Built in 1868, enlarged in 1885 and partially rebuilt and enlarged between 1895 and 1896, Stevens School is the oldest surviving elementary school in the District of Columbia still in its original use as an elementary school. Named after Pennsylvania Congressman and abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens, it was built originally for African American students as part of a racially segregated public school system.
Stevens School exemplifies the struggle for equal educational opportunities for African Americans in DC after emancipation. It originally served a diverse West End community composed of both recently arrived freedmen and African Americans who had been free for generations. When office towers replaced much of the residential neighborhood in the 1950s and 1960s, Stevens preserved its traditional role through an innovative extended day care program for the children of its new office-worker neighborhood. Stevens’ alumni have distinguished themselves both nationally and in their communities, including historian Rayford Whittingham Logan, Colonel Campbell C. Johnson, singer Roberta Flack, radio and TV personality Ralph “Petey” Greene, and actor Robert Hooks.
Students from all wards of the city attend Stevens today, many of them the descendants of earlier Stevens students whose parents are preserving a family tradition of educational excellence in an historic setting. Stevens is located only a few blocks from the White House, and President Jimmy Carter's daughter Amy attended Stevens while her father was in office.
The design of the building reflects its evolutionary process and has not varied in any significant manner since 1896, aside from an expansion of the playground in 1931 and 1932. Although the original architect is unknown, the plans for the building and all subsequent alterations were completed under the supervision of Edward Clark, who served as Architect of the Capitol from 1865 until 1902. The alterations of 1885 and 1895-1896 were designed and carried out by the Office of the Building Inspector under Thomas B. Entwhistle.
The Thaddeus Stevens School today has the appearance of a Georgian Revival building with a Palladian five-part plan. The 1885 wings are transitionally Romanesque, while the entrances reflect the Second Empire style of the original building and probably reused original materials removed when they were built.
DC Inventory: June 20, 1972
National Register: July 12, 2001