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Marking History: Episcopal High School

By Mary Wadland

Marking History--Episcopal high School--October 2015Located at 3436 King Street this marker celebrates Episcopal High School which was founded in 1839 as the first high school in Virginia. The Rev. William N. Pendleton and three assistant heads initially taught 35 boys at the boarding facility which occupied 80 acres of land. It was originally known as The Howard School, from its location at the site of an earlier school. It became known affectionately as “The High School”.The central administration building, Hoxton House, dates to around 1805, built by Martha Washington’s eldest granddaughter, Elizabeth Parke Custis Law.

In 1840, Episcopal’s student body tripled in size to accommodate more than 100 boys. It continued to grow until the Civil War, when it closed immediately after Federal forces occupied Alexandria in 1861. Some 500 students served as soldiers in the war, many like Rev. Pendleton (who became a Brigadier General) for the Confederacy. For the next five years, school buildings served as part of a large hospital for Federal troops. Poet Walt Whitman served as a nurse in the hospital.

Reopened in 1866, the school initiated a modern academic curriculum and revered honor code as well as pioneered interscholastic team sports in the South, including football, baseball, and track. EHS competes in one of the oldest consecutive high-school football rivalries in the United States.

Beginning in 1900, every fall the Maroon and the Woodberry Forest Tigers have competed on the football field. The location of the game alternates each year.

In 1991, Episcopal began a transition to coeducation by enrolling its first 48 girls, a group commonly referred to as “The First 48.”  The first coeducational class graduated in 1993. Today, the School has an enrollment of 425 students, 45 percent of whom are girls. The school is 100-percent boarding and is one of only four all-boarding schools in the United States and the only one located in a metropolitan area

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