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William Syphax School

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1901, Marsh and Peter. Half and N streets SW
  • William Syphax School (Franz Jantzen)

The William Syphax School is one of several elegant public school buildings designed by the local firm of Marsh and Peter in the District of Columbia between 1900 and 1910. It is located on the eastern edge of the Southwest Quadrant, an area traditionally inhabited by African Americans. Constructed for black children, the school was named in honor of the first black trustee of the “colored schools,” William Syphax, who served from 1868 to 1871.

For the school, Marsh and Peter provided a rendition of the Colonial Revival based on a predictable plan of four classrooms arranged around a large central hallway on each floor. The front presents a symmetrical design with a recessed pavilion flanked by balanced pavilions three bays wide. The architects' skill in addressing this routine structure lies in subtle variations in brickwork, in decorative detail, and in the shapes and sizes of window openings. White terracotta belt courses, white keystones and springline blocks at the second-floor windows, and a wooden cornice painted white enliven the dark red of the walls. The oversized colonial door surround, the projecting wrought-iron balcony at the second floor, and the flat dormer window at the roof emphasize the center of the composition.

Writing Credits

Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee


What's Nearby


Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee, "William Syphax 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, 240-241.

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