State School for the Deaf Opened in Morganton

A circa 1890-1900 image of the North Carolina School for the Deaf from the N.C. Museum of HistoryOn October 2, 1894, the North Carolina School for the Deaf opened with 104 students and eight teachers. The first superintendent was Edward McKee Goodwin, who served in that position until his death in 1937.

A state-supported school for the deaf and blind was first proposed in 1816, but no provision was made for such an institution until the 1840s when Gov. John Motley Morehead took up the cause. In 1844, the legislature appropriated $5,000 for the school and, the following year, the Governor Morehead School was established in Raleigh to teach the deaf, dumb and blind. By 1890, a movement was afoot to create a separate school for the deaf to alleviate overcrowding at the Raleigh campus.

Morganton civic leaders organized by Samuel McDowell Tate sought the new school, offering the state $5,000 and 100 acres on “Spa Hill,” a picturesque hilltop setting on the outskirts of town. Construction began in 1891. The monumental Main Building was the first to be erected and still dominates the campus today.

Today, the North Carolina School for the Deaf campus in Morganton has 19 buildings and students in kindergarten through 12th grade. An eastern campus opened in Wilson in 1964.

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