• 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.

Richmond High School

  • 805 East Marshall Street

    The first class of high school grade, called advanced grammar grade, was held in a rented room near Tenth & Clay Streets. It was transferred to the Davis Mansion (Central School) in 1871. On October 1, 1872, a high school was organized in rented rooms on the second floor of a building on Broad Street between Ninth and Tenth Streets; the yearly rental was $500. There were two teachers and 49 scholars. The school's "apparatus and fixtures" were purchased from the trustees of the Richmond Normal School; the course of study was designed to occupy three years.

    From a City Council appropriation of $40,000 "for building school houses," the School Board purchased four lots (-$2,450-$80-$2,600-$2,600) and built a new high school facing on Marshall Street. This eight-classroom building (with assembly room covering the entire third story) opened October 1, 1873. The Administration also had its office in this building until it became crowded; in 1893, the Administration moved to the fourth floor of City Hall.

    Several additions were made to this high school building. During the vacation of 1880-81, a wing containing eight rooms and basement was added and occupied September 1881; the 1884-85 annual report notes that "an additional wing has been added to the High School." A conspicuous feature of the old building was a spiral, enclosed chute, fire escape.

    The first graduating class of the high school (June 1875) consisted of six boys and eight girls. Early high school commencement exercises were held at such locations as The Theatre (Seventh & Broad Streets), the Bijou Theatre, the Masonic Temple, and Mozart Academy (a theatre on Eighth Street between Franklin and Grace).

    A post-graduate year was added to Richmond High School in 1887. Post­graduates were given preference in the election of teachers for white schools. Owing to changes in the outline of studies, there were no graduates in the post­graduate class in June 1891 and in 1908.

    In 1894, the building was again overcrowded, and outside rooms were rented. The school occupied all available space in the high school building, the John Marshall House, and the old Jefferson Club, until the new high school was opened in 1909.

    With the opening of John Marshall High School, the old high school building was renamed John Smith School. For many years, the Superintendents held principals' conferences in this building.

    Enrollment:
    1878-1879 257
    1908-1909 943 (final)

    Principal:
    1872-1889 William F. Fox (Superintendent 1889-1909)
    1889-1890 William A. Bowles
    1890-1905 Julian P. Thomas
    1905-1909 James C. Harwood

    See:
    John Marshall High School (old)
    John Smith (School) Building