Stars of David medallions on Langston School

See this post at the Historic Washington list at Yahoogroups regarding the Langston School’s Stars of David:

Stars of David medallions on Langston School
Posted by: “RayM” dcnomaguy
Sat Dec 17, 2011 10:43 am (PST)

Does anyone know why the Mercer Langston School, which is entering rapid self-demolition with rotting roof and missing windows, on P Street, just west of North Capital Street, is adorned with three Star of David medallions? The 1907 Baist map labels it simply “school” but identifies the next door Mercer School. While this neighborhood was largely working-class white (for whom the Bates Street projects were built), it does not appear to have ever attracted a clustered Jewish community infrastructure like Seventh Street/Chinatown, NW, 4 ½ Street, SW, and H Street, NE.

DC Cultural Tourism focuses primarily on our city`s Black history and race relations, so makes no reference to the Magen Davids in its website   :

“The John Mercer Langston School and the John Fox Slater School were built adjacent to one another on P Street between North Capitol and First streets, NW, in 1902 and 1891 respectively. Langston School was designed by white architect Appleton P. Clark, and the designer of Slater is not recorded. Langston (1829-1897) was an abolitionist, founder of Howard University Law School, and U.S. congressman from Virginia. Slater (1814-1884) was a white philanthropist and manufacturer from Slatersville, Rhode Island, who funded industrial education for freedmen. …Built to accommodate the overflow students from nearby Langston and Slater Elementary Schools, John F. Cook Elementary [built in 1925] continues to operate.”

It would be useful to understand the real cultural-historic narrative of this cluster of three schools and the neighborhood.

It would appear that History Matters ( is helping somebody through Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives program, as well as associated state incentive programs to obtain tax credits. What`s the scoop? Hope they rescue the building before it collapses.

Ray Milefsky

4 thoughts on “Stars of David medallions on Langston School

  1. Here is a response, also at the Historic Washington list at Yahoogroups, to Ray Milefsky’s question on the Stars of David on the Langston School:

    Re: Stars of David medallions on Langston School
    Posted by: “marie.maxwell” episkychic @ l
    Sun Dec 18, 2011 3:59 pm (PST)

    My answer is no, I have no frigging clue why there are stars of David on the school. But though most of Bates St was owned by the Washington Sanitary Improvement Co., which had a strong preference for white tenants, the surrounding area was pretty diverse. I also vaguely remember some Washington Post/Star articles about the Eckington Citizen’s Association fighting against the school becoming an African American School. It may have been that the school was built with a white population in mind.

    As far as the building’s current status, I think the organization running the Slater school may be at fault for failure to raise funds. Well, last I heard.

    M. Marie Maxwell

  2. Hi all,
    I contacted History Matters and it appear whatever was planned has long since fallen through the cracks. Here’s the response I received:
    Thanks for contacting us for information about the Langston School. Several years ago, History Matters worked with developer who was interested in buying the site and rehabbing it using preservation tax credits.

    Unfortunately, that project never came to fruition.

    We do not know the current status of the school.
    All the best.
    Edna Johnston

  3. “A second noteworthy feature is the Star of David medallion above the second story tower window apertures. Although it suggests to some observers that Langston School was once associated with Judaism, the Star of David is an ancient nondenominational symbol of protection. Despite these stylistic flourishes, Langston is a conventional eight room school with four classrooms on two stories linked by center hallways,” sec. 9, p. 13.

    Click to access Slater%20Langston%20Schools.pdf

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