Historic Franklin School Plans Announced with Planet Word “first-ever interactive museum of words and language”

by Prince Of Petworth January 25, 2017 at 12:30 pm 18 Comments

13th and K Street, NW

Ed. Note: You can see previous proposals here.

From a press release:

“Today the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) announced the selection of Ann B. Friedman and Dantes Partners to lead the redevelopment of the historic Franklin School, located at the intersection of 13th Street NW and K Street NW in Ward 2. Delivering on the Bowser Administration’s commitment to the creative economy, the proposed development will transform the historic space into Planet Word, an interactive language arts museum and education space.

Planet Word is a one-of-a-kind project that delivers on our promise to invest in the arts in the most innovative of ways,” said Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Brian T. Kenner. “Developing the Franklin School into an interactive language center gives visitors and residents a unique learning experience, adds to the cultural fabric of our downtown, and is a great fit for the District’s growing creative economy.”

Planet Word’s mission is to inspire a love of words and language and increase literacy through a host of interactive exhibits and experiences. Along with the Mundolingua in Paris, Planet Word will be one of just a few fully-operational language museums globally. Initially inspired by MoMath, the National Museum of Mathematics in Manhattan, Ms. Friedman, with the support of her husband, Thomas L. Friedman, and a national board, has been developing plans for the museum for more than three years and is delighted to have found such an appropriate venue for the project and have the opportunity to restore the Franklin School to its former architectural glory.

The new museum will expand upon the usable space in the historic Franklin School building, creating four levels from the existing three levels by utilizing the below-grade space of the school. The project will provide a grand total of nearly 15,000 sf of exhibits space, a 2,000 sf state-of-the-art auditorium, a 3,500 sf restaurant and 1,900 sf in classroom space. The over $30 million development is projected to generate 35 new full-time jobs and welcome nearly 100,000 visitors annually.

In addition to interactive exhibits and galleries, Planet Word will provide:

· Arts and music programming featuring speakers, readings, plays and more using the 150-seat auditorium space;

· Professional development opportunities for teachers and a space for year-round classes, summer programs and workshops; and

· Retail, café, and event rental space

Planet Word plans to open its doors with free admission to the public by winter 2019. Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans agreed the new museum is highly positioned to maximize use of the historic space and deliver community benefits.

“This museum has an opportunity to inspire District tourists and residents, present and future, and help spark long-awaited activity to this corner of downtown,” said Councilmember Evans. “I commend Mayor Bowser’s team for selecting a viable project that is befitting of the historic Franklin School and positioned to be a recognized institution for years to come.”

Completed in 1869, the Franklin School is a historic landmark listed on the D.C. inventory of historic places and is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was the first of several flagship schools to provide a comprehensive system of free universal education in the District. It was also the sight of Alexander Graham Bell’s “photophone” experiments in 1876. Franklin became the site of the City’s first high school is 1880 and was the administrative headquarters of the District school system from 1928 until 1968. It also served as an Adult Education Center from 1969 until 1990.

Since taking office, the Bowser Administration has shown a commitment to moving long-standing projects forward. Mayor Bowser has broken ground on a new entertainment and sports arena and infrastructure development at St. Elizabeths in Ward 8 – the first activity at the site in decades; created legislation that led to the successful transfer of 66 acres from the U.S. Army to the District, paving the way for the redevelopment of Walter Reed and creating 5,000 jobs in Ward 4; broken ground on Capitol Crossing, a $1.3 billion project in Ward 6 that will transform a seven-acre site and reunite the East End and Capitol Hill communities in the District; and led efforts to finalize a deal to ensure that construction can begin on a 20,000-seat DC United Soccer Stadium at Buzzard Point.”

  • bm

    this sounds great

  • ST21

    Interesting. Selfishly, I was hoping it would become a hotel with ground a level restaurant and rooftop bar. But this project is cool too.

    • Michael Pierce

      Don’t worry, I’m sure those small plates and artisanal cocktails could fit nicely into that “Retail, café, and event rental space.”

  • Patrick Division

    Hmmm, another private “museum” along the same lines of the Newseum. Anyone have $20 per kid that they’d like to pay for a few hours of language arts?

    • textdoc

      The press release says: “Planet Word plans to open its doors with free admission to the public by winter 2019.”

      • Patrick Division

        Me no read good. Yea for free admission!

      • jaybird

        I fear this will become a place for folks to “wash up” and go to the bathroom.

  • pcat

    The Newseum is laying off 10% of its staff, because they can’t afford its high cost. I’m afraid that this museum will suffer the same fate. I just hope it happens after renovations are completed.

  • Michael Pierce

    Slightly disappointed that Johnny B. Goode wasn’t selected to be part of the redevelopment team.

  • Charlie

    Remember that time that she nixed the really cool sounding museum that was in partnership with Jose Andres because she thought the space would be better for private commercial development?

    I like Jose’s idea better than a Language Arts museum….and I was an English major…

  • Mike

    Whatever it takes to finally get me in that beautiful building.

    • wpk_dc


  • bruno

    Got a tour about 10 years ago. Hard to overstate what a beautiful space it is, especially on the top floor, though in very bad condition. Top floor would be ideal for a ballet studio. Open spaces, high ceilings, much light.

  • Cranky Old Bastard

    The “first-ever interactive museum of words and language”?

    Brazil has one (http://www.museudalinguaportuguesa.org.br/). Canada has one (http://www.languagemuseum.ca/). France has one (http://www.fusac.fr/mundolingua/).

    • E

      If you read past the title of this post (wherever that quote came from) the article states, “Along with the Mundolingua in Paris, Planet Word will be one of just a few fully-operational language museums globally.”

      But thanks for the more forceful clarity.

  • Mr. Magoo

    This is the best news I’ve heard in a week full of lousy news: A museum that will actually promote literacy in a restored architectural gem. The barbarians may be at the gate, but hope springs eternal!

  • ExWalbridgeGuy

    Given that two people in the comments section have already failed at reading the press release, it seems like this museum may be an idea that’s responsive to the challenges of our time.

  • ClevelandDave

    It would be wonderful if they’d do this in close partnership with the Washington Post/Amazon. Two organizations who care very much about education and the written word, and have transformed both dramatically in our time. The Post HQ is literally a couple hundred feet away on Franklin Square. It is a logical match- tour the Post, tour the Planet Word @ Franklin School. See letters and words being composed into sentences, paragraphs, stories and books before your eyes!


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