Joseph Gales School

The twelve-room schoolhouse is one of few buildings to survive from Swampoodle, the old largely Irish and Italian working-class neighborhood around the Government Printing Office.

Named after Washington, DC’s 8th mayor and owner of the National Intelligencer newspaper, the Joseph Gales School has served many purposes throughout its lifetime. Originally built in 1881, the Romanesque Revival building is one of the only three-story school buildings in the District, as well as one of only a few schools designed by Architect of the Capitol Edward Clark. Also, it does not have a tower, which was a common feature for school buildings during this time period.

When it operated as a school, only white students were allowed to attend, due to the segregated system of education in the District. However, a dwindling student population led to the closure of the school in 1944. The property was then transferred to the War Hospitality Committee, where it served as temporary housing for deploying servicemen. Afterwards, it served a number of functions for various DC government offices, including the city’s Health Department, Rent Control Board, and the Department of Public Works.

In 2013, the Central Union Mission announced that they would move their operations to the Gales School, as the school’s proximity to Union Station and downtown made it optimal for the houseless population that they serve. After renovating the building to fit their needs, the organization moved into the building early in 2014. Central Union Mission, a nonprofit, Christian organization, aims to help and support at-risk communities throughout DC, including a shelter, work programs, food and clothing distribution, among other services.

This site is listed in the Public School Buildings of Washington, DC: 1864-1945 Multiple Property Document as an example of “Office of Building Inspector, 1874-1897.”

DC Inventory: May 23, 2002



65 Massachusetts Avenue, NW