Wayfinding: Carver School

The Carver School, still standing at Queen and Fayette streets, was built in 1944 as an African American nursery school. Earlier, the Old Powder House stood on this site.

Page updated on Mar 28, 2018 at 3:46 PM

Carver School

224 N. Fayette Street

05 Carver School sign (click for larger image)Just two blocks north of this location along Fayette Street (named for the Marquis de Lafayette who visited Alexandria in 1824), near the southwest corner of Queen Street, stood the Old Powder House, dating from 1791 -1809. On the same spot, the Carver School, an African American nursery school, was built in 1944 and restored in 2014.

The Powder House

The Powder House structure was built in a rural area far outside Alexandria in the late 18th century due to the dangers associated with the storage of gunpowder in populated areas. In January 1791, the Common Council passed an ordinance notifying the inhabitants of Alexandria that “...a house is now ready for the reception of powder under the care of Mr. John Yost...” and required that all gunpowder be deposited at that location within one week. Seven months later, a more permanent structure was required and in July of the same year the Council offered a contract to construct “...a powder house on ground belonging to Charles Alexander, Esq. near the Rope Walk. The building is to be made of brick 16 feet wide, 30 feet long, 10 feet high in the clear and 18 inch walls. The bricks may be made on the spot.”

The 20-year lease between Charles Alexander and the City stipulated that payment was to be made each December, consisting of one ear of Indian corn. By 1806, the prospering city had grown within 100 yards of the building and three years later, a new powder house was built further west near Shuter’s Hill.

The Carver School and The American Legion

The wood-frame Carver School was built at the same location in 1944, under the auspices of National Defense Housing Act of 1941. Using federal funds offered during World War II, the school operated as a segregated school for African American children. By February 1946, when federal support began to decline, the two professional teachers at the school, Lucille G. Smith and Velma D. Leigh, were notified that they must assume all janitorial duties at the school including cleaning the building and maintaining the furnaces each day. When it became clear that white instructors working in other Alexandria schools were not subjected to this order, the teachers resigned within several days. The school closed in 1950 and the building became the William Thomas branch (Post 129) of the American Legion, named after the first African American from Alexandria to die in battle during World War I. By 2010, the building was vacant and neglected and was finally preserved in 2014 after a close call with demolition

Where to Find This Sign

In Old Town, mini kiosks are located at designated intersections along King Street, Cameron Street, and the Waterfront to provide an orientation for pedestrians. 

This wayfinding sign is located on the north side of King at Fayette Street. (For those taking the King Street Trolley, please check the schedule as times may have changed.)