African American Civil War Museum to Open in Historic DC School Building

The new site will bring 100 jobs to DC and provide a permanent home to an important museum

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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser cut the ribbon on a development project Thursday that will bring 100 jobs to the District and serve as the new home of the African American Civil War Museum.

The redevelopment of the historic Grimke School in the Shaw neighborhood was more than 10 years in the making.

Frank Smith, the founder of the museum, said he's excited the long-vacant building has come back to life. He plans to move the museum into the new space early next year.

“We’re excited about this project because it … helps to stabilize the African American Civil War Museum, which will bring thousands of tourists up here every day and will carry on the education of our young people forever.”

Historic articles, period-piece clothing and Civil War weaponry will be at the museum.

Commercial office space is also part of the redevelopment. Some companies include the architecture firm Torti Gallas + Partners, which is moving its headquarters there from Silver Spring, Maryland, and the Malala Fund, an international nonprofit that advocates for girls' education.

“The re-imagined Grimke School is another example of how we can work together — across the public and private sectors — to move important projects forward after years of planning and strategizing to deliver housing and jobs while preserving our history and culture,” Bowser said in a statement.


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Thursday's ribbon-cutting ceremony also celebrated the residential units for sale over ground-floor retail.

This summer, the city will tear down the Grimke School’s gymnasium to make room for affordable housing units.

Bowser also made her first public comments regarding the state of the 2022 race for mayor, though she didn’t comment on the two D.C. Council members who recently announced their campaigns, nor did she directly confirm or deny whether she will seek a third term. 

“We’ve gotten a lot done in eight years. We can do even more in 12 years,” Bowser said.

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