Last week GM began a new series, a survey of the historic school buildings of Georgetown. Today he continues with the second school building: the West Georgetown School.
West Georgetown School
1640 Wisconsin Ave.
Architect: Snowden Ashford
Current Owner: American College of Surgeons
Current Use: Commercial Office Space
Brief Story: You wouldn’t think it was once a school from looking at it, but the elegant Neo-Georgian building at 1640 Wisconsin Ave. was once the West Georgetown School.
There were actually two West Georgetown Schools. The property upon which the current building stands was sold to the Georgetown corporation in 1860 for $4,500 (about $100,000 in 2008 dollars) for the express purpose of building a new school. The first West Georgetown School was built sometime thereafter.
Children attended the first West Georgetown School until 1901 when it was abandoned. In 1910 it was demolished so that the current building could be constructed. The new West Georgetown School, however, was not like other schools in Georgetown. It was a vocational school targeted towards poor mothers.
Opening in 1912, the school offered cooking and food preservation classes to adults. The school eventually became known as the Central Lunch Kitchen and in 1934 began serving free hot lunches to 4,500 children as part of the Civil Works Administration. The school provided mothers with culinary and child care instruction. It also taught reading to illiterate adults.
From 1942 through 1949 the school offered canning classes as part of a culinary arts program. It appears that by 1950 the building no longer hosted classes and was converted to office and storage space for the school system.
In 1954 the building was sold by the District to architects Robert Deigert and David Yerkes for $26,155 (About $200,000 in today’s money). The building apparently has served as commercial office space ever since then. The current owner and primary tenant is the American College of Surgeons. The organization’s lobbying staff is housed there.
The building was painted grey at some point after it ceased being a school, and has not changed much else since this 1966 photo:
Frankly, GM prefers the building without the gray paint.
Interesting tidbit: GM knew that Wisconsin Ave. used to be called High Street before the merger of Georgetown and Washington, but he didn’t realize that from 1881 to 1906 it was called 32nd St.
All this information was obtained from the National Park Service’s Historic American Building Survey held at the Library of Congress.