north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

Known by several names over the years, the institution established in Asheville in 1887 was known for the longest period as Allen High School and developed a reputation as a respected preparatory school for young African American women. Around 1875, L. M. Pease and his wife Ann Pinney Pease, who had both worked as Methodist missionaries among the disadvantaged in New York City, retired to Asheville. Not content with a relaxed retirement, the Peases instead initiated programs to offer educational opportunities to both whites and African Americans in the area.

The Peases purchased two properties that would serve their educational goals. One became the Asheville Home Industrial School, which was one of the schools that served as inspiration for the modern Warren Wilson College. They also purchased property near Beaucatcher Mountain, converting an old livery stable into a private school that served Black children during the day and Black adults in the evening. The school was known as the “Industrial School on College Street.” The school’s three African American teachers lived in a small house on the property.

As their health quickly failed, the Peases turned over operation of the Industrial School to the Women’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church in July 1887. By the end of that year the school had over 200 students, both boys and girls. Course offerings were expanded and, as public schools opened, early grades were dropped. In 1896 the school became a residential preparatory school for Black women and was re-named the Allen Industrial Home School the following year for benefactor Marriage Allen of London, who contributed to a dormitory. Jamie Butcher writes of the change in educational model, “This shift in focus from comprehensive education across age and gender to single sex education reflects not
only the recent establishment of a Black public school in Asheville, but also the trend of
the Woman’s Division within the Methodist Episcopal Church.”

Oral history interviews document that students from Cherokee, Polk, Clay, Buncombe, Swain, and Yancey Counties, where high school facilities for Black youth were inadequate or non-existent, regularly sought education at the Allen School. At times students from across the country were in attendance. By the 1950s, Allen sent fifty percent of its graduating students to college. Musician and social activist Nina Simone (aka Eunice Waymon) and NASA’s “human computer” Dr. Christine Darden are among the graduates of the Allen School. Due to waning enrollment, the Allen School closed in 1974.


John Preston Arthur, Western North Carolina A History, 1730-1913, 1914.
Jamie Butcher, “Religion, Race, Gender, and Education: The Allen School, Asheville, North Carolina, 1885 to 1974,” Appalachian Journal 33 (1): 78–109, 2005.
Jamie Butcher, Allen High School, M.A. Thesis in Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University, 2005.
Thomas Calder, “Asheville Archives : Allen High School’s Impact on city residents and beyond,” Mountain Xpress, 2020. Available at
Rob Neufeld, “Allen School was a beacon for African-American Women,” Asheville Citizen-Times, April 28, 2014.
Julia Titus, Allen High School History, 1962. Available at
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north carolina highway historical marker program

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources