The school sits abandoned now on Route 9, not far from Five Points and just a short distance from the beach resorts that contribute millions of dollars each year to the Delaware economy. It's a relic, a reminder of a different time, a ghost that conjures up images many would just as soon forget.
But Lewes native Bob Burton hasn't dismissed the days of his youth, a time when he and most of his friends went to one school, while neighborhood white kids went to an entirely different one. He remembers Nassau 198C – "C" for "colored" – fondly, though the quality education he says he received was achieved under less than ideal circumstances.
Sometimes, for example, schools like the one Burton attended didn't have enough supplies for all the students – and often not enough space. Still Burton says he had it pretty darn good back then.
"Our teachers definitely cared for us and we felt our education was as good as what the white kids were getting," says Burton, who was later a member of the integrated Cape Henlopen High School Class of 1971 and today works as a Realtor with the Oldfather Group of Ocean Atlantic Sotheby's International Realty. "I didn't really have a hard time when we integrated, but I also know that my siblings and I had a good experience at the old two-room schoolhouse."
Before the Brown v. Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954, "colored" schools ― sometimes dozens of them ― dotted the landscape in Sussex County. Most of them were one- and two-room schoolhouses that served as many as eight grades at a time, like the one Burton attended in Nassau.
The "C" designations were officially dropped from the school's titles when a one-grade-a-year integration process began in the mid-1950s.
For seventh grade, Burton attended the old William C. Jason Comprehensive High School in Georgetown, a segregated high school for black students, for a year before moving on to Lewes High School, and eventually Cape Henlopen.
His year was the final one at Jason before it officially closed in 1967, 13 years after Brown v. Board of Education. The school later became the first campus of the newly-formed Delaware Technical & Community College.
"They let me choose that year if I wanted to go to Lewes or if I wanted to go to Jason, and I chose Jason because my brothers and sisters had all gone there," remembers Burton. "I knew the significance at that time of forced integration, but I still wanted to experience what my siblings had experienced before they closed the school down."
Like most students, Burton had a favorite teacher. Mr. Elzey, who was his homeroom teacher in the seventh grade, made an indelible mark on the young man that's lasted for decades.
"He was a 6-foot-4-inch black man with a bald head and he always picked me to talk in front of the class, which was difficult for me because I had a bad stuttering problem," says Burton. "I was a shy, stuttering seventh grader, but his actions really helped to bring me out of my shell. He was the kind of person who demanded respect without even asking for it."
An early graduate of the now Jack F. Owens Campus of Delaware Technical & Community College, Burton worked most of his career in the government contracting industry in the Baltimore/Washington metropolitan area and earned a real estate license upon moving back to Delaware in 2012.