One of the Azalea City’s oldest and most symbolic icons finally takes a big step toward the renovation many have longed to see. The Mobile County Public School System finally approved a $2.8 million contract to restore the exterior of Barton Academy, the historic site of the state’s first public school.

Future plans are to create the Barton Academy for Advanced World Studies, an international studies public school for grades 6-12. The Barton Foundation estimates $15 million will be needed to complete renovations to the building.

Ben Radcliff Construction was awarded the new contract for exterior work.

The three-story, Greek Revival building on Government Street downtown was completed in 1839 after funds were raised via a lottery. Though closed for the duration of the Civil War, it served as a learning center until it was converted to administrative offices for the school system in 1960. In 1970, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The school system relocated in 2007 and Barton fell into disrepair. Its dilapidated and listing cupola elicited concern in locals and renovation efforts have been snarled since 2009.

Information about the multi-phase renovation can be found at the foundation’s website,

Donations can be made online or by mailing checks to Barton Academy Foundation, P O Box 571, Mobile, Alabama, 36601.