Committee Proposes Three Agencies Share Historic Douglass High School Building

The Douglass High School Commemorative Committee is recommending that the historic building be a shared space for three agencies—the Edwin Washington Project, the Douglass High School Alumni Association, and the Loudoun Chapter of the NAACP.

On Tuesday, Sept. 28 the panel shared prospective preservation plans for the site with the School Board.

The Douglass High School building on East Market Street in Leesburg was the site of education for Black students in Loudoun County from 1941 to 1958. After de-segregation in Loudoun County in 1968, the building was used as a middle school, and a special education and alternative school.

This year, those operations have moved to the new North Star School on Catoctin Circle and the building is undergoing renovations. The commemorative committee was appointed to make recommendations on the future use of the property, the ownership of which has been transferred to the county government.

“Our mission is to determine how the history and importance of this high school will be shared. … We want to make sure we are able to tell a story about the school,” Committee co-chairwoman Erica Busch told the board. “Not just the building. But the story of those who founded the school. The teachers, the students, the parents those who worked in the school, and we want to tell a story that resonates with the community for years to come.”

Possibilities for the outside space include an amphitheater, updated landscaping, statues, benches, pavers with names, and a time capsule. 

Inside the building, the committee is eying a diorama of Leesburg from the early 20th century, a photo display of Frederick Douglass, interactive booths with historic information, and guided tours. The committee is seeking a one-dollar bill from 1941, the year Douglass High School was founded. The bill would be a nod to the payment Black families received when they were forced to sell the land, which they had purchased for $4,000, to county leaders during the long battle to have the school built. 

The building’s cornerstone includes a time capsule buried in 1941, which committee co-chairman Charles Avery, a Douglass High School alum, said he is “burning with curiosity to open.”

Avery told to the board that, under the committee’s recommended plan, the three organizations would collaborate to maintain the building’s displays and programming.

Avery also praised the School Board for creating the committee.

“I want to thank each of you for choosing to land on the right side of history with the commissioning of this committee,” Avery said. “We are historians who are commemorating history and legacy and partnering with you to make a mark in history.”

5 thoughts on “Committee Proposes Three Agencies Share Historic Douglass High School Building

  • 2021-10-01 at 1:09 pm

    I’m so glad the Douglass School is being restored in a dignified manner. Prior to 1930, all African-American Loudouners were kicked out of school after sixth grade. Things slowly changed, despite much opposition. In 1941, Douglass High School opened as the only high school for African-American Loudouners. It retained that status until 1968, when desegregation finally arrived at Loudoun. It’s gratifying that the local NAACP chapter will share space in the renovated building. Although I’m not African-American, I’ve always viewed the NAACP as a shining light in the midst of great darkness. Good work, everyone!

  • 2021-10-01 at 1:10 pm

    What is the economic value of the site? With all appropriate respect to the groups that want free housing for their operations the public (the owners) should decide how to deal with the value proposition. Could a headquarters building be put there that would hire a few hundred local residents? Could a new school be put there to provide specialized services not currently provided by LCPS? 🙂

  • 2021-10-01 at 2:13 pm

    Again there is nothing historic about this building that warrants the attention.

  • 2021-10-01 at 3:52 pm

    Are these county agencies and if not what will be the rent?

    • 2021-10-03 at 5:58 pm

      My gut tells me that Loudoun taxpayers will be on the hook for the privilege of hosting these organizations… capital improvements, operations/maintenance and probably some sort of incentive to help them choose to accept the gift.

      You know… the same ole, same ole.

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