Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School

Architect: Carneal, Johnston and Wright, Restoration by BCWH with Saddler and Whitehead
Date: 1938, expansion in 1963, restoration in 2002
Address: 1000 N Lombardy St

Maggie Walker High School’s creation and image is the result of several incidents occurring at the same time. In 1934, a city icon in Maggie L. Walker passed, and Richmond wished to honor her name in some way. Virginia Union University sold recently vacated land to the city, and a new facility was required for the city’s black youth, segregated under the “Jim Crow” laws. These circumstances, in concurrence with the height of the art deco period, were the causes that brought Carneal, Johnston and Wright’s high school to become one of the most significant educational buildings in the city.

The same architects’ extensive expansion in 1963 added to the original plan of two joined Y shapes and the building today exists largely as a realization of these two efforts. Limestone and concrete are paired handsomely with a dark red brick, while lime green accenting, glass block and subtle art deco ornamentation complete the sophisticated structure’s image.

The school’s interior plan is regular and predictable, a classically symmetrical arrangement that lends a navigable yet repetitive experience. Staircases hinge the building’s wings on the ends that house classrooms, while larger program such as the auditorium, gym, common room and cafeteria are clustered in the center.

While the iconic elevation of Maggie L. Walker High School is its grand entrance on Lombardy Street, the opposite entrance is the most heavily trafficked, and another common vista is from the I-95 overpass, above the athletic fields and parking lot north of the school.

The high school began as exclusively African American, but a historic documentation and restoration from Sadler and Whitehead with BCWH in 2002 opened the doors for the Governor’s School of Government and International Studies. Hopefully this sensitive modern restoration signifies the school as an important Richmond landmark that must be cared for, and one that will last.