How Much Have We Lost?

Sunday, March 31, 2013

History of U.S. 1: Early Schools along Route One, Part 3


In 2006, the Mount Vernon Gazette ran a series of articles by local author Michael K. Bohn on the history of U.S. 1. They provide some interesting history on U.S. 1.
The following was written by Michael K. Bohn and ran in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, in 2006.
Early Schools along Route One, Part 3

Michael K. Bohn
Mount Vernon Gazette, 2006

This is the final part of the schools segment in the Route One history series. It describes the remaining historic elementary schools and early high schools near Route One.

Potter’s Hill offere a few high school courses, but
was primarily an elementary school.
Potter’s Hill. Telegraph and Accotink Roads (now approximately Telegraph and Beulah Roads). Built prior to1879, the school was replaced by a new structure in 1917 that offered both elementary grades as well as a few high school subjects. Not deeded to the county until 1918, Potter’s Hill burned in 1934.
Snowden. Fort Hunt Road and Chadwick Avenue. Prominent local men living along the river near the Neck Road (now Fort Hunt Road) donated money for the construction of the school in 1870. They included Theron Thompson, owner of Hollin Hall, William Hunter of Cedar Hill Farm, now Waynewood, and Valentine Baker of Wellington (now River Farm/American Horticulture Society). Stacey Snowden, who owned Collingwood, donated the land. Although it burned to the ground in 1900, the community deeded the land to the county the same year. The Fairfax County erected a new building in 1903, closed it during the years 1907-11, with the students transferring to Woodlawn School. The school district added a second room in 1917, with Mildred “Aggie” Finks starting a Sunday school in the building in 1929, a congregation that later became St Luke’s Episcopal Church. The county closed Snowden in 1939, transferring the children to Groveton; the school building burned in 1941. Mrs. Finks was a long-time member of the Fairfax County School Board.

Gladys Bushrod, ninety-eight, is a life-long Mason Neck resident.  She is a valuable source of information about the area’s history
and a respected elder in the community.  Michael K. Bohn
Spring Bank. Quander Road and Route One. Fairfax County opened this school for African-Americans in 1890. Little information about it survives, but a description of the school, written by a student, describes its proximity to the student’s homes. “It is about five minutes walk from our house. Although we live near the school there are some of the scholars who have a long way to go.” A movement to consolidate Spring Bank, Gum Springs, and Woodlawn schools began in the 1940s, but Spring Bank remained open almost until integration. The building was a private residence for the last few years before its demolition.

Woodlawn. 8505 Highland Lane (Engleside, just off Route One). The Quakers who bought Woodlawn Plantation in 1846 started a school the following year in the miller’s cottage at George Washington’s gristmill. Later, after the Friends built their meeting house in 1851, the students met there. Courtland Lukens, owner of Engleside Farm, and E.E. Mason, son of John Mason who purchased Woodlawn from the Quakers in 1853, donated land for a two-room school in 1869. Although the date of its transfer to the county is unknown, the school has thrived continuously for 136 years. When Snowden and Groveton schools closed 1907-11, Woodlawn families drove a wagon to pick up the children so that they could attend Woodlawn School. The school burned in 1917, but the county quickly rebuilt it on the same site. The current school opened in 1938 on land purchased from Engleside Farm. There have been multiple additions to the school since then. Over the years, Woodlawn teachers and principals have come from many of the Quaker families who were important to the vibrancy of the community—Gillingham, Lukens, Wilkinson, Cox, Buckman, and others

Woodlawn Colored. Woodlawn Road, Fort Belvoir. In 1866, freedmen started Woodlawn Methodist Church near what is now the post commissary on Fort Belvoir. The church soon opened a school, later erecting a separate building for it in 1888. Initially staffed by Quaker teachers, the first African-American began instructing the students in 1871. As Fort Belvoir expanded in 1940, the church had to move to Gum Springs, leaving its cemetery on the Army’s grounds. The county closed the school in 1940, transferring the children to Gum Springs School.

Fairfax County built most of the current elementary schools between Old Town and the Occoquan River during the great building boom of the 1950s and 60s. Officials later closed several as subsequent enrollment declined. Hollin Hall School, for example, is now a senior citizen center, while Hollin Hills School is a private retirement home.

Sadly, all of the one-room schools in the Mount Vernon area are gone. The county did save Legato School, turning it into a museum. It was open from 1870 until 1930 at its original site—now the intersection of Highway 50 and West Ox Road. The county moved the structure in 1972 to central Fairfax City on Route 123.

High Schools
Manassas Industrial. 9601Wellington Road, Manassas. There was no high school for African-Americans living in Fairfax County until 1938 when Fairfax joined Prince William and Fauquier counties to purchase the Manassas Industrial Institute. Opened in 1894, the private school had trained African-American students in carpentry, blacksmithing, masonry, laundry, sewing, and other trades. The three counties transformed the facility into a regional, segregated high school. Gum Springs resident Ben Holland drove area students in a bus to Manassas starting in 1934. A segregated high school for blacks—Luther Jackson High School—opened in 1954 on Gallows Road. Prince William demolished the Manassas facility in the early 1960s after integration. In 1995, the city of Manassas dedicated a memorial to the school, and its founder, Jennie Dean.

Lee-Jackson High School, shown here in the 1930s,
opened for Mount Vernon area students in 1926 at its first location
on the south side of Duke Street at Quaker Lane.  In 1939, Fairfax County moved
both the student body and faculty to a new facility on Route One, later renaming it
Mount Vernon High School.  Prior to 1951, the strip between
Duke Street and Cameron Run was in Fairfax County.  Virginia Room, FCPL
Lee-Jackson. South side of Duke Street at Quaker Lane. Lee-Jackson was the first public high school available to students in the Mount Vernon area. Opened in 1926, it was located at the current Alexandria city ball fields and maintenance facilities on Duke Street. (Alexandria annexed the strip of Fairfax County between Duke Street and Cameron Run in 1951.) The county opened a new high school on Route One in 1939, transferring both the students and faculty from Lee-Jackson over the Christmas holidays. The school system later changed the name to Mount Vernon. It is the current site of the Islamic Saudi Academy. Today’s Mount Vernon High School opened in 1974.

Groveton. 2709 Popkins Lane. The county bought land from the Catholic Church in 1950, then opened Groveton High School in 1956. Twenty years later the school system built a new Groveton facility on Quander Road, with the old structure later becoming Bryant Alternative High School.

Fort Hunt. 8428 Fort Hunt Road. Opened in 1963, Fort Hunt was unique in that a large number of the students walked to school. In a controversial decision in 1985, the county merged Fort Hunt with Groveton to form West Potomac High School, using the Groveton campus. The county converted Fort Hunt to Sandburg Middle School.

In 1960, Fairfax County opened nine intermediate schools and began operating a scheme of six elementary, two middle, and four high school grades. The county added eighth grade to high schools in 1946, but credits earned in that grade did not count for high school graduation until 1961.

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