[graphic] Link to National Park Service Homepage [graphic header] National Register of Historic Places African American History Month
[graphic] 2003
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Military Road School
Photo courtesy of Beth L. Savage, National Register of Historic Places

Public School Buildings of Washington DC, 1862-1960 Multiple Property Submission

Two historical themes run throughout the history of the District of Columbia's public schools. The most important is the separation of the races into separate schools, a practice that endured in the District until the Supreme Court of the United States outlawed separate educational facilities in 1954. The second historical theme is the separation of the sexes, which endured in a limited form well into the 20th century. Many District residents recall their attendance at a racially segregated school. Former African American schools are regarded today both as a source of pride and as a reminder of past injustices. Below are three Washington, D.C., public school buildings constructed for African Americans all recently listed in the National Register of Historic Places on July 25, 2003.


Two views of Alexander Crummell School
Photos courtesy of the Washington DC Office of Planning, Historic Preservation Division
Alexander Crummell School

Located at Kendall and Gallaudet streets, N.E., the Alexander Crummell School was one of the earliest buildings designed by Snowden Ashford when he was appointed the first Municipal Architect of the District of Columbia in 1909. Constructed in 1910-11, the school is dedicated to and memorializes the life and work of clergyman, teacher, missionary, and orator Alexander Crummell (1819-1898), who devoted his life to the abolition of slavery and the moral and intellectual betterment and solidarity of African Americans. Founder and pastor of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, the city's first independent black Episcopal church, he preached his philosophy of the church as an institution fostering social change, education and self-help. Crummell taught at Howard University and, in 1897, he established a tradition of black scholarship that inspired a new generation of black intellectuals as founder and first president of the American Negro Academy. Ashford's Crummell School design epitomizes his initial approach to public school architecture, designing distinctive buildings while working on a tight budget within the eight-room neighborhood school plan developed by the Office of the Building Inspector. The red brick, two-story Renaissance style school is appointed with stone, stucco and tile detail and large banks of windows. Throughout its history, the Crummell School was a focal point of the Ivy City community and was vigorously supported by the Ivy City Citizens Association, one of the first such organizations in the city. Despite such strong community support, extreme overcrowding and changing conditions led to the closing of the school and its transfer to the DC Department of General Services in 1977.

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Two views of William Syphax School
Top photo courtesy of Tanya Edwards Beauchamp , DC Historic Preservation Office, bottom photo courtesy DC Historic Preservation Office

William Syphax School

The William Syphax School is dedicated to and memorializes the life and work of William Syphax, a prominent African American who worked tirelessly to create a public school system in the District of Colombia with equal educational opportunities for African Americans until his death in 1894. The William Syphax School, located at 1360 Half Street, S.W., was constructed in 1909-10. A private developer who plans to restore the original school as a community center has purchased Syphax School. Designed in 1900 by noted Washington architects Marsh & Peter in a Colonial Revival style, the red brick building is two stories tall with full English basement and attic.



Military Road School
Photo courtesy of Tanya Edwards Beauchamp , DC Historic Preservation Office
Military Road School

Constructed in 1912 on the site of one of the city's first public schools built for freedmen, the Military Road School retains its historical connection with the struggle by African Americans to secure the benefits of public education. The outline of the original schoolhouse, built in the Civil War when black refugees sought protection under the watch of the Union military, is shown on the construction plans for the present building. For years the Military Road School served as the only school available to African Americans a large area of Upper Northwest Washington, D.C. With public school desegregation, it was closed in 1954, and has been used for various public and education activities since that time. A two story high red brick building with three bays and full English basement, the Military Road School, is located at 1375 Missouri Avenue.

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