School History: The Groveton School (1925-1933)

By the early 1920s, the Groveton community had grown to such an extent that the little one-room Groveton School had become overcrowded. In 1924, residents of the Groveton community pleaded with the Fairfax County School Board to build a new, two-room school at Groveton. A survey of potential sites was conducted in May of that year, and W. Franklin Pierce Reid offered to sell the School Board two acres of land for $500. This property was located north of Popkins Lane on the opposite side of Richmond Highway at its intersection with Groveton Street. The School Board took Reid up on his offer and, on August 19, 1924, awarded the contract for the construction of the new school to R. L. Smith Construction of Accotink at a cost of $4,714. The building was completed in the spring of 1925.

Black and white photograph of the two-room Groveton School. The building has a dark shingled roof with two brick chimneys and a brick foundation. The building is wired for electricity. The wood panel siding is painted white and there is an overhang above the front door held up by four round columns. There is a single door with a transom at the front of the building leading to a central hallway with a classroom on each side. There are large windows along both sides of the building and a single window at the end of the hallway in the rear.
Fairfax County School Board fire insurance survey photograph of the two-room Groveton School taken in 1942.

In the 1920s, Groveton was largely a rural dairy farming community. In October 1928, the School Board contacted David Crockett, and requested that he “keep his livestock and fowls off of the Groveton School property.” Prior to the completion of Shirley Highway (Interstate 95 in Fairfax County) in 1952, Route 1 was the primary north to south route for automobile travel through the county. Heavy traffic on Route 1 became dangerous for children walking to and from the Groveton School, and in 1931 the School Board asked the State Highway Department to lower the speed limit near the school to 25 miles per hour.

Black and white photograph of the two-room Groveton School. The rear of the building is shown. The school was heated by oil, and the oil reservoir can be seen on the side of the building. A cement well is located nearby.
Fairfax County School Board fire insurance survey photograph of the two-room Groveton School taken in 1954.

By 1933, the Groveton community had grown to such an extent that the two-room school was significantly overcrowded. In April of that year, the School Board appointed a committee to search for a site for a new elementary school in the area. The committee selected a tract of land owned by W. Franklin Pierce Reid and purchased the property for $400. This property was located catty corner to the current school lot and fronted West Oak Street (now known as Memorial Street). Construction began in the summer of 1933, and was completed in late December of that year. The school opened its doors to students for the first time on December 4, 1933, while contractors were still putting the finishing touches on the building.

From School to Home and Back Again

After completion of the new elementary school, the two-room school sat vacant for some time. In November 1940, Walter Spires, a janitor and bus driver at Groveton Elementary School, requested permission from the School Board to live in the vacant building. The Board agreed, provided he pay $10.00 per month in rent, and that he was to vacate the property promptly when notified to do so. At that time, Mr. Spires’ salary was $50.00 per month. In January 1941, the School Board entered into a similar agreement with John Lowe. Mr. Lowe, a janitor at Mount Vernon High School, was allowed to live in the old Groveton School under the same conditions as Mr. Spires. It is unknown whether both individuals lived in the building at the same time.

Color aerial photograph taken in 1976. The two Groveton schools can be seen from directly overhead. The two-room school is at the bottom of the picture, and the large brick school is at the center top of the picture. Along Route 1, next to both schools, are several houses and a church. A gravel walkway leads from the parking lot of the brick school to the frame building. Several school buses are parked in the lot behind the elementary school. Route 1 has been widened to three lanes in both directions.
1976 aerial photograph courtesy of the Fairfax County Park Authority. The two-room Groveton School is circled in red. The 1933 Groveton Elementary School is at the top of the picture.

Student population growth in the Groveton community continued to accelerate from the 1940s through the 1960s. By September 1941, Groveton Elementary School was already overcrowded and plans were underway to construct an addition to the building. The School Board decided to reactivate the two-room school and directed Fairfax County Public Schools staff to make the building ready for teachers and students as soon as possible. The building remained in use well into the 1950s, by which time several new elementary schools, such as Mount Eagle, Belle View, Hollin Hall, Bucknell, and Virginia Hills, had been built nearby to relieve overcrowding. The building was torn down in the early 1990s, and today the site is owned by The Beacon of Groveton apartment complex.

Color photograph of the two-room Groveton School taken prior to demolition. The picture was taken from across Route 1 looking toward the front of the building. A small set of stairs leads up from the sidewalk along Route 1 toward the building. The school yard is fenced and a gate at the top of the stairs is closed. The building has a brown shingled roof, white siding, and a gray brick foundation. The siding looks worn and a portion of it is missing. The building is in a sad state of disrepair. Some school buses are visible in the distance, parked in the lot behind the 1933 Groveton Elementary School.
Photograph courtesy of Charlotte Brown.

Principals and Teachers

From 1925 to 1929, Mattie L. Kerby served as the principal of the two-room Groveton School. In addition to her duties as principal, she taught children in grades 4-7. Ruby M. Simpson was the principal and upper grades teacher from 1929 to 1931, and Catherine Beane served in that role from 1931 to 1933. The younger children in grades 1-3 were taught by Ruth N. Smith from 1925 to 1930, Elizabeth Beane from 1930 to 1932, and Ruby Smith from 1932 to 1933.

The history of the Groveton two-room schoolhouse was written with assistance from Charlotte Brown, author of Images of America: Groveton, and Patricia Young from Friends of Historic Huntley.