GEORGE WASHINGTON HIGH SCHOOL

 

George Washington High School opened in the fall of 1935 at 1005 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, Virginia, merging the students from Alexandria's two high schools. GW, as it was popularly known, replaced Alexandria High School which had been located in the 1400 block of Cameron Street, adjacent to Jefferson Elementary School. GW also replaced the George Mason High School which was built in 1925 in the town of Potomac (formed in 1908 when Del Ray joined St. Elmo). In 1930, Alexandria annexed this town and also acquired the high school which fronted 2500 Mount Vernon Avenue. Located adjacent to George Mason was Mt. Vernon Elementary School. With the opening of GW, George Mason High School became an annex to the nearby elementary school. The original George Mason High School building still stands as part of Mt. Vernon Elementary. All of these high schools served the white population of Alexandria, as segregation was the law in Virginia until after the 1954 Supreme Court decision. Parker-Gray High School on Madison Street served Alexandria's black population until 1965 when integration came to the city's high schools.

 

GW's original main building, built in the distinctive art deco style with exterior ornamental carved stonework and vertically fluted stone columns, was a three-story T-shape with one long hallway on each floor, stretching the length of the front of the building. There were no south or north wings in 1935. On the first floor, extending from the center of the rear of the school, were the locker rooms for boys and girls, with a long hallway in between leading to the cafeteria. On the second floor above the locker rooms was the auditorium, distinctive and unique at the time and built with such good acoustics that, in the early decades it was used for performances by the National Symphony Orchestra and professional opera companies; it was also mentioned in the Virginia history books. Also on the second floor, located above the cafeteria, was the gymnasium, which, though small, was a great improvement over the gym facilities of the former Alexandria and George Mason High Schools. The gym also served the band and became known to many as the band room.

 

The first principal of GW was Henry T. Moncure. His tenure began with a student body of approximately 1200 and a faculty of 35. At this time, both the School Board and Superintendent T.C. Williams were openly criticized for having built a school so large that, it was claimed, there would never be a student body large enough to use the entire facility. Three expansions of the building in less than ten years proved the critics' assessment to be completely off the mark.

 

The first expansion came in 1937, just two years after the school opened. This was the addition of the south wing which was used for shop classes. By 1941, a full industrial arts annex was constructed separate from the main building, across the parking lot from south entrance of the high school. In 1948 the north wing was built, providing more classrooms and housing the library on the third floor, with an extension to the cafeteria on the first floor. Room 108 was part of this expansion, and according to reports from teachers at the time, was to be used for meetings of professional educational clubs and associations, which justified outfitting the room with wood paneling, benches and a wet bar.

 

The GW Memorial Stadium, with a capacity of 14,800 fans, was built by the city in 1947, with merchants' donations funding the cost of the lights and a single corporation providing for the electronic scoreboard. The stadium, with its quarter-mile track and lighted football field, was often the site of professional preseason football games, three-ring circuses, visits by U.S. Presidents, and every Thanksgiving Day it was filled to capacity for the Olde Oaken Bucket football game between GW and arch-rival Washington & Lee High School of Arlington.

 

The small gymnasium was satisfactory during GW's early years, but due to increased attendance at the varsity basketball games, the gym facilities became inadequate. GW began to play their home basketball games at Hammond High School when it opened in 1956. After a long period of planning by the city, the Tulloch Memorial Gymnasium was finally built, opening in 1961. The old gymnasium was officially converted into two music rooms and the locker rooms were made into four classrooms.

 

After Alexandria's 1953 annexation of a large portion of Fairfax County to the west of the city, additional students came into the city school system, changing the demographics and necessitating the planning and construction of another high school. In 1956 Francis C. Hammond High School on Seminary Road was opened, taking students from GW's freshman and sophomore classes. The last class to graduate intact from GW was the Class of 1957. The Class of 1958 was the first class to have its members, who were all at GW for their freshman and sophomore years, graduate as a divided class from GW and Hammond. The Class of 1959 also graduated with its members divided between the two high schools, after beginning as a unified freshman class at GW.

 

  GEORGE WASHINGTON as a JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL

 

In the 1960s the City of Alexandria began planning for the integration of the public schools. In 1965 T. C. Williams High School was opened. GW was integrated and remained a 4-year high school until 1971 when Alexandria's secondary schools were reorganized. At that time, both GW and Hammond were designated to serve ninth and tenth graders, while T. C. Williams was designated the city's senior high school. 

 

Since 1935, GW students have always benefited from a facility designed to accommodate extensive course offerings and various athletic and extracurricular activities, one which was able to lend itself well to whatever function was demanded of it over the years. It continues to be a viable institution which serves its students very well. In 1979, the city again reorganized the secondary schools, and GW's status changed to a junior high.

 

GEORGE WASHINGTON as a MIDDLE SCHOOL

 

GW finally became a middle school in 1993, educating students in grades six through eight. This structure remained GW's mission until 2009 when the ACPS board restructured the two existing middle schools (GW & FCH) into five middle schools.  GW was divided into two (GW1 and GW2) and FCH was split into three.

 

GWHS/GWJHS  PNCIPALS

GWMS   PRINCIPALS

         
1935 - 1943 Henry T. Moncure   1991 - 1994 Dr. Lawrence Jointer
1943 - 1946 Howard R. Richardson   1994 - 1997 Joseph Powless
1946 - 1963Edgar G. Pruet 1997 - 1999 Richard Murphy
1963 - 1967Robert (Gus) Garner   1999 - 2001 Rob Weinkle
1967 - 1969Robert Parlier 2001 2004   Robert Yeager
1969 - 1971Richard Hills 2004 2006 Ms.  Grace Taylor Grimm
1971 - 1987 Steve F. Osisek 2006- 2009 Ms. Keisha Boggan
1987 - 1989Robert Yeager   2009 - present

GW1:              Gerald Mann
GW2:            Linda Whitfield

1989 - 1991 Anthony Hanley  
         

Information was compiled from the GW Fiftieth Anniversary Committee, talks with former GW teachers and students, articles in The Gazette Packet, files and records of Alexandria City Public Schools, and the Alexandria Public Library research section located at the Lloyd House on Washington Street.


The first history of the school was found in the first yearbook, the 1936 Compass. Many people have been involved ever since in updating. There are far too many people to try and give credit. We have relied on alumni from all years to provide us with more valid data. Many thanks to Ted Arthur and Marty Neely.


Updates to this info have been made since 2003 by Dave Beach.
     
Back to the GW Stories page

This page updated November 02, 2011

Back to Main GW Alumni Page