Dear PoP – What’s This Mystery Building?


“Dear PoP,

I hope you or your readers can help me solve a mystery. I live a block from the Paul Robeson School of Growth and Development on Spring Road in Columbia Heights/Petworth. I believe it used to serve children with fairly intense social and emotional disabilities, but in the 4+ years I’ve lived nearby, I’ve never seen anyone enter or exit. None of my neighbors know anything about it, and I haven’t been able to find any recent information online. What’s the scoop? Is the school still open?”

Dang, I know we talked about this once back in the day but I can’t seem to find it. Anyone remember what the is the situation with these buildings?


Not be mistaken with the nearby former Jewish home for the aged.


5 Comment

  • The Robeson School is soon to be handed over from the Dept of Mental Health to DC Real Estate Services (along with the former Hebrew Home).

    There are a few different proposals in work for the facilities – the Robeson school is of interest to a few different charter schools from what I hear. There’s also a proposal to change the larger DMH facility back into retirement housing and medical facilities.

    The ANC commissioner for the area, David Tumblin, is on top of both of these issues.

  • Interesting. Lets hear more about these proposals.

  • Thank you Rocketnerd! He has it exactly right. Either in the recent past or the near future, the Department of Mental Health (DMH), which has occupied both facilities, will turn them into the DC office of real estate. The large building at 1125 Spring Road was used as a DMH facility until recently. Before that, the facility was used by the Hebrew Home for the Aging, which built and opened the structure in 1925. The original structure was later much expanded to house a total of 163 retirees. The Hebrew Home still outgrew the facility, whose president was the real estate magnate Charles E. Smith. The Hebrew Home moved out of the building in 1969. It operates out of Maryland now and has 1,000 plus residents. The neighborhood is proposing returning the facility to its orginal purpose — a mixed income retirement community with a portion dedicated to badly needed, private medical offices. We have a petition circulating and have met with Councilmember Bowser, who has signaled her support for the concept. The next step will be agreement from other experts in the DC government and then a Request for Proposal.

    The community considered utilizing the vacant Robeson school as part of the revitalization of Raymond Recreation Center, although another concept is taking shape that does not use the building. Other options are under discussion in the neighborhood. For example, the building could become a location for the private medical offices, freeing space for more retirees. Or, it could be used by the Raymond Education Campus (the elementary school) to help address their capacity issues. It could also serve as a location for a parenting center, building on the succes of the Harlem Children’s Zone. And it could be used for a charter school.

    If you want more information, feel free to contact me at [email protected].

  • Not far from the corner of 13th Street and Spring Road, west of the Paul Robeson school, is an old building that used to be the Jewish Social Service Agency. I assume that the old Hebrew Home mentioned was next to it. When I was a little girl, my parents adopted my sister from the Jewish Social Services and one of my first memories was climbing up the stairs to get her. Of course the stairs seemed steep to me. They actually weren’t, I was just very little. If you look carefully, you can still see some stars of David on the buildings as well as a plaque in both English and Hebrew. Many years later, I move to Petworth. The Hebrew Home and JSSA moved to Rockville, as the Jewish population moved north and west out of DC in the late 50s and throughout the 60s, even before the riots in 1968 following King’s assassination.

  • That is a lovely story about your sister and interesting to hear about the demographic shift.


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