Michael O. Bourne
Castleton Road (MD 623), Darlington, Harford County
The Berkley School, commonly known as Hosanna School, built in 1868, is a rectangular one-story, three-bay (originally four) frame building which rests on an uncoursed rubblestone foundation and is covered by a low-pitched gable roof. The entrance door in the west gable end of the building has six panels and a three-light transom, and is unchanged since c. 1880. Windows are 6/6 sash, and the original weatherboard siding is still in place, covered with weathered shingles (in place by 1880). Inside there is one large room equipped for teaching; walls and ceiling are sheathed with tongue-and-groove paneling, and a slate blackboard spans the east wall, above the teacher's dais. A small entrance vestibule leads to the classroom, a closet/storage area, and, in the northeast corner, remains of the corner stair that led to the second story church room. A hurricane destroyed the second story in the 20th century but left the ground floor schoolroom intact. An old photograph shows that except for the second story and filling in one window of the south façade, the structure is virtually as it was built.
Berkley School is one of four structures erected in Harford County in the years immediately following the Civil War for the purpose of educating freed slaves. Of the four structures, two were built by a public source, the Federal agency commonly called the Freedmens' Bureau, the McComas Institute and the Green Spring School. Two, however, were built by private sources, Berkley School and Anderson Institute in Havre de Grace. Only McComas Institute and the Berkley School still stand. The Berkley School was built by five black men acting as Trustees in 1868 largely because efforts of the Freedmans' Bureau proved ineffective in this part of Maryland and stands as a rare, early instance of black-initiated and black-run educational efforts in the former slave-owning areas of the nation. The men originally put up a two-story building. The second story was for the just-established Hosanna Church and was also used for meetings by various black fraternal orders and lodges. It is important to note that the schoolroom was the main focus of the enterprise here, and the schoolroom appears to look much as it did when first opened in 1868. Berkley School was used as a school for blacks until 1945 when the school ceased operation.