your Gold Award project around this historic school?
As I was looking for ideas for my Gold Award Project, I came across a National Register Nomination of another Kentucky Rosenwald School. Reading the nomination form, I became fascinated with the history of these schools that were found throughout the South.
The story of Booker T. Washington's and Julius Rosenwald's partnership during an extremely segregated time in our country's history is so touching, and it is truly amazing how many African-American children received a better education because of their [the men's] hard work.
After learning about the Rosenwald Schools, I knew that I wanted to focus on this remarkable part of history for my Gold Award. With help from Marty Perry, the National Register Coordinator at the Kentucky Heritage Council, I was able to find the Buck Creek School and receive full support from its owner, Elaine Taylor.
The Buck Creek School still retains historic integrity and has indeed left a positive mark on the community. All of the former students that I interviewed fondly remember their days attending the Buck Creek School.
Julia Bache conducting an oral interview with Buck Creek Rosenwald School alumnus Bill Jones
Tell me more about the different pieces of your project. How do they all fit together?
The first part of my Gold Award Project was the nomination of the Buck Creek School to the National Register of Historic Places. I completed research on the history of Rosenwald Schools, went on field visits to learn more about the physical aspects of the Buck Creek School, and also conducted multiple oral interviews.
The owner of the Buck Creek School has several relatives and friends who attended the school, including her parents who owned the building before passing away. I recorded the interviews of the former students, whose stories added even more to the rich history of the Rosenwald Schools.
I featured the students' pictures and quotes in the traveling museum exhibition that I created after the nomination had been approved at the state level. In developing the traveling exhibition, I partnered with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Hopefully, the exhibition is sparking an interest in the story of the Rosenwald Schools and in their preservation.
What has surprised you most during this project?
There are two things that have surprised me as I have worked on this project. As I began to earn my Gold Award, I thought that I would simply be writing a nomination form and creating some sort of exhibition to be displayed at a few museums or historical societies around Kentucky. Through researching the history of the Buck Creek School, I have become very close to the owner and to the former Rosenwald School students that I interviewed. It is a benefit that I did not expect, but something I believe can be a result of any historic preservation project.
As for the museum exhibition, my work has grown into a much more professional display from what I first envisioned. Several artifacts, including an original Rosenwald School chalkboard on loan from a nearby school, help to bring the students' quotes to life. Seeing my exhibition in the museum space was truly an incredible experience; I have come full-circle from visiting museums as a guest to being able to create an actual exhibition.
Julia Bache poses with an original Rosenwald School chalkboard.
What aspect of the project have you enjoyed the most?
Through this project, I have enjoyed being able to pursue my passion of history and to discover more about how our local area is historically significant on a national level. I have enjoyed working with so many experts in their fields, such as Marty Perry, Katherine Carey at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and museum exhibition creators Cynthia Torp and Robbi Ray at Solid Light Inc. I have also enjoyed becoming friends with the owner of the Buck Creek School and all of the former students I interviewed.
Did you know about historic preservation when you started this project? What have you learned about historic preservation along the way?
Before I started this project, I did not know much about historic preservation. I had hoped that I could take part in a preservation project for my Girl Scout Gold Award, but through actually working on the project I have been able to see preservation up close.
I have experienced the process of nominating a site to be on the National Register of Historic Places, presenting in front of the Kentucky Historic Preservation Review Board, and educating communities about how important it is to preserve these treasured places. I have also learned how many others are helping to save the Rosenwald Schools as well. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has been creating awareness and pushing for preservation of these schools since 2002.
Julia Bache presented her nomination of the Buck Creek School to the Kentucky Historic Preservation Review Board.
Has this project inspired you to save other places? And if so, do you have other places in mind that you’d like to help protect?
This project has greatly inspired me, and now I know that I would really enjoy a career in historic preservation. I know that there are many more important sites in our country's history that need to be recognized, and I would like to join in that effort.
What’s your #1 piece of advice to other students who want to save places?
Don't underestimate your ability to make change in your community. If you are passionate about history and want to preserve a site, you have the power to help.