The throngs of students that once passed daily through the arched entrance to Barr Street High School were unconsciously unaware of the legacy that was theirs. The facade is distinguished by three graceful arches that might conceivably symbolize arcs of triumph, for that is what this facility represented in the historical progress of school development in the city of Lancaster, S.C.Lancaster City first black school was founded in 1879 by Bishop Charles Calvin Pettey of Mt Zion A.M.E. Zion Church. It was called Pettey High School and was located at 610 East Barr Street. Pettey’s school was renamed and chartered in 1898, as the Lancaster Normal and Industrial Institute, under the auspices of the A.M.E. Zion Church. Professor M.D. Lee was the first Principal of the school. The school major goal was to train school teachers.
In 1923 the first public school for African Americans was built across the street and named Lancaster High School. It was then forced to change its name to Lancaster Colored High School. The modern brick structure, supported by the state, provided free instruction for those desiring an education. There were four hundred students in grades one through eleven, and a faculty of twelve.
The first principal J.H. Wilson served four years and was succeeded by Edward E. Riley.
In 1927 the name was changed again to Lancaster Training School so that the school would be eligible for trade grants. During E.E. Riley’s administration, a house was built adjacent to the school which provided a residence for the principal and his family and some of the women faculty members. Later two of his sons would help write the School Alma Mater.
In 1940 E.C. Horton was elected Principal and remained almost one year. When he was asked to resign, the Reverend A.B. King finished the term as temporary principal.
In 1941 Mr. Aaron Riley Rucker became Principal of Lancaster Training School. Due to his wise planning, significant changes occurred.
In 1945, a six-room school, Southside Elementary, was built in the South Side community to eliminate the crowded conditions that resulted from an ever-increasing student population. About this same time, the twelfth grade was added to Lancaster Training School.
Returning World War II veterans were extended the opportunity to continue their education under the G. I. Bill through a service initiated by Mr. A.R. Rucker. A temporary Industrial Arts building was erected on Pleasant Hill Street and expanded the facilities to provide for the influx of service men that enrolled for trade courses. The growth and development continued under his leadership, including the construction of a combination vocational-gymnasium at the Lancaster Training School.
Anticipating the consolidation of county schools, Mr. Rucker pressed for the erection of Southside Elementary, J. J. Clinton Elementary, and Barr Street High Schools. Within a short span of years, these schools became a reality.The class of 1953 selected the name for the new school, Barr Street High. They had been teased by other schools about the name, Lancaster Training School. The name appeared to mean it was some type of a reform school. In their junior year, the 1953 class asked Mr. Rucker to petition the school board to change the name.
In 1952 the name was changed to Barr Street High School. The rest is now history. The new school, Barr Street High, was built three blocks east of the original site, and open in 1955 with full membership in the South Carolina Association Of Colleges And Schools.
Supervising three schools greatly increased the duties of Mr. Rucker.
Mr. Lafayette Belk became Administrative Assistant and later, Principal of Barr Street High School. Mr. Rucker was promoted to Supervising Principal of the Lancaster City Black Schools.
In 1966, a new air-conditioned wing was added to Barr Street High School. The formal dedication was held in September of the same year.
By 1968, the faculty, advanced in training and experience, had increased to fifty -five. There were thirty-one with the bachelor’s degree or its equivalent and sixteen with graduate degrees. One thousand sixty-six (1066) students attended that school year.
With a broadened curriculum, students pursued prescribed academic courses leading to college admissions or took vocational, commercial, and general education courses.
Well-rounded athletic programs produced championship teams in football, basketball, baseball and track. Some former graduates gained national status as members of professional teams. Other extra-curricular offerings included band and choir. Thirty-five clubs and organizations provided a wide selection for participation by all students.
Through the concerted efforts of the administration and Guidance Department, Barr Street students are employed in the major industries of Lancaster. Twenty-five percent (25%) entered college to continue their education. The success stories of many Barr Street graduates add luster to their Alma Mater.
Approximately fifteen thousand students have been served through the years by the Lancaster Training and Barr Street High Schools from 1923 to 1970.
Because of school integration, it was thought that the class of 1969 would be the last class to graduate from Barr Street High. Because of this, a year book was commissioned for the school. It would be the only year book Barr Street High would have. However, history was not done with Barr Street High yet.
The last class’s to attend Barr Street High would be the class’s of 1971-1974. They would graduate from Lancaster High School.
The last class to graduate from Barr Street High was the class of 1970. They have the honor of being the last graduating class.
This is Lancaster Training and Barr Street High School’s history. The school is now closed, but we the former students have not forgotten her. This is the heritage of those who passed beneath her arches and proudly raise our voices in tribute