Stanley Institute – Cambridge, Maryland - Atlas Obscura

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Stanley Institute

This one-room schoolhouse played a significant role in the education of Black children for almost 100 years. 


Once known as Rock Elementary or Rock School, the Stanley Institute as it is now remembered is a historic one-room schoolhouse located in Cambridge, Maryland. It was initially erected near Church Creek in 1865 but was relocated to its current location two years later in 1867. It presently sits at the intersection of Church Creek Road (MD Rte. 16) and Bayly Road. The school also served as a church until Christ Rock Methodist Episcopal Church was constructed across the street in 1875.

The school educated children in grades first-seventh until 1944 and grades first-sixth until 1962. The first teacher at the school, Emma Louise Piper, was also the first Black teacher in Cambridge, Maryland. She taught at the school from 1867-1870 before moving south to New Bedford to marry and raise a family. A portrait of Piper hangs in the classroom as a tribute to her dedication to teaching newly emancipated people, helping them transition to a life of freedom.

The Stanley Institute is named after the first board president of the school, Reverand Ezekiel Stanley. The interior has been restored with vintage desks and a large potbelly stove that stands proudly in the center of the classroom. Three original blackboards still adorn the schoolhouse and its architectural design is true to the original structure.

Know Before You Go

The school is open for tours by appointment through the Dorchester County Office of Tourism.

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