Gillespie-Selden Institute, Cordele

President’s Home, Circa 1925, Gillespie-Selden Institute

The origins of this important landmark of African-American educational history in South Georgia can be traced to Dr. Augustus S. Clark and the St. Paul Presbyterian Church. The first facilities of the school were three wood-framed buildings, built through a gift of the Gillespie family of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1903, and named the Gillespie Normal School in their honor. The first two structures pictured here were built when it was still known as the Gillespie Normal School.

Girls Dormitory, 1929, Gillespie-Selden Institute

In 1933, the school merged with the Selden Institute in Brunswick and the name was changed to the Gillespie-Selden Institute. Over the years, students came from as far away as New York and New Jersey. The Institute closed in 1956 due to citywide consolidation.

Administration Building, 1937, Gillespie-Selden Institute

A hospital was built in 1923 and named for its benefactor, Charles Helms. It was a vital part of the institute. (It is still standing but not pictured here; I will add a photograph later). At the time, the nearest hospital for blacks was in Atlanta. Selden Cottage, pictured below, was a school for nurses, associated with the hospital.

Selden Cottage, 1949, Gillespie-Selden Institute

This neighborhood, and particularly the remaining facilities of the Institute, represent a significant resource of a progressive African-American community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Preliminary efforts to document and preserve the site have been made, but I’m unsure as to their present status.

Gillespie-Selden Historic District, National Register of Historic Places


Filed under --CRISP COUNTY GA--, Cordele GA

7 responses to “Gillespie-Selden Institute, Cordele

  1. Greg Rivers

    This school is located across from my family house. I have great memories of the school. I did not attend the school because they open a public high school in 1956 and they closed down. They kept the nursing school program until the middle sixties and started a day care center in the old hospital. They also had night classes for typing, shorthand, reading and GED classes.

  2. Augustus S. Clark was from my hometown, Wilson NC. Born to formerly enslaved parents with a singular vision for their children, Dr. Clark and three of his brothers all graduated from Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University in the 1890s. For more about the Clark family, see Black Wide-Awake,

  3. Bettie Greene

    Has this school been declared as a historic site?
    Who owns the property now?

  4. Kert Blodgett

    Hello Brian,
    Do you know if there is a historical society there that has any items that belonged to the school?

    Thank you,

  5. Rosie Watkins

    From 2000 to 2011, Family Development Task Force, Inc. operated a Basic Skills Learning/Parental Information Family Engagement Resource Center within the Gillespie-Selden Historic District, Hospital and Girl’s Dormitory Buildings. Serving disadvantaged Youths and their families. In Partnership with the Crisp County School District. Pre-K to 12 grades.

  6. Anita Johnson

    Thank you for this information. My older sisters attended Gillespie Selden.. The schools in my hometown was not accredited and my parents wanted their children to be able to go to college. Both of my sisters graduated from college because of Gillespie Selden. This school instilled values in its students and afforded them opportunities unheard of in our community. For that my family is grateful to Gillespie Selden.
    Anita Kennerly Johnson, Jonesboro, Georgia

  7. John Ingersoll

    Many thanks Brian! I knew nothing of this history.

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