FLORENCE — The longstanding — albeit migrating — Maud Lindsay Free Kindergarten was recently listed on the National Register of Historic Places, thanks to the efforts of a few students at the University of North Alabama.
Established in 1898, the school has rested at four different locations to date, beginning on Wood Avenue and now on Enterprise Street.
It has become somewhat of a family tradition for many to attend, and it's still serving children in the Shoals area as young as 4 years old.
Director and lead teacher Dianna Hawk, who has been with Maud Lindsay for nearly three decades, called the school’s new status on the register “an honor.”
“We, of course, consider Maud Lindsay a very special place,” she said. “We feel like we give the children a better start in not only their education, but just in life in general. We’re already on the local registry, but to be included on the National Register is, I think, really special.”
Students in a historic preservation class with Carrie Barske Crawford, director of the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area (MSNHA), got to work in 2016 to nominate the school for the National Register.
Brian Murphy, Carrie Keener and Cait Monroe worked with Hawk during the lengthy process, which involved researching the school’s history, photographing the building, drawing a floor plan and mapping its locations.
Murphy said he researched the school’s history in a social context.
“We had the history of Maud Lindsay, and we had the history of the structure, but, really, what they wanted to know was what’s going on at the state and national level — and the local level — that’s sort of precipitating this move toward a kindergarten,” he explained.
According to a MSNHA news release, a group of women organized the Pioneer Free Kindergarten of Alabama Association in 1898 to serve the children of industrialized east Florence.
Tuscumbia native Maud Lindsay founded and taught at the free kindergarten until her death in 1941.
Murphy said the kindergarten was established for white children, one example of opportunities at the time that weren’t afforded to African-Americans in similar situations.
“It is coming in on an era that we don’t often understand and don’t often talk about,” he said. “It’s this progressive era at the end of the century that’s really propelling, specifically, white, upper-class people into bringing about educational opportunities for other people — primarily lower-class and working-class people.”
The school’s establishment also points to a shift toward industrialization in places like east Florence.
“It’s really a shift from rural to urban economic stability,” Murphy added. “During this period in Florence in the late 1800s, there’s a lot of people moving into the city, and those people are moving from rural areas where they were sharecroppers or small farmers.”
Crawford said the process was a great opportunity for students to delve into local history and learn more about how buildings come to be on the National Register.
“It is always exciting to see student projects come to fruition, no matter how long it takes,” Crawford said. “Brian, Cait and Carrie learned so much about historic preservation and how the National Register process works.
"They also helped recognize an important part of Florence’s history. The Maud Lindsay Kindergarten provided early childhood education opportunities to children who, living in industrial east Florence, might not have had them otherwise.”