Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark, Franklin School is located at 13th & K Streets NW. Designed in 1869 by architect Adolf Cluss, the school 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 and was 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. The Committee of 100 believes that while the highest and best use of the building is for it to be once again used as a place of learning, other uses could be acceptable if they respect the historic fabric of the building.
In January 2017 the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development selected Ann B. Friedman and Dantes Partners to develop Franklin School as “Planet World,” an interactive language arts museum and education space. Negotations are in progress for a final agreement for the project, which appears to meet the C 100’s preference for the use of the building. The C 100 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