Roanoke Catholic uncovers items more than 100 years old in its basement

Pictures, other items from the late 1800s are now on display for students and staff to see

Things in your basement can collect a lot of dust until you finally go through them.

ROANOKE, Va. – Things in your basement can collect a lot of dust until you finally go through them.

That was the story at Roanoke Catholic, until now.

“This is the first three graduating classes of Saint Andrews High School,” said Megan Potter, a 4th-grade teacher at the school, pointing to a picture of the classes of 1897-1899.

Pictures from the late 1800s are now on display after Roanoke Catholic teachers Potter and Shelia Meadows found them in the basement.

Potter said the items came to Roanoke Catholic to store after the Historical Society of Western Virginia closed and that they were forgotten about until she started asking for old pictures.

“I was looking for a picture of the campus. That’s how all of this started,” said Potter. “We were just blown away. We couldn’t believe the things that were down there. Old news clippings, old report cards, old letters back and forth from alumni.”

The two sorted everything in the library over the summer and then made displays all over the school.

“It’s been such a labor of love to spend all this time looking at all these pictures and to realize how important all of this historical information is,” said Meadows, Roanoke Catholic upper school resource teacher. “Some of the best parts have been realizing as we looked at these pictures to know that there was a community that came before us.”

The history is from two catholic schools that merged into one. Letters from wars and old pins that are still given out today.

Letters from wars back and forth between a brother and sister were found in the basement of Roanoke Catholic. (Copyright 2021 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

“One of the traditions here at Roanoke Catholic is at the end of every year, you get a highest average pin for the child who earns the highest average in the upper school. At graduation, the seniors, they put the pins all down the front of their robes,” said Potter.

Student art from about 1910 now hangs outside the art room inspiring today’s students.

“I think that what I want most out of this is for the kids here to understand how rich the history is for their school,” said Potter. “I also want to almost encourage them to understand that nothing we’re dealing with is new. They’ve already survived a pandemic, they’ve already survived world wars. This building has been here through all of it. Kind of that sense of home and sense of belonging I just want to see it strengthen a little bit more.”

“When we walk these halls it’s like we’re on sacred ground because of what one man decided to do. It makes me so appreciative of what he wanted and how we need to carry that vision and that legacy on,” said Meadows.

Some items displayed will change throughout the year. They’re also working to find some pictures of graduating classes they don’t have on file.

You can see more of the history on Roanoke Catholic’s website here:

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You can see Jenna weekday mornings at the anchor desk on WSLS 10 Today from 5-7 a.m. She also leads our monthly Solutionaries Series, where we highlight the creative thinkers and doers working to make the world a better place.