Monday, March 22, 2010

Found: Old Photo of Wilson Normal School Students, 1923

Perhaps somewhere out, a reader might recognize one of the young ladies in this photo, which QW found while indulging in one of her favorite pastimes, flea marketing.

The Wilson Normal School, first named the Washington Normal School, was established in 1873 to train young white high school graduates to become elementary school teachers.  One of the school’s chief missions—as with “normal schools” all over the country—was to established standards of teaching or “norms”—thus, the term “Normal."

Predating the Wilson School, the Normal School for Colored Girls had been established in 1851; its name was thankfully changed to Miner Normal School in 1879.

The Washington Normal School changed its name to the James Ormond Wilson Normal School in 1913 to honor the then-superintendent of D.C. schools.  

The School was originally housed in the Franklin School Building at 660 K Street, NW (left).  It's first graduating class of 18 young white women began classes in September, 1873.   

In 1911, Congress granted the white school money to erect a new building at Eleventh and Harvard Streets, NW (right).  This was completed a year later and first occupied in 1913.  Today, this delightful building houses the Carlos Rosario International Career Center.   

The Miner College then occupied Franklin School.

In 1929, the US Congress turned both the Wilson and Miner Schools into four-year teaching colleges--they were renamed the Wilson Teachers College and Miner Teachers College respectfully.

In 1955, the segregated Wilson and Miner Teachers Colleges  were merged to become the District of Columbia Teachers College--the precursor to the University of the District of Columbia.

© Cecily Hilleary, 2010
Photo credits:
Students, Wilson Normal School, from QW's private collection.
Buildings, courtesy University of the District of Columbia, Learning Resources Division, University Archives Collection.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting a wonderful photograph of Wilson students in 1923. I must call your attention, to several mistakes in your text:

1. You have an incorrect address for Franklin School. It was and is located at 13th and K Streets NW, in other words, in the 1200 block of K Street. See for much more information about this historic building.
2. What evidence do you have that Miner Teachers College was ever located at Franklin School? The Board of Education and DCPS administration established their headquarters at Franklin starting in 1925.
3. J. Ormond Wilson was not Superintendent of Schools in 1923. He was Superintendent from 1870-1885 (National Cyclopedia, Vol. 13, p. 58), and was the founder of the Normal School that was housed at Franklin School from 1873 to 1923.

Joseph L. Browne, Chair
Steering Committee
Coalition for Franklin School

Quondam Washington said...

Thanks for your comments--and now you've got my curiosity churning!

1. My information on the location of the Franklin School was obtained from the UDC Library's site. The NE is clearly a mistake on their part and I typed it without thinking--I pass that building frequently and know better.

As for the “660,” I wonder whether that was the address under the old DC numbering system?


2. According a chronology of the UDC and its predecessor institutions on the library’s digital collection website, "Miner Normal School (officially known as Washington Normal School # 2) held classes in the Franklin Building from 1873(?) to 1907."

Quondam Washington spent some time leafing through old Washington Post files this morning, with these findings: At the close of the school year 1884, Miner students are in the original building at Nineteenth and K Streets; by November of 1886, there were concerns that the building was unsuitable for use, particularly in the basement, which was damp and poorly lit. Apparently the High School had also been using a portion of the building.

By June, 1903, the school appears at Seventh and Madison Streets, NW. April 29, 1908, the Post reported that the Miner and Old High Street school buildings had been condemned by the DC Fire Chief as fire hazards.

By September, 1914, the Miner School was located at Georgia and Euclid Streets, NW. As an aside, the same article mentions there had been a proposal afoot to rename Miner to the George F. T. Cook Normal School, after a generous donor. However, the DC Commissioners denied the proposal, as there were already three Cook schools in the city and this would make matters confusing.

Here’s the UDC site where I got the original information:

3. I stand corrected; I should have written that J. Ormond Wilson was Superintendent of Schools at the time the Wilson Normal School was founded!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your research. While scanning her old photos I came across a school photo of my grandmother and the other girls who attended the Wilson Normal school in 1928. Her friends are named, including Margaret Hoover. The soon to be presidents daughter?

Quondam Washington said...

Would you consider allowing me to post a scan of that photo and the names of the students--with full credit going to you? One of the nicest things I've discovered about this research is that it's allowed people who are searching for their family histories to make discoveries!

Do let me know! --QW

Anonymous said...

The UDC Archives is very interested in any records, photographs, and documents pertaining to Wilson Normal School/Wilson Teachers College, as it was one of predecessor institutions. We have a collection of Wilson materials, and always welcome and appreciate donations of materials from Wilson. We also are here to help anyone, who would need assistance in researching the history of Wilson, or any of other predecessor institutions.

Chris Anglim
UDC Archives

Quondam Washington said...

Chris, QW is famous for her absent-mindedness. If she can lay her hands on the photo, she will be more than happy to donate it!

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