Stratford School


Date: 1950

Historic Designation: Virginia Landmarks Register, 2003; National Register of Historic Place, 2004
Local Historic District, June 18, 2016

Current Use of Property: Public School

Significant Events:  The Stratford Junior High School reflects the advancement of the Civil Rights Movement in Arlington County, Virginia, in the Southern states, and in the nation at large. Following the landmark United States Supreme Court Case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), government officials, citizen organizations, and other councils
throughout the South vehemently opposed the desegregation of the public school system. Senator Harry F. Byrd of Virginia campaigned for “massive resistance” that urged a no
compromise line against integration. Three African-American students attempted to integrate Stratford Junior High School in 1957, but all were refused admittance and sent
to Hoffman-Boston. By means of continued litigation by the NAACP, on February 2, 1959, Stratford School was the first public school in the Commonwealth of Virginia to be
desegregated. The successful integration represented the end of the Commonwealth’s policy of “massive resistance” and dealt a fatal blow to foes of school integration across
the South.

Architectural Features: The Stratford School Historic District encompasses a distinctive and architecturally significant International Style building and campus. The site is the best and most intact work of prominent regional architect Rhees Burket, Sr., and represents his expressive interpretation of the International Style for a public school facility. The building is characterized by the extensive use of cut-stone, glazed brick and tile, and glass block. The form and massing of the school is dynamic and creative, using a strong vocabulary of vertical and horizontal elements that respond to challenging topography to link different programmatic elements of the school on the site. It is a nearly pure expression of form following function, as each of the building’s elements—from the classrooms and library to the auditorium, stair towers, and gymnasium—is contained in a separate volume that is clearly expressed and articulated on the exterior. The high quality of design embodied in the district is not limited to the school building, but extends into the landscape and site elements of the property. The design of the retaining walls, as an example, and the manner in which they use materials directly from the building form a bridge and an extension between the building and the landscape that recalls the design philosophy of Frank Lloyd Wright that might not otherwise be apparent.

Significant People: The integration of Arlington’s Public Schools involved many committed civic activists, most notably Dorothy Hamm, Edward Leslie Hamm, Jr., George Tyrone Nelson, Joyce Marie Bailey, Clarissa & Ethel Thompson, Barbara Marx, Ellen Bozman, Mary Margaret Whipple, James E. Browne, Mary Ellen “Nell” Henderson, Geraldine Davis, and Edmund and Elizabeth Campbell. Others included School Board Chairman Dr. E.R. Draheim, and Alexandria Federal Court Judge Albert Bryan. Most importantly, the brave actions of the four African-American children who integrated the school—Ronald Deskins, Michael Jones, Lance Newman, and Gloria Thompson— changed history in Arlington County and the Commonwealth of Virginia, and reverberated through the South. The students were admitted without incident, but the struggle for civil rights continued within the school system and within Arlington County.

More Information


4100 Vacation Lane, Arlington, VA 22207  View Map

Google Map