Thursday Doors – Charles Sumner School

Charles Sumner School

Charles Sumner School

Shortly after attending a couple of business meetings in Washington, D.C. last summer, I posted a selection of random DC doors. I hinted in that post that I had other doors, but that I needed to research their story. One of the buildings that caught my eye has a very interesting, albeit somewhat incomplete history. The Charles Sumner School represents a point in this country’s history when we began to turn in the right direction. It also represents the beginning of an era that, in retrospect, would continue too long.

An act of Congress in 1862 required the education of black children in Washington, D.C.

For those readers outside the United State, I should mention the District of Columbia is our nation’s capital, but it is not one of the 50 US states. The US Congress was granted exclusive jurisdiction over the District of Columbia in the US Constitution.

As for the school, it started life in in grand fashion. From Wikipedia:

The building was designed by prominent Washington architect Adolf Cluss, a task for which he would receive a design award at the 1873 Vienna Exposition.”

Congress, through federal agencies, maintained administrative control of the school for more than 10 years. In 1873, administrative control was turned over to local officials, but separate superintendents were appointed to administer schools that educated black and white children. This school educated elementary school children and eventually included high school students. At that time, the school was called Dunbar High School. The first high school students graduated in 1877.

Also in 1877, the school became the first teacher’s college for African Americans and was renamed Myrtilla Miner Normal School. The building also housed the offices for the Superintendent and Board of Trustees of the school system for black students.

All three sites that I checked about this building’s history skip forward about a hundred years and mention that by the 1980s, the building had fallen into disrepair. Although Washington, DC is home to many of our country’s most historic buildings, by the late 1900s the trend was turning to tear-down-and-replace, rather than restore buildings in poor condition.

Fortunately, Richard Hurlbut led a fundraising effort to raise $5 million to renovate the building. The building was then renamed the Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives. The building also houses the District of Columbia Public School Archives. In addition, the building includes reading rooms, meeting spaces as well as the D.C. Women’s Hall of Fame and some exhibit space that is used by local artists.

As many of you know, one of my favorite sources of information is the National Registry of Historic Places. There are almost 600 sites in Washington, DC on the registry. The registry nomination form for the Sumner School doesn’t offer much more information than I had found elsewhere, but it does include several historic photos. Since these are public domain photos, I included them in a second gallery today.

Thursday Doors is a super fun weekly series administered by Superintendent Norm Frampton from his world headquarters in Canada. If you want to participate, all you need is a photo of a door, a drawing of a door, or a door you can tell a story about. Take the school bus up to Norm’s place. Check out his doors. Look for the blue frog thingie. Click that tadpole and off you go to a collection of doors from around the world. By the way, check back because Thursday Doors is open for contributions until noon Saturday.

About Dan Antion

Husband, father, woodworker, cyclist, photographer, geek - oh wait, I’m writing this like I only have 140 characters. I am all those things, and more, and all of these passions present me with opportunities to observe, and think about things that I can’t write about in other places. I have started this blog to catch the stuff that falls out, overflows and just plain doesn’t fit the other containers in my life.
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57 Responses to Thursday Doors – Charles Sumner School

  1. reocochran says:

    There’s an elegance and stately quality to the 1215 door, Dan. As you gave us the details for the building, Charles Sumner School, I noticed the triple arches surrounding the windows. The architect gave splendour to the windows which are extra nice in their stonework.
    I like how you mention our country was taking a turn for the better, when this was being built.
    The gate and clock tower are gorgeous, too. Thank you for taking the time to inform us! Hope this rolls you gently from a pleasant Thursday into the weekend! :)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks Robin. I love the building and I was pleasantly surprised to learn of its history. I wonder what the story was for the 100 years in between, but I’m guessing it was just gradual decay. I can see why the building’s design won an award.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ruth says:

    Your excellently-researched Thursday Door posts always leave me feeling like such a dunce, Dan – I tend to post a pic of a door and pretty much say no more than ‘Here is a door’, whereas you always give the whole fascinating kit-and-caboodle history lesson to go with it! :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Aw, thanks Ruth. But don’t feel bad. The research thing is just something I enjoy doing. I’m always worried that someone is saying “oh know, not another history lesson. Just show me the doors!”

      Liked by 2 people

  3. GP Cox says:

    It’s always great to see the history of the doors and not just the photo! Great work again, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. ianbcross says:

    Doors are great, but the windows are better. Super shots, thanks for posting.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great doors and windows and all-around decorating on an impressive building, Dan. Happy Thursday!

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is truly a wonderful historic building that certainly deserved to be restored to its original beauty. Thank you to those who contributed to the fund raiser. Much better than a new modern one. :-)

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Well done, Dan. Have a thriving Thursday. Mega hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. bikerchick57 says:

    Mr. Hurlbut did an excellent job in refurbishing the school. It’s so lovely and I’m glad that he retained detail around the arched windows. Thanks for sharing this historic D.C. building, Dan. Where is it located? Anywhere near a metro stop?

    Like

    • Dan Antion says:

      17 M Sts, NW., Washington, DC

      From Union Station (I always use that as my starting point)

      Red Line to GLENMONT
      Exit at NOMA-GALLAUDET U (NEW YORK AVE) METRO STATION
      Use M STREET station exit

      Walk about 0.3 miles.

      I’m glad you like the building. He and the original architect both did a wonderful job

      Liked by 1 person

  9. marianallen says:

    That door with the gate! WOW! I could trip on that all day.

    Don’t forget The Clio when you do your historical research!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I wonder how many people don’t know DC is our nation’s capital. Wait, probably a lot.
    I think it is a shame that so many buildings were torn down, but this one is beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I loved the way you progressed through the images. I had no idea it was so elegant and stately looking at the first two images. Then, Shazam! A clock tower, arch windows, and double staircase extravaganza!

    I would love to see the trees in front of the double staircase pared back so one could see how grand that entrance is. You found a jewel to share with interesting history. I’m glad that it was restored and put to good use. Richard Hurlbut was the right man to lead the charge toward keeping it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed this, Deborah. I had to walk by this building to get to my meeting, and its beauty just struck me. Thank goodness (OK, thank my father’s training) that I’m always way early for things. I’m sure I look like the typical tourist, but it really is beautiful.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. What an imposing looking school. I love the clock tower, it really makes the building look spectacular and the windows are fab, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. joey says:

    I can see why your favorite photo is, but mine would be the one from afar, with the clock tower :) It’s a gorgeous school. The window trim makes it more splendid than the average brick building. An admirable restoration, indeed.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Candy says:

    Thanks for sharing this bit of history and its doors

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I have an idea. When you retire I think you ought to convince a school of architecture to let you teach a course on the “Historical Background and Visual Tour of America’s Most Interesting Structures.”

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Norm 2.0 says:

    A wonderful place. The pics from the 70’s were a good addition – nicely done Dan.
    I always appreciate the history surrounding these older buildings so you feel free to keep researching away ;-)

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Val Boyko says:

    Those windows nearly outshine the doors and the history! What a grand place 😃

    Like

  18. jan says:

    I’m glad you did research on the school – it adds to our appreciation of its purpose.

    Like

  19. Joanne Sisco says:

    When I see a saved treasure like this one, I can’t help but wonder about all the others that were forever lost. This one looks beautifully restored. I’m so glad that there seems to be much more interesting in preservation of the past.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. AmyRose🌹 says:

    Wow those windows are awesome, Dan. The stately appearance of this school reeks of history. Thank you for the pic of the flowers. Sigh. Man do I miss flowers! Every image wonderful so I thank you for the grand tour! Great post! 🌹

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Stunning details found on this school’s building. The windowsecond are really something. Gorgeous.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. dweezer19 says:

    Great! As always. I took photos of doors on our trip but vacation lag this week and back to work kept me from posting them..😔

    Liked by 1 person

  23. dweezer19 says:

    The school is beautiful and foreboding looking at the same time., at least the aerial view. I admire your tenacity in gaining the historical facts.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Okay I was in the middle of this when Sarah saw me awake, got a bit furious because it’s 3:30 a.m. here. So I will come back on this later. I also have a big announcement to make tomorrow on BFF Facebook, so watch out.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. I’m back. It’s Tuesday morning. Valentine’s Day mood in the air. I love these old style buildings and every Thursday I wait for some part of history that you share. To be honest, history was never my favorite subject in the school (probably teachers never taught it with enthusiasm), but now I am so deeply connected with history. I am glad you keep sharing these pictures and content that offer me a blast-from-the-past experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      History was never my favorite subject either. The teachers I had simply wanted us to remember what happened and when it happened. We never spend much time talking about why it happened or what the ramifications were.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I believe it is all about how to share history with others. Many of my friends don’t like history, but they love it when I share it with them. The same way I love you sharing some bits of American history. :) We can be good history teachers I believe.

        Liked by 1 person

  26. prior.. says:

    nice job with the history, D and yes sir – gates are doors and that upview is my fav of the post!!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. sonetteam says:

    Awesome Share !!!! I took photographs of entryways on our trek yet excursion slack this week and back to work shielded me from posting them

    Liked by 2 people

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