By Steve Beachy, Former Parks & Recreation Director (1978-2007)
In 1978, the Lincoln Center and the surrounding neighborhood were in a severe state of neglect.
The old school buildings showed the years of little or no maintenance. Holleman Drive was a narrow roadway with broken pavement and no curbs or gutters. Eleanor Street and adjacent streets were unpaved and had a tendency to become impassable during heavy rains. Sidewalks, street lights, and paved parking were nonexistent.
The area also had numerous substandard homes, vacant houses and properties overgrown with weeds and brush. The poorly maintained softball field and two youth baseball fields fell far short of meeting the needs of our small but growing college-oriented community.
A lack of funding for potential improvements made the situation grim.
People of all ages filter through the Lincoln Recreation Center for various activities and programs, but many don’t realize the building’s historical significance. With February being African American History Month, it’s a perfect time to take a look back at the proud history of Lincoln High School.
More than 2,000 people arrived in Brazos County as slaves. Formal education didn’t exist until the Public Schools Act of 1871. By 1923, 127 African-American students were enrolled in the A&M Consolidated School District. The district accommodated only elementary school students until it began busing pupils to Kemp High School in Bryan.
With the week of June 14-20 commemorating the sesquicentennial of Juneteenth, it’s fitting that we also celebrate the 35th anniversary of College Station’s Lincoln Recreation Center.
The city dedicated the old Lincoln High School as a neighborhood recreation center on June 6, 1980. Since then, the facility has been the location for many events and celebrations, as well as a safe and fun gathering place for our community’s youth. The center’s legacy of learning, community pride and freedom grows stronger each year.
President Abraham Lincoln, the center’s namesake, once said freedom is our last best hope. Hope may be defined to include an expectation of optimism and fun.
On Tuesday night, I had the pleasure of viewing an interpretive architectural model of Lincoln School (1941-1965) that was presented by group of Texas A&M architecture majors. Their assignment was to render their interpretations of College Station’s Lincoln School and Bryan’s Kemp High School, both of which were segregated African-American schools.
The intriguing concept behind the project was to depict Lincoln School as it might stand today if much of the campus has not been destroyed by fire in 1966. The surviving buildings became the Lincoln Recreation Center in 1980.
Eventually, something good almost always comes out of good works. James Steen calls it “redeeming the time.”
Earlier this month, Mr. Steen was about to have a corrective surgery at the Scott and White Hospital in Temple. His wife, Andre Mae, said the attending physician was in the prep area when suddenly he exclaimed “JAMES STEEN! I know Mr. Steen!” The surgeon said that 11 years ago he performed some community service at the Lincoln Recreation Center, where Mr. Steen has served for many years a community services coordinator. Mrs. Steen says the young doctor quickly galloped to the holding area to offer a happy greeting to Mr. Steen before the surgery. Thankfully, the surgery was successful and Mr. Steen will soon be gracing the Lincoln Center once again.