Immaculate Conception's establishment reflects the growth of the Irish immigrant population in the capital, and presages the rapid postwar expansion of the city north of Massachusetts Avenue. The four architecturally related buildings typify the urban Catholic model, with the church as a centerpiece surrounded by buildings for education and religious orders. The group is a fine example of Gothic Revival and related ecclesiastical architecture. Additionally, it is associated with notable pastors such as its founder, Rev. J. Walter, who was the confessor and defender of Mary Surratt who was put to death on co-conspirator charges after Lincoln’s assassination.
Immaculate Conception Church: The Gothic Revival church is a restrained design distinguished by its soaring tower, rhythmic buttresses, and repetitive bays of unusually large stained glass windows. The design is attributed to Edward Clements, a builder with ties to the prolific Washington architect Adolph Cluss (designer of the contemporaneous and similar Calvary Baptist Church). The major portion of the brick and cast iron church, including the pressed brick front, was built in 1871-74, but for lack of funds the tower was not completed until 1904-05, with exterior work continuing to 1910 and interior finishes to the 1930s.
Immaculate Conception Boys’ School: Built in 1908 on the site of the original church (dating from 1864-65), the boys’ school is a three-story Tudor Revival building by architect B. Stanley Simmons. The three-bay facade of red brick with brownstone trim is dominated by a central entrance and copper oriel between octagonal towers, with large banks of classroom windows in the flanking bays.
Rectory (1315 8th Street, NW): Built before 1873, the three-story, flat-fronted Italianate rowhouse with pressed brick façade, bracketed wooden cornices, and iron stoop is typical of the residential building forms of the period.
Convent (1317 8th Street, NW): Built between 1874 and 1878, the three-story Italianate/Queen Anne rowhouse is adjacent to the rectory, with a pressed brick façade and similar cornices, but with a full-height hexagonal bay and more vertical proportions. The convent housed the Sisters of Charity in charge of the girls’ school, Immaculate Conception Academy, which relocated in 1872 to a new building at 8th and Q Streets, after outgrowing its shared quarters in the original church.
After much of this area was destroyed during the events of 1968, Monsignor Joshua Mundell of Immaculate Conception worked to stabilize the neighborhood, encouraging church and federal government collaborations to build modern apartments.
DC listing: July 24, 1968, designation expanded: November 21, 2002 to include school, rectory, and residence
National Register listing: September 17, 2003