Franklin School (Washington, D.C.)
The Franklin School, located in the District of Columbia's Franklin Square, is one of two surviving red-brick school masterpieces designed by noted architect Adolf Cluss. Opened in 1869, the school was the flagship building of eight public schools constructed in the city to house the first comprehensive system of universal public education. This building is also notable for its role in the history of telecommunications. It was in the Franklin School that Alexander Graham Bell transmitted the first wireless communication in 1880.
Backstory and Context
The Franklin School opened in 1869, one of eight buildings constructed in Washington, D.C. between 1862 and 1875 to house the first a comprehensive system of universal public education. The school was designed by Adolf Cluss, known as the "Red Architect" for his use of red brick as a building material (and because of his communist sympathies). Cluss designed other red-brick school masterpieces, as well as other notable structures in D.C., including the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building and Calvary Baptist Church.
The design of the Franklin School was highly-praised. In addition to 14 classrooms, it also housed the offices of the Superintendent and the
Board of Trustees, the first high school, and first Normal School for
white students. The Great Hall at
Franklin (designed with a capacity of 1,000 people) served as a site for concerts, exhibitions, and public
meetings. It's interior is one
of only 13 in the city given interior landmark protection. The façade of the building is decorated with a bust of Benjamin Franklin.
Franklin became the model for modern age-graded classrooms and curricula. The school's 14 classrooms served as laboratories for the implementation of D.C.'s new public school system. The design was influential both at home and internationally. Congressmen sent copies of the plans to their home districts. A model of the Franklin School was
sent to international expositions in Vienna, Paris, and Philadelphia, and other foreign governments also requested copies of the plans when designing their own public school systems.
The Franklin School is also notable for its role in the history of telecommunications, which is commemorated with a plaque on the structure's exterior. It was from the roof of the Franklin School that Alexander Graham Bell successfully tested his “photophone” (sound transmitted by light waves) in 1880.
Currently, the Franklin School sits unused. It briefly served as a homeless shelter from 2002 until it closed, controversially, in 2008. On November 19, 2011, it was occupied by protesters associated with the Occupy movement. Plans for its future use are still under consideration.
"Franklin School (Washington, D.C.)." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed November 18, 2016. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin_School_(Washington,_D.C.).
"Franklin School Dc." Accessed November 18, 2016. http://www.franklinschooldc.org/Franklin_School_DC/Brief_History.html.