St. Paul's College is up for sale

Published: Feb. 3, 2014 at 9:06 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 13, 2014 at 11:28 PM EST
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LAWRENCEVILLE, VA (WWBT) - A Richmond group is leading the effort to find a new owner for a historic Virginia college. Saint Paul in Lawrenceville had to shut its doors last year. The Historically Black College is now auctioning off its campus, but some people have ideas for how to preserve its legacy.

Alumni are still hoping to preserve the college's name. Declining enrollment and debt got Saint Paul's College to this point. The auction group isn't saying how much the suggested starting bid should be, but it's encouraging other schools to take a good look at the property. Its rich history is undeniable.

"At that time, there were no schools at all in Lawrenceville for blacks, absolutely no schools," said William Holmes.

It's been 60 years now since the 86-year-old graduated from Saint Paul's College in Lawrenceville.

"What a great school," Holmes reminisced.

The retired school principal remembers working on a farm adjacent to the campus so he could get an education.

"This college in the early 30's and 40's provided water and electricity to the town of Lawrenceville as well as provided food and water to the train running from Danville to Norfolk," said President Pete Stith.

It's a legacy administrators don't want lost in its transition. Right now Motley's Auction and Realty is marketing the 36 buildings and the 500 acre farm near them to the highest bidder.

"We've sold a lot of very highly specialized and unique properties," said Patrice Carroll with the group.

Carroll is targeting other schools that could benefit.

"Any college or university that's looking to expand their college into a satellite campus, this would be an ideal location," she said.

Saint Paul's President says no matter who takes over the campus, there's still an opportunity to keep the college's name alive.

"For instance if there was a Virginia State interested in Saint Paul's College, it would be the Virginia State Campus at Saint Paul's, pretty much like how Norfolk State was with Virginia State back in the 50's and 60's," Stith said.

That's what's so important for alumni like Holmes who never wanted to see his alma mater up for sale.

"You must remember the bridge that brought you over," he said.

Last year, Saint Paul's tried to merge with St. Augustine's University in Raleigh but that plan fell through.

Motley's Auction Group is accepting bids on the campus through March.

Saint Paul's college kept its accreditation through June of last year. That's when the school officially closed after graduating 56 students.

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