Western High School
(Duke Ellington School of the Arts)

Western High School is among the city’s grandest Classical Revival school buildings, poised like a temple of learning on the heights above Georgetown.

Built in 1897-98, it is one of the city’s first buildings constructed specifically for high school use. The design by architect Harry B. Davis is notable not just for its monumental Ionic portico and rejection of Victorian style, but also for its landscaped setting—an innovation attributable to the mature landscape that already existed on the site, a former estate known as The Cedars.

The building is three stories with facades of red and buff brick (now painted) with limestone trim. The classroom wings were extended and the auditorium and portico widened as part of a school expansion in 1910, and after a 1914 fire, a new cornice replaced the original balustraded parapet. A rear expansion and auditorium by Municipal Architect Albert Harris date from 1925.

Organized in 1890 and first housed at the old Curtis School on O Street, the school originally served white students in the western section of the District and suburbs. It accepted its first class as a high school for the arts in 1974, and graduated its last regular high school class in 1976.

DC Ownership
National Register Listing: July 25, 2003
DC Inventory: May 23, 2002



1698 35th Street, NW