JACKSONVILLE, FL. (EWU) – Edward Waters University continues its mission to preserve the rich history of Florida’s “Destination Institution” and African American education after Emancipation. 

The African American Cultural and Historical Grants Team, a division of the Florida Department of State, awarded Edward Waters University $500,000 to help preserve three historical buildings on campus: the Centennial Hall (library), the Lee Cousins Building, and the Susie E. Tolbert House.

The grant panel met and reviewed hundreds of applications in Tallahassee, Florida February 22-24, 2022.

The purpose of this grant program is to provide funding for construction projects at facilities in Florida that highlight the contributions, culture, or history of African Americans.  The program also:

  • Encourages the design or construction of a new facility or the renovation of an existing facility in the area with great cultural significance in which no facility exists.
  • Enhances the beauty of aesthetic value of facilities named for significant African Americans.
  • Or restores facilities on the National Register of Historic Places. 

“As Florida’s ‘Destination Institution’ of Emerging Eminence, we are honored to accept this gift from The African American Cultural and Historical Grants Team. This will support our transformative and continuous ascendancy as Jacksonville’s crown jewel of education,” said President and CEO of Edward Waters University, Dr. A. Zachary Faison, Jr.  

The Centennial Hall functions as the university’s main library. Originally built in 1916 to house a gymnasium and classrooms, the Centennial Building, as it was first called, was renamed in 1966 to commemorate the institution’s 100th anniversary and is the oldest building on campus. In 1976, it was rehabilitated for use as the college library. Today, the library contains nearly 13,000 print volumes and provides access to more than 250,000 electronic books. It’s also home to Obi-Scott-Umunna Collection of African Art.

The Centennial Hall is receiving upgrades to its exterior, which include but are not limited to, repairing and repointing bricks and cleaning the building’s surface.

Centennial Hall

Constructed between 1925 and 1927, The B.F. Lee Theological Seminary Building was built to house the Theological Department of what was then Edward Waters College. With similarities of styles that reflect elements of the Gothic Revival and Jacobethan Revival, it was deemed the most “architecturally elaborate building on campus.” Today, it serves as the nerve center for the university, home to administrative and business offices and the sanctuary (Milne Auditorium).

The Lee-Cousins Building is receiving upgrades to its exterior, which include but are not limited to, window replacements, building foundation and ceiling reinforcement.

Lee Cousins

The Susie E. Tolbert House is a hub of historical and cultural knowledge. Mrs. Tolbert supported the faculty and students at what was then Edwards Waters College by providing them with free room and board, taught music and applied social etiquette, and lobbied for better facilities and equipment for African American children in the Jacksonville area. The house also served as a community resource center for veterans and the homeless. Today, the Susie E. Tolbert building is home to the Office of Institutional Advancement, Development, Marketing and Communications for Edward Waters University.

The Susie E. Tolbert House is receiving upgrades to its exterior, which include but are not limited to, landscape, repainting, and flooring.

Susie E. Tolbert House

The three buildings selected still have most of their original exterior fabric and appearance and are all at least 50-years-old with significant historical or an architectural identity with the university.

Edward Waters University relies on the historic buildings on campus for core functions of the university.

Renovations are slated to begin summer of 2022.



About Edward Waters University: Emerging Eminence

Edward Waters University is distinctively the state of Florida’s first independent institution of higher learning as well as Florida’s first institution established for the education of African Americans. With a distinguished higher education lineage spanning over 150 years, EWU is primed to continue its Emerging Eminence as a premier urban, private, Christian, historically black, liberal arts university offering high quality degrees and preparing students holistically to advance in a global society through the provision of intellectually stimulating academic programs of study. The University offers a close knit, collegial, intellectual community that draws students and scholars from around the world. For more information, visit www.ewc.edu.