Wilson School in 1930s

The Wilson School in Arlington as it appeared in the 1930s. (Arlington County Library archives)

Gone but not forgotten. That’s the hope of historic-preservation advocates when it comes to the Wilson School in Rosslyn.

Despite a fierce battle to protect it that played out nearly five years ago, the remnants of the building fell to the wrecking ball to pave the way for redevelopment. But plans for an historic marker noting the school’s provenance are wending their way through the county government’s approval process.

The Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) has been wordsmithing the proposed language for the plaque, which will be located on the Wilson Boulevard site where the school stood.

Known as the Fort Myer Heights School when it opened in 1910, the schoolhouse (which cost just $12,000 to construct) later was renamed to honor former President Woodrow Wilson. Wilson had been a member of Washington Golf & Country Club (then located nearby) and during his convalescence from a series of strokes often was driven through the neighborhood in the years prior to his death.

Additions to the building throughout the 20th century were followed by its closure as a neighborhood elementary school in the late 1960s. The school system in subsequent decades used it for a variety of purposes.

In 2015, HALRB members unanimously recommended that the building be given the status of a local historic district, which would have shielded it from demolition proposed by the School Board. A few months later, the County Board sided with school leaders, paving the way for redevelopment of a large tract in western Rosslyn. Rising on the site are a new school for the H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs, affordable housing, a new fire station and commercial development.

Only one county building currently in use as a school – Swanson Middle – has been fully designated a local historic district. County Board members in 2016 designated the Stratford building on Vacation Lane as such a district, but agreed to allow the School Board to bypass the HALRB when exterior changes are desired to the building.

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