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.
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.
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.
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.
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.