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Eastern Senior High School

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1921–1923, Snowden Ashford. 17th and East Capitol streets NE
  • (The George F. Landegger Collection of District of Columbia Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
  • (The George F. Landegger Collection of District of Columbia Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

Eastern Senior High School was one of the last public school buildings Municipal Architect Snowden Ashford designed prior to his resignation in 1921. He had served the District government for more than two and a half decades, starting in 1895 as assistant building inspector in the old Office of the Building Inspector. He possessed definite ideas as to appropriate styles for municipal public buildings and placed a strong Elizabethan and Gothic stamp on the public school buildings he designed. His design philosophy meshed perfectly with that of William B. Ittner of Saint Louis, who was commissioned to design Central High School (today Cardozo Senior High School). Ittner's adaptation of the Collegiate Gothic style to Central High School likely inspired Ashford's own designs for Dunbar Senior High School (now demolished), completed in 1916, and for the Eastern High School building. Ashford persisted in the use of the Collegiate Gothic in this building, despite the growing public popularity of the Colonial Revival style and the urging of the Eastern Alumni Association to abandon the “Anheuser-Busch Gothic” style.

Eastern Senior High School, constructed for white students, covers a spacious site of four city blocks on the eastern edge of the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Its location is a reflection of the tendency of the white population to locate in the newer outlying areas, leaving the older housing stock closest to the Capitol to the black population. The large building is laid out in a rectangular plan arranged around a central auditorium. Two turreted towers astride a two-story porte-cochère with Gothic arch openings give prominence to the central pavilion. Elliptical driveways encircle a small terraced landscape and staircase. Broad banks of windows define the flanking classroom hyphens, each of which terminates in a projecting end pavilion embellished with limestone sheathed bay windows. Limestone belt courses hold together the sprawling structure. When completed, the building was noted in a national educational journal as possessing generous facilities for academic, business, and technical training. Eastern's architecture was cited as representing the ultimate in eastern school architecture and its facilities as constituting a veritable embarrassment of riches.

Writing Credits

Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee


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Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee, "Eastern Senior High School", [Washington, District of Columbia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of the District of Columbia, Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 268-269.

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