Sometimes it seems that there are few children living in Georgetown. While GM has tried to rebut that perception with statistics, it is undeniable that before the late 20th century, there were many more children in Georgetown. What is more proof of that than the presence in Georgetown of no fewer than nine historic school buildings?
They’re there surely, but who but the longest term residents know much about their histories? GM has decided to perform a survey of Georgetown historic schools. He will piece together what information he can find to document the stories of these beautiful buildings (much of the research will come from the wonderful architectural survey performed in 1969 by the US Commission on the Fine Arts and led by Charles Atherton).
First up: GM’s neighbor, the Jackson School.
The Jackson School
3048 R St.
Current Owner: DC Government
Current Use: Jackson Art Center artists’ studios
Brief Story: The Jackson School was named after Pres. Andrew Jackson. It was built on property originally part of DC Governor Henry Cooke’s (yes we used to have a Governor). Due to a drop in enrollment from 320 to 120, the school was threatened with closure in 1942. Georgetown parents protested the last minute closure (it was announced just days before the school year) and the school remained open. It housed Georgetown’s war ration board during World War II. In 1965 enrollment dropped again (to 90) and the school was declared “open”, which meant that students from other neighborhoods would be allowed to attend the school (akin to today’s “out of boundary” system).
According to the Post archives, it appears that the Jackson School was closed in 1971 as part of a wider redistricting move. Attendance was only 96. According to the Post, only 6 of those students were from the neighborhood, the other 90 students were bused in from Anacostia. The students would be assigned to Anthony Hyde School or Fillmore School. If the racial element wasn’t implied enough, the Post made it crystal clear: prior to the reassignment the Hyde and Fillmore student bodies were about 45% White; after the changes Fillmore would be two-thirds Black and Hyde more than 70 percent Black.
And speaking of race, GM was unable to determine whether pre-integration Jackson School was exclusively White, Black or mixed. Given its proximity to Herring Hill, the historically-Black neighborhood centered around P and 27th, it would seem likely that Jackson was a Black school, but that is pure speculation on GM’s part. Anyone know for sure?
While the school closed around 1971, it appears from a 1974 article by a young Jay Matthews that for at least a short period it was being used as part of a special program for deaf or blind students. By 1980, however, the Jackson School had morphed into essentially what it remains today: an artists gallery/studio. That year, in partnership with the Corcoran, an artists co-op called “A-Salon” took over the then empty Jackson School and created the Jackson Arts Center. Initially the building was split up: the Corcoran taught classes in 60% of the space and A-Salon had studios and taught their own classes in the other 40%. At some point the Corcoran moved out and now the whole building is occupied by the artists’ studios. Their popular semi-annual open studios give the public a wonderful opportunity twice a year to poke through the old building and buy some art while we’re at it.
While a school always seems empty if it’s not filled with children, given the alternatives, GM is happy to have a collection of artists toiling away down the block.
The Library of Congress information and the period photos are from the Library of Congress’ American Building Survey located here.