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St. Paul Normal and Industrial School

Lawrenceville, Virginia



Story of St. Paul Normal and Industrial School: Catechistically Arranged (1919) gives the early history of the school. An Illustrated Sketch: St. Paul Normal and Industrial School also covers the early history.  The National Register application gives a further school history as well as a description of early buildings.  The Richmond Times Dispatch covered some school events.  E-yearbooks has the 1961 yearbook.


Archdeacon James S. Russell of the Episcopal Church founded St. Paul Normal and Industrial school, which opened on September 24, 1888 with 3 teachers and forty students.  The school was incorporated in 1890.  The aim of the school was to make the name of St. Paul “stand for the highest Christian education coupled with a good normal training and a useful trade of some kind.”  To that end, St. Paul hoped “to turn out boys and girls fitted for actual service in life.”  The Times Dispatch noted that students had daily morning and evening prayers and regular classroom study of the Bible.


By 1913 the school’s curriculum stressed technical skills, and enrollment had passed 500.  A collegiate department in teacher training was added in 1922, receiving state accreditation in 1926.  In 1941 the school was allowed to offer a four-year liberal arts curriculum and received a name change to St. Paul’s Polytechnic Institute.   In a final name change in 1957, it became St. Paul’s College. 


The 1961 yearbook, the Tiger, shows a student body of 282—more than 80% percent from Virginia.  Almost half of graduates were in elementary education with general science and business education each taking about a quarter.  St. Paul’s had chapters of three social fraternities and three social sororities.  Students had the usual discipline-based organizations as well as a drama guild and a modern dance troupe.  


In the 21st century St. Paul’s began to experience financial problems.  These were compounded by a loss of SACS accreditation in 2011.  Still a lawsuit helped the school receive a stay of execution.  But the problems did not go away, and enrollment fell to fewer than 100.  After 125 years, St. Paul’s closed in 2013.

Bricks and Mortar

Richmond Times-Dispatch describes Lawrenceville as a town of law-abiding, God-fearing, church-going folks, creating an atmosphere for the “formation of studious habits and the development of good character.”


Archbishop Russell purchased land for the first buildings, giving a note for $1,000 “without a dollar in hand or a cent pledged.”  By 1919 the campus included 40 buildings—three of which were brick—on 1600 acres of land.  Listed value of the campus at that time was $250,000.



The original campus building was called the Saul Building ( left), a two-story, three- room frame structure.  The Fine Arts Building (1900) was originally the principal’s home.  Memorial Chapel (1904) was the first brick building on campus.  These three buildings were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.



The campus showpiece is now the 1928 Chicago Building (below) constructed with student labor.    It housed the administration, the auditorium, and classrooms. 


After the college closed, the campus was placed on the block in 2014.


Team name: Tigers

Colors: Orange and black


St. Paul’s was a member of the Central Collegiate Athletic Association, a conference of HBCU schools from 1923 until it dropped all intercollegiate sports in 2011.  College football Data Warehouse shows football activity from 1912 to 1987, when it dropped the sport and again from 2004 to 2011.  Assuming records are complete, of 72 seasons, St. Paul’s enjoyed winning seasons only eight times.  Eleven teams were winless and 18 more had a single win.


Greg Tolar, a cornerback drafted in 2009 by Arizona, went on to play with Indianapolis and Washington.  Basketballer Antwain Smith, a small forward, was drafted by the Vancover Grizzlies in 1999.

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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