• Note: Much of the history of the Richmond Public Schools was recorded in the context of a segregated society, and the reader should readily discern between pre- and post-desegregation observations. The terms "black," "colored," "Negro," and "white" in this booklet should not be considered offensive as they have been used according to the custom of the particular period. Since 1962, the division has omitted such racial designations from its reports and publications.

Baker School

  • 100 West Baker Street

    (St. Paul/St. John Street between Baker & Charity Streets)

    Baker was one of the first three public school buildings erected by the City. It opened December 1, 1871, with nine classes; the grades were the equivalent of 1-9, later reduced to Junior Primary-grade 5 or 6.

    In 1908-09, when its building was condemned, the Colored Normal School was housed at Baker; Baker students went to Moore School on the afternoon shift. In 1911-12, it was reported that nearly every Baker class was on part time. An annex was constructed in 1914.

    Baker opened as a hospital for colored patients in the great flu epidemic of 1918 (schools were closed October 4-November 6).

    The original building faced Baker Street; it was described as an "antiquated fire trap" when it was demolished in 1939, to make way for the new 28-classroom school. The new Baker, built with the aid of a federal grant, opened in September 1940; it had a capacity of 1,200 and replaced old Baker and Monroe. It was described as the 'best equipped and most modern elementary school unit in Richmond, with its modern cafeteria, a talking, movie and modern communication system, and a combined auditorium and playroom." (The 1939-40 annual report includes pictures of the new Baker and the Baker auditorium.) A fire in February 1970 caused considerable damage to the office area.

    Baker's enrollment varied due to the erection of a housing project and addition (Gilpin Court) and the construction of the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike. Under Plan III, Baker was paired with Southampton. During the period 1976-77when methane gas was detected in the immediate area of Norrell School, that program operated temporarily at Baker.

    Baker was discontinued as an elementary school in June 1979. The building was then renamed in honor of a former principal, Katherine L. Johnson.

    Enrollment:

    1874-1875 621 (capacity 586)
    1911-1912 775
    1939-1940 969
    1951-1952 1,427
    1978-1979 469 (final)

    Architect:

    1914 Charles M. Robinson

    Cost:

    Lot: $ 3,000*

    Building:

    1871 15,500
    1914 19,600
    1939-1940 347,000

    Principals:

    1871-1883 Thomas P. Crump
    1883-1884 J. H. Johnston (colored)
    1884-1906 Thomas. P. Crump
    1906-1909 Arthur D. Wright (later Henrico County Supt.)
    1909-1910 J. T. Fentress
    1910-1913 Elihu Morrissette**
    1913-1917 William M. Adams
    1917-1942 George E. Bennett
    1942-1967 Katherine Louise Johnson
    1967-1970 Lois Harrison Jones (Superintendent 1985-88)
    1970-1971 William Waddell Craighead
    1971-1977 Spingarn DeWitt Brinkley
    1977-1979 Beverly Whitaker Braxton

    **Upon his death in 1917, Superintendent Chandler wrote: "He died at a ripe old age. His genial manner and kind disposition endeared him to pupils and colleagues."

    See:
    Katherine L. Johnson Building