Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark, the Franklin School building is located at 13th & K Streets N.W. in downtown Washington, D.C. Designed in 1869 by famed architect Adolf Cluss, the school building is one of only fourteen buildings in Washington with an interior landmark designation.
Franklin School was considered so important in the 1870s that a model of the building was sent to international expositions in Vienna, Paris, and Philadelphia. The British, Nicaraguan, and Argentine governments requested plans of the building to study as they developed public school systems, and Congressmen sent copies of its plans to their home districts. In 1880, Alexander Graham Bell successfully tested his new invention the “photophone” from the rooftop of the building.
The building ceased being used as a school decades ago and even though the exterior was restored in 1992, the building has been poorly maintained over the years. Most recently, the Franklin School served as a homeless shelter prior to being shuttered in 2008. The building, owned by the District of Columbia, now sits empty.
Over the years the City has issued solicitation requests for redevelopment of the property. Due to the historic designation of the intact interior as well as the exterior, redevelopment proposals require a great deal of creativity and care. In 2013 the Institute for Contemporary Expression, known as ICE, won the right to redevelop the school, but that agreement was canceled by the new Mayor of DC in February 2015. Subsequently the City issued yet another solicitation in February 2015, which was a Request for Qualifications (RFQ). Five firms responded by the May 4 deadline. As of July 2015, an Interagency Evaluation Panel was reviewing the RFQ responses and those ultimately on the short list will be sent a Request for Proposals (RFP). That will probably be in the Fall of 2015. Project Manager in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development is Lee Goldstein [firstname.lastname@example.org].
The Committee of 100 on the Federal City believes that while the highest and best use of the building is for it to be once again used as a place of learning, although other uses could be acceptable if they respect the historic fabric of the building. The C100 will continue to follow developments concerning the property and will offer comments and testimony as appropriate.
- 2010-01-11 Letter Franklin Santos
- January 11, 2010, George R. Clark, Chair, Committee of 100 & Charles J. Robertson, Co-chair, Historic Preservation Subcommittee