Clarendon (Maury) School


Date: Built 1910

Historic Designation:

Current Use of Property: The building has been home to the Arlington Arts Center, which offers art classes, exhibitions and provides studio space for local artists.

The Clarendon School opened its doors in September 1910 with seven teachers and 298 students in grades one through six. It served as the Clarendon community’s only elementary school for the next 63 years. In 1944, the name was changed to Matthew Maury School, in keeping with a statewide effort to rename schools in honor of native Virginians. A Clarendon community landmark, the school was renovated to become the home of the Arlington Arts Center in 1977.

Before the Clarendon School opened, students in the area attended classes in the home of Welby Ashby, a teacher who rented two rooms as classroom space for the sum of $20 per month. As Clarendon’s educational needs grew, the School Board of Alexandria County District No. 2 made plans to construct a school. The Board purchased the two-acre lot at in July 1909 for $1,800.

In 1932, fifth- and sixth-grade students from Glencarlyn Elementary School were transferred to the Clarendon School. In July 1940, the aging school building was assessed at $5,500 with the classroom equipment valued at $500. A year later, the building’s value had decreased to $3,000. The school board continued to maintain and renovate the structure. In the 1960s, enrollment peaked, but the following decade saw a substantial decline and the Maury School was closed at the end of the 1972-73 school year.

Architectural Features

The three-and-a-half-story Clarendon School was built in the Classical Revival style and is the work of noted school architect Charles M. Robinson of Richmond, Va.

The design illustrates the architectural fashions of the period with projecting front bays capped by enclosed pediments, Palladian windows, limestone keystones, beveled stringcourses, and a prominent wood frame portico with paired Tuscan columns. Recognizing the stature of the imposing building, the school board had a two-story brick addition erected on the rear elevation in 1954. Thus, the architectural design of the building has remained largely intact.

The interior has a central hall plan flanked by large classrooms. The former classrooms now serve as studio space and hallways have been converted to gallery space.

Significant People

Teachers who were employed when the school opened in 1910:  Margaret B. Hayes, Florence Gravatt, Lucille Long, Beaulah Adams, Lucy Lynn, Lulu Taymen and Gertrude Fugh.

Matthew Fontaine Maury

The Clarendon School was renamed in 1944 to honor native Virginian Matthew Maury. Born on January 14, 1806, in Fredericksburg, Maury joined the U.S. Navy in 1821 and was promoted to lieutenant in 1836. He served as superintendent of the Navy Department’s Depot of Charts and Instruments from 1842 to 1855 and from 1858 to 1861. In 1861, he resigned from the U.S. Navy to accept a commission as commander in the Confederate Navy, and later became Secretary of the Navy for the Confederacy. After the Civil War, he lived in England. In 1868, he returned to Lexington, Va., where he served as a professor of meteorology at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI).

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