The Old JohnMarshall High School, Eighth & Marshall Streets

John Marshall High School opened in September 1909, even before it was completed, with grades 8-11. It was named for John Marshall (1755-1835), the eminent Virginia jurist and Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The school was located on the site that had been his garden; the John Marshall House still stands in the same block.

Ground was broken for this building on March 23, 1908; the cornerstone was laid on September 30, 1908 (its contents were turned over to the Valentine Museum in 1972). The annual report for the year ended July 31, 1909, includes a picture of John Marshall High School. The dedication events (December 9, 1909), spanning a day, attracted well over 1,200 persons and included parades, a chorus, and a 21­gun salute from the Richmond Howitzers as the flag was hoisted. The large three-story stone building had an impressive temple portico with four Doric columns and a 1,500-seat auditorium (but no gymnasium).

When John Marshall was conceived and built, it was considered the grandest, most expensive schoolhouse ever erected in the South. Local newspaper articles referred to it as "The People's University" because its planners intended it to be a higher education building for the great majority of people who were not privileged to attend high school and college at that time. John Marshall was said to have a prestige unequaled by any other public high school in the state.

The first graduating class of the four-year course was in 1911. Early commencements were held at the City Auditorium on West Cary Street; later, these exercises took place at the Mosque.

In 1909, the post-graduate course was extended to two years and became the Teacher's Training Department. High school students from Manchester were absorbed in 1910, and high school students from Highland Park and Barton Heights were absorbed in 1915.

In the great flu epidemic of 1918, John Marshall opened as a hospital for white patients (schools were closed October 4-November 6).

Crowded conditions prevailed during most of this school's history; at one time its 3,000 students were on double shift. Some relief was obtained by the opening of the Wythe Building in 1923, but the school was using every "nook and cranny" of both buildings by 1927, causing first-year high school pupils to be held back in the grades. John Marshall continued to experience overcrowding until Thomas Jefferson High School was occupied in 1930. However, by 1934, John Marshall was once again over capacity.

During the 1935-36 session, with the aid of a P.W.A. grant, a tunnel was completed to connect John Marshall and the Wythe Building at a cost of $22,980. The same year, property was acquired for an athletic field and drill ground which occupied the entire block north of the school and cost $132,800. (The 1937-38 annual report includes a picture of the athletic field, dedicated in May 1938.)

John Marshall closed in June 1960, and the faculty and students were transferred to the new John Marshall High School on Old Brook Road. A School Board resolution of October 26, 1960, declared the building surplus to the City and stated: "The building and grounds are a part of the Civic Center, and the abandonment of John Marshall to become a part of the Civic Center was one of the conditions that led in the building of the two new high schools...the John Marshall building is now located in an area that is primarily commercial, and therefore has become an undesirable site for a public high school..." The decision to demolish the old building met with some protest, but it was razed in September-October-November 1961; gavels made from its timbers were presented to School Board members in February 1962. The John Marshall Courts Building is now located on the site of the old John Marshall High School.

Enrollment: 1909-1910 975
1912-1913 1,394
1929-1930 3,505 (average monthly)
1938-1939 3,717
1959-1960 1,609 (final)
Architect: Charles K. Bryant
Cost: $346,963
Lot: 82,100 (half a square)
Principals: 1909-1946 James C. Harwood*
1946-1960 Fred Bruner Dixon

*An oil painting of Mr. Harwood was presented by the Class of 1925.

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