The Wheeler Hill Elementary school replaced the Celia Dial Saxon Negro Elementary School, which was overcrowded and needed rehabilitation. The neighborhood’s new elementary school was designed by local white architect James B. Urquhart.
Five houses fronting Catawba Street and a house and a store fronting Pickens Street were demolished to make way for the new construction, and extensive preliminary earthwork made the slope of the hill more uniform. With its one-story classroom wings and rows of interior and exterior windows, the building was a typical equalization school. Comprising eighteen classrooms, a library, a nurse’s office, a large modern kitchen, and a combined cafeteria and auditorium, the school served approximately five hundred students. The funds also paid for desks, tables, visual aid and music equipment, maps, and cafeteria equipment.
The facility opened as the Wheeler Hill School in 1955 for 270 African American students in the first through sixth grades. In 1958, it was renamed in honor of Florence Corinne Benson, a former teacher at the school. A native of Union, South Carolina, and a graduate of Benedict College in Columbia, Benson taught in the African-American schools of Columbia from 1918 until her death in 1956. Florence C. Benson Elementary served the Wheeler Hill community until 1975, when the school closed its doors due to declining enrollment.
This photo gallery features the following:
- Florence C. Benson Elementary School sign
- Exterior views of Florence C. Benson Elementary School
- Glimpses down the hallways
- Orignal windows located inside the school