Laurel Grove School Museum – Alexandria, Virginia - Atlas Obscura

Laurel Grove School Museum

The only remaining African American schoolhouse in northern Virginia is now a museum dedicated to formerly enslaved people. 

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Originally known as Laurel Grove Colored School And Church, the Laurel Grove School Museum is a small, one-room schoolhouse that sits just off of Beulah Street, dwarfed by the office park that looms behind it. 

The schoolhouse was built by formerly enslaved people who organized a congregation and held church services in a grove of laurel near the site of the school, hence the name “Laurel Grove.” Members of the congregation, parents, grandparents, and neighbors, wanted to provide the black children living in Franconia with opportunities to have better lives. The effort to create the school was led by four church trustees, Middleton Braxton, George Carroll, Thornton Gray, and William Jasper, whose names appear on a historical marker near the school building.

Laurel Grove was one of five black schools in the Mount Vernon School District in 1890, the others being Gum Springs, Gunston, Springbank, and Woodlawn. Laurel Grove educated pupils for nearly 50 years until its students were absorbed into Fairfax County’s segregated public school system.  

Following its closure in 1932, the Laurel Grove School sat dormant until 1999 when a local non-profit, the Laurel Grove School Association, restored the old schoolhouse to preserve its inspiring history. They also re-opened the school as a living museum. Using historical artifacts, the school offers children the opportunity to participate in educational activities that bring the past to life and allows them to experience local history.

Know Before You Go

The school is located on the left side of Beulah Street heading north, less than a quarter-mile past the intersection with the Fairfax County Parkway. There is ample parking in the lot behind the school, which it shares with the office park that runs along Walker Lane.

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