Bruce and Wilson Normal Schools Achieve Landmark Status

Bruce School 1900(The Blanche Kelso Bruce School, ca. 1900)

Yesterday, November 20, 2014, two landmark nominations, authored by me, were considered by the Historic Preservation Review Board and approved.

Both the former Blanche Kelso Bruce School and the James Ormond Wilson Normal School buildings were added to the D.C. Inventory of Historic Structures when the Historic Preservation Review Board voted unanimously in support of the nominations. Both schools currently house charter schools. The Bruce school building, at 770 Kenyon Street, NW, is currently the home of Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy, Chavez Prep Campus, and the Wilson Normal school currently houses the Carlos Rosario School.

For those wanting to learn more about these buildings, the Historic Preservation Office’s staff reports provides a concise overview.

The staff report for the Bruce school concludes (read full report here):

The principal significance of the school is as an educational facility, serving generations of African-American elementary students during the era of segregated schools. Like other neighborhood schools, it grew out of and grew up with the community, serving as a community center in all senses.

The building is significant as well as a great example of one subtype of school, a product of the “Architects in Private Practice” era of 1897 to 1910, as described in the Multiple Property Documentation Form Public School Buildings of Washington, 1862-1960. It also stands as an interesting application of Albert Harris’s extensible school design as an addition.

The staff report for the Wilson Normal school states (read full report here):

The property retains excellent historic integrity, including its original lunch-room ell, its chimneys, etc. It has the expected alterations and repairs for a building a century old, such as window replacements. Its appearance has changed with some entry features erected for the present occupant, a charter school, but these alterations are ultimately reversible.

The nomination proposes a period of significance from 1912, the principal year of construction, to 1987, when the school was vacated by the teachers school, which had been merged into the University of the District of Columbia beginning in 1978. While 1987 is a pretty recent date to be considered historic, such a terminal date has few implications for the preservation treatment of the building exterior, given its remarkable preservation from a century ago. Further, if the continuity of Wilson Normal including its mergers into more modern institutions is important, then recognizing this entire span is reasonable.

Both nominations will be forwarded to the National Park Service for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

Explore posts in the same categories: Architecture, History, Preservation, Schools

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