Why Is It Named Stoddert Elementary School?

I was taking a nice evening walk by Stoddert Elementary School in Glover Park this weekend with Mrs. Ghost and Ghost Dog and, of course, I was curious as to the origin of the school’s name. Clearly it was named after some old famous dude, I wanted to know a little more about Stoddert as well as the history of the school.

Benjamin Stoddert
Benjamin Stoddert

The answer to the former is easy, thanks to Wikipedia.

Benjamin Stoddert (1751 – 1813) was the former Secretary of the Navy under Presidents Adams and Jefferson, and the inaugural holder of the office. He was born in Charles County, Maryland and educated at the University of Pennsylvania. He was in the cavalry during the Revolution and, near the end, was  secretary to the Continental Board of War.

One interesting bit of trivia is that he was instructed by President Washington to purchase a number of large plots of land on the Potomac, in what would become the District of Columbia, before the formal decision to establish the capital there. The objective , of course, was simply to ensure acquisition of land, prior to the formal announcement and subsequent spike in real estate prices. The land was ultimately transferred to the United States Government by Stoddert.

Near the end of his life, he lived in the Halycon House, on the corner of 3400 Prospect Street, NW (still there).

We also dug up a great article from the Washington Post, printed on November 8th, 1932, detailing the dedication of the school.

Another link in the rapidly growing public school system of the District was cemented last night when the new Benjamin Stoddert Elementary School, at Thirty-ninth and Calvert streets northwest, was dedicated in the presence of school officials and a large number of relatives and friends.

A picture of the first Secretary of the Navy, after whom the school is named, was presented by Mrs. S. Bockoven, representing the Parent- Teacher Association of the school. The picture was unveiled by Tommy and Arlene Bockoven, who were dressed in colonial costumes.

The portrait was accepted on behalf of the school by Mrs. Henry Gratan Doyle, of the Board of Education, who presided at the exercises.

The superintendent pointed to the school as evidence that Washington has not suffered from curtailment of school funds to anywhere near the extent of many other cities. With 3,200 more children in Washington public schools at present than at the same time last year, construction work is going rapidly ahead to supply suffiient classroom space to avoid congestion, Dr. Ballou said.

John Clagett Proctor, historian of the District of Columbia Society, Sons of the American Revolution, told of the history of the neighborhood in which the new school is situated. Greetings were extended by Mrs. Bockoven and M. R. Walker, president of the Glover Park Citizens Association. Mr. Harris presented the keys of the building to Miss B. L. Fawcett, principal of the new school.

Piano selections were given by Miss Anne Sugar. The invocation and benediction were delivered by the Rev. Vernon N. Ridgely, pastor of Calvary M. E. Church.

The Stoddert School
The Stoddert School

Source: Department of Energy

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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  • Cody Wood

    It should be noted that Benjamin Stoddert is buried on the grounds of a historic Episcopal Church in Prince George’s County MD. Then one would assume he attended church there and, if so, then his travels carried him beyond the confines of the District of Columbia.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Matthew's_Church_(Seat_Pleasant,_Maryland)

  • Ted S.

    Thanks for the portrait and the details. I once lived at 2911 P St., just a few blocks from Stoddert House, and used to joke with my friends that he just didn’t know how to spell his name (Stoddard, i.e.).

  • Pedro Sera-Leyva

    Nice article!
    I went to Stoddert Elementary from 1963-1967. There used to be a painting of Benjamin Stoddert hanging in the 1st floor hallway.

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    WCDC is a registered nonprofit in the District of Columbia
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