Restoration of school attended by Thurgood Marshall nears completion

The Rev. Dr. Alvin Hathaway has for several years now been leading an initiative to convert the historic PS 103 school in nearby Upton into an educational and empowerment center for West Baltimore. Raised in the area, Dr. Hathaway is driven by a desire to honor the legacy of this once-segregated public institution and leverage his  community ties and service experience to create new opportunities for Baltimore residents.

The Thurgood Marshall Amenity Center is expected to open on July 2, the 116th birthday of the national civil rights advocate who became the nation’s first black jurist on the U.S. Supreme Court. Formerly the Henry Highland Garnet School, it was attended by young Marshall from 1914-1920 as a boy growing up in Marble Hill. The school is located at 1315 Division St. It was constructed in 1877 and has been vacant for many years.

As the retired pastor of Union Baptist Church, Dr. Hathaway has focused much of his attention on the historical significance of PS 103, designed by architect George Frederick. After a devastating fire in 2016, Dr. Hathaway and the community rallied to raise more than $14 million for the restoration.

As the Justice Thurgood Marshall Amenity Center, PS 103 is ready to serve as a community hub, offering restorative justice, education, and community development programs. Collaborations with the University of Maryland College Park and the BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport Project Takeoff aim to provide residents with opportunities in aviation and hospitality.

With the impending grand opening, Dr. Hathaway’s project is the beginning of a broader initiative for community empowerment. He says it signifies West Baltimore’s potential and aims to provide sustainable benefits to residents. Dr. Hathaway says this is “community at its best.”

His vision extends beyond mere buildings. With Project Takeoff, he expects to provide direct access to technology, engineering, and entrepreneurship training and resources. Dr. Hathaway recognizes that with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in emerging industries, he is creating pathways to economic survival and social mobility.

–Lisa Savage