33 Comment

  • I think its a homeless shelter now. I thought that was why there were some rudimentary window treatments on the lower levels and why there are so many homeless people hanging out in the square.

    I don’t know what it was originally intended for though.

  • It was used as a Homeless shelter for several years up until just recently (Oct 08). The Deputy Mayor’s of Economic Development, Neil Albert, is about to put it up for a RFEI (Request for Expressions of Interest).

  • It was most recently a homeless shelter but it closed last fall

  • I work next door. It used to be a men’s emergency homeless shelter, until Fenty kicked everyone out last year. Now it’s just an empty building. There was talk a few years ago of developing it into a trendy hotel.

  • This was the homeless shelter that Barry advocated keeping open, stating that it provided the best location for panhandling. Imagine when your elected official advocates for easy panhandling… Oh wait, no need to imagine, live in DC!

    At one point it was also offices for the DC school board, or board of education, or some such.

  • It was originally a school. Franklin Elementary I believe.

  • PoP, I love you and your blog, but you really gotta keep up with the news. The closing of the Franklin Shelter (as it’s most recently been called) has been chronicled quite extensively in several media outlets. And you know if it’s a local issue that the Post is featuring, well that issue has jumped the shark…so to speak..

  • Huh. I drive past that building all the time, but never appreciated how cool-looking it is. I can absolutely picture it as a nice hotel. But the popularity of the square as a homeless hang-out would probably make the out-of-towners kind of skittish.

  • Not only was it a homeless shelter but it was also the location where a beam of light was first used to transmit sound waves using the photophone, invented by Alexander Graham Bell.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    AM, thanks. I take a slightly different perspective. If something catches my eye on a walk then I snap a photo of it. I just thought it was a cool building. The fact that there is some history/controversy here, well, I consider bonus. I certainly heard of the homeless shelter closing, I just didn’t note the location. And I guess I work under the assumption that if I’m learning something than at least some other folks reading the blog are learning about it as well. For those who already know about it, and write what they know, well actually that’s exactly how a lot of this blog works.

  • Hey PoP, for a potential house of the day, you might want to look around, I can’t remember the exact address, but somewhere between the 1700 and 1500 on Pennsylvania, in NW. I’d love to know more about that one.

  • Franklin Shelter was a great location. Just on the other side of the square is the VA office. Really convenient for our homeless veterans.

  • OK the sarcasm to me seems a bit much. If someone hadn’t told me it was a homeless shelter i never would have known.

    Back to the point of the original post, it is a really great building. The italianate details are awesome. I hope the responses to the RFEI are good.

  • The Franklin School was designed by noted architect Adolf Cluss, who also designed dozens of gorgeous old buildings in D.C. His best-known work today is probably Eastern Market.

  • I used to work a block away on I Street and I love that building too. I volunteered there a couple of times though, and the inside was decrepit to say the least. I assume it would be a huge undertaking to restore it to usable condition, no matter what it ultimately becomes.

  • Anon, I think I know the house you’re talking about. Nice yard, good landscaping, right? Yeah, there used to be this nice genteel southern family living there, but they moved out a while ago and some black people with an ugly dog and a bunch of noisy kids moved in.

  • Woah. Is that trying to be a joke or just straight hate? Looks like straight hate to me.

  • @Anon 4:49 Read Anon 4:18 again slowly, followed by Anon 4:42. Good show, 4:42. Good show.

  • Let me guess… you’re one of the people who got their panties all in a bunch over Robyn’s post earlier, right?

    Let me assist you… the 4:18 poster was making fun of PoP for calling attention to obvious buildings with well-known history. The 4:42 poster is making fun of all the knee-jerk haters who can’t see anything good about their neighbors because they’re racist. Nuance is a good thing. I recommend you check it out.

  • Wouldn’t it be simpler if all you anons just please made up a name? And I thought Anon 4:42 was funny – clearly taking the piss!

  • *sigh*

    my mom use to teach at that school… and i work across the street from the school, the building is near and dear to my heart… it was once a elementary school then they turned it into a Adult Education Center, it was widely used by returning Vietnam Vets… then it closed for several years and became a homeless shelter… now it’s closed…. Fenty to the homeless folks out…

    lovely building!

  • *Fenty put the homeless folks out…

  • That was the joke 4:42 was making? Ugh. Not funny. And I mean that divorced from any racist/political point of view; just based on the actual attempt at the joke itself. It’s like that classic Seinfeld exchange: “Father, I think Whatley converted to Judiasm just for the jokes!” “And that offends you as a jewish person?” “No, it offends me as a comedian.”

  • @WDC – I’m pulling for a nice hotel with a restaurant. I have to imagine that old building has little to no dedicated onsite parking. I think a hotel could bring 24 hour activity to that corner without being a use that would be hamstrung by a lack of parking.

  • I love that building. It’s really close to Port of Piraeus, good for your lunch time mediterranean leanings.

  • Beautiful building! I wasn’t aware of its history so I found this to be an interesting post.

  • In April 1880, Franklin School was the site of a major scientific experiment when Alexander Graham Bell successfully tested his photophone, which transmitted sound over light waves, between the school building and his laboratory nearby on L Street. Though the invention had no immediate practical outcome, it was a pioneering step in lightwave communications.


  • And I love hearing the bell ring – though unfortunately it rings on the half hour, not the hour….but it’s still way cool! It’s a real bell, too, not some stupid recording!!

  • More history on the Franklin School:

    Franklin School (55)
    13th and K Streets, NW
    Constructed in 1869

    By 1869 the modern school building was again redefined by Adolf Cluss in his design of the Franklin School on the corner of 13th Street and K Street, Northwest. Franklin was the grandest building of all the schools, meant to house not only all grades at the time, but the offices of the Superintendent (this office created in 1869) and the Board of Trustees (Education), as well. Franklin also housed the first Normal School for white students.

    The massive Great Hall at Franklin functioned as a community resource for concerts and other special events. Alexander Graham Bell successfully tested his new invention, the photophone (sound transmitted by light waves), from the rooftop of Franklin School in 1880.

    The building’s 19th-century façade – including a bust of Benjamin Franklin – is an eloquent expression of principles of public education in post-Civil America. The exterior of Franklin was restored in 1992 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The interior, however, remains largely as it was when the building was closed decades ago. Stanley Jackson, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, announced on March 10, 2005 that the Franklin School will be re-developed by the District-based Western Development Corp. and Jarvis Corp. as a boutique hotel.

    Source: Adolf Cluss: Franklin School

  • Hi-Res circa 1930 photo of Franklin School:

  • My grandpa went to elementary school there (high school at Western–now Ellington) in the ’20s. Whenever we’d drive past there, he’d tell me about Miss McPherson, a very strict Scottish teacher of his whose insisted that her name be pronounced mcFAIRson, unlike the nearby square.

  • Andrew- love the old-school history!

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