District Schools & Universities

Not only is Washington, DC the national capital and the home of the federal government, but from its beginning the city has also been a center of public and private education. Today, residents and visitors alike can visit several university campuses, and see numerous primary and secondary school buildings throughout the District's neighborhoods. Many of the school buildings, while still serving an educational function, have changed with the city to meet new needs. Other school buildings, like the former Shaw Junior High School and Syphax School, have been repurposed for new uses, such as housing. Especially notable is Franklin School, a National Historic Landmark, which has housed the Planet Word Museum since 2020.

This tour reveals a diversity of social histories, from an era of racial segregation through a period of integration following the U.S. Supreme Court decisions of Bolling v. Sharpe and Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, which called for the desegregation of public schools. This tour will also illustrate the variety of architectural styles, from the High Victorian Gothic Healy Building at Georgetown University to the early Modernism of Slowe Elementary School. This is just a subset of the many historically-designated educational buildings in the District.

This tour can be completed by walking, public transport, and/or car. Since the landmarks are spread out, it is advised that you map out your route to determine distance before beginning.

For an additional tour on school buildings, please see "African American Schools" under the Tours tab.

John Philip Sousa Junior High School

John Philip Sousa Junior High (now Middle) School, built in 1950, stands as a symbol of the lengthy conflict over the desegregation of public schools and the beginning of the modern civil rights movement. The school is nationally significant for its…

National Training School for Women and Girls

Founded in 1909, the National Training School for Women and Girls educated Black women from around the world. Unlike other prominent Black schools, such as the Tuskegee Institute, the founders did not request money from white donors. Nannie Helen…

Lucy Diggs Slowe Elementary School

The Lucy Diggs Slowe Elementary School first opened in 1945 in response to a lawsuit against segregated schooling in DC. John Preston Davis attempted to enroll his five-year old son at Noyes Elementary School in 1944, yet was rejected based upon…

Holy Redeemer College

Constructed in 1933, architect Anthony A.F. Schmitt designed Holy Redeemer College as a residential home for members of the Redemptorist religious order while they pursued studies at nearby Catholic University of America (CUA). The building has been…

Alexander Crummell School

The Alexander Crummell School, built between 1910 and 1911, is located in Ivy City. Municipal Architect Snowden Ashford designed the building in 1910 in a personalized Renaissance style, and construction was carried out the following year by Allan T.…

Young, Browne, Phelps, and Spingarn Education Campus

Spingarn Senior High School, Browne Junior High School, Charles Young Elementary School, and Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering (formerly Vocational) High School are located on approximately 27.25 sloping acres of land overlooking the…

Gallaudet College Historic District

Gallaudet University, founded in 1864 as the National Deaf-Mute College, has been since its inception the only institution of higher learning in the United States devoted specifically to the education of the deaf. Significant periods of construction…

M Street High School (Perry School)

The M Street High School was one of the first high schools for Black students constructed with public funds in the nation. The school represents an important benchmark in the development of education for DC's black student population since 1870, when…

Armstrong Manual Training School

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Armstrong Manual Training School and M Street High School were the only two high schools in DC that admitted black students. From its founding, Armstrong operated as an important institution and symbol for…

Central High School (Cardozo Senior High School)

Built between 1914 and 1916, Cardozo High School is the work of William B. Ittner, a nationally prominent school architect from St. Louis. The Elizabethan-style building and athletic facilities were constructed on an on extraordinary terraced and…

Howard University

These three buildings on Howard University’s Main Yard are nationally significant as the setting for the institution’s role in the legal establishment of racially desegregated public education, and for its association with two nationally recognized…

Miner Normal School

Myrtilla Miner (1815-1864), a pioneer for Black female education, established the “Normal School for Colored Girls,” also known as the “Miner School for Girls” in 1851; its eventual large, three-story, symmetrically-massed Colonial Revival brick…

Blanche Kelso Bruce School

Named in honor of Blanche Kelso Bruce (1841-1848), the first African American to serve a full term as an elected U.S. senator, the Renaissance Revival-style Bruce School served generations of African American elementary students during the era of…

Theodore Roosevelt High School

Roosevelt High School was founded in 1890 as Business High School, then DC’s only institution devoted to instruction in business. The co-educational and segregated school had an itinerant early history until it moved into its first purpose-built home…

Military Road School

Established in 1864 to educate free people of color, the Military Road School was formerly located on Military Road, which connected DC’s Civil War forts. In particular, the Military Road School was near Fort Stevens barracks, where many people of…

Calvin Coolidge Senior High School

Designed by Nathan C. Wyeth, Calvin Coolidge Senior High School (Coolidge High School) constitutes a significant example of Georgian Revival architecture in the District—and remains part of the District’s early efforts to improve local…

Marjorie Webster Junior College Historic District

This small intact campus was built by Marjorie Webster, a significant figure in the education of women in Washington, as a private junior college dedicated to the educational needs of working women. Throughout its fifty-one years of existence, the…

Jesse Reno School

The Jesse Reno School was built in 1903 for African American children. Designed by municipal architect Snowden Ashford, the school had four rooms on the first floor and four on the basement level. Its formal Renaissance-style design acknowledges the…

Woodrow Wilson High School

Tenleytown's Woodrow Wilson High School exemplifies the high standard of architectural quality that characterized Washington's public school design and construction until the mid-twentieth century. The school was carefully designed to suit the unique…

Immaculata Seminary Historic District

In the early 20th century, the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary of the Woods, a Catholic order, purchased the property to establish the Immaculata Seminary school for girls, and constructed an imposing building (Capital Hall) facing Tenley Circle in…

Chain Bridge Road School

One of only a few extant rural schools in Washington, this four-room schoolhouse, built in 1923, serves as a link and memorial to the vanished post-Civil War community of Black refugees and freedmen that grew up around the city’s Civil War…

Conduit Road School

Originally built in 1864 and rebuilt in 1874, the Conduit Road Schoolhouse is a one-story one-room clapboard building with a brick foundation. It is a simple rectangular structure, with a recent small addition on the southeast corner of the back. It…

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 between 1897 and 1898, it is one of the city’s first buildings constructed specifically…

Old North Building

The Old North Building is the oldest remaining academic building on the Georgetown University campus, built between 1794 and 1797. An 1829 Prospectus shows the North and South Buildings as the heart of Georgetown’s campus. The College appears to have…

Healy Building (Georgetown University)

Named for Patrick Francis Healy, then the President of Georgetown University, Healy Hall began construction in November 1877 and was largely finished by 1879. Reverend Healy consulted with a number of prominent architects, but decided to select the…

Thaddeus Stevens School

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…

George Washington University/Old West End Historic District

The George Washington University/Old West End Historic District is located in the present-day neighborhood of Foggy Bottom in northwest Washington, DC and encompasses the historic core of The George Washington University, as well as other buildings…

George Washington University, Stockton Hall

Stockton Hall is the sister building to Corcoran Hall, and is one of two buildings constructed after a 1922 plan by architect Albert Harris for a Georgian Revival quadrangle to house George Washington University.Stockton Hall is representative of the…

Charles Sumner School

The Sumner School is one of three post-Civil War black schools in DC and is named in honor of Charles Sumner, a Massachusetts Senator and ardent abolitionist who attempted, unsuccessfully, to ban segregated schools and public facilities in the city.…

Benjamin Franklin School (and Interiors)

Built between 1865 and 1869, the Benjamin Franklin School was the flagship of a group of seven modern urban public school buildings constructed between 1862 and 1875 to house, for the first time, a comprehensive system of free universal public…

Hayes School

The Rutherford B. Hayes School is a large red brick school building constructed in 1897. It was designed by Charles E. Burden in a unique Italianate style characterized by twin entry towers and round-arched openings.The Hayes School was one of the…

Thomas Jefferson Junior High School

Designed by Nathan C. Wyeth, Thomas Jefferson Junior High School’s exemplary Georgian Revival Style is evidenced through architectural symmetry, a cupola over the main block, and a two-story entry surround with Doric pilasters. The Junior High School…

Elizabeth G. Randall Junior High School (Cardozo School)

The Randall School, established in 1906 as the Cardozo Elementary School, became a junior high school in 1927 and was repeatedly expanded to meet the educational needs of Southwest DC’s African American community. Originally named the Francis L.…

William Syphax School

William Syphax was born in 1825 to Charles Syphax and Maria Carter. Charles, Syphax’s father, was enslaved by a man named George Washington Parke Custis, grandson and adopted son of George and Martha Washington. Maria, Syphax’s mother, was also…