Originally the William McKinley Manual Training School, this 1902 building served as the white counterpart to Armstrong Manual Training School, which offered vocational training for Black students. The two schools emphasized the importance of industrial education alongside more traditional academic learning. Architecturally, the imposing buff brick and limestone structure, designed by Henry Ives Cobb, reflects the city’s attempt to improve public school design through the use of private architects.
When the McKinley Manual Training School moved to its larger Eckington campus in 1928, this building was converted into the Shaw Junior High School for Black students. From the beginning, Shaw Junior High was overcrowded, and the building itself was deteriorating. As conditions worsened, the building—dubbed Shameful Shaw—became emblematic of the city’s neglect of its Black citizens. By the 1960s, the surrounding neighborhood became the Shaw Urban Renewal area with plans to construct a new building for Shaw Junior High. After the school moved to its new location in 1977, this building remained vacant into the 1980s.
In 1982, the DC government began working with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Asbury Methodist Church to adapt the building into senior housing. These renovations resulted in 147 apartment units and other spaces for resident use such as lounges, a game room, coffee shop, exercise room, laundry room, and a beauty shop. The facility was renamed the Asbury Dwellings, and it continues to serve as a housing complex today. The story of this building demonstrates how historic buildings can be repurposed to benefit the community.
DC Inventory: September 25, 2008
National Register: December 22, 2008