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'Tower of Power' to Come Down

After years of being derided for a range of structural problems including broken escalators and a far from attractive appearance, H.D. Woodson High School in Northeast Washington is slated to be torn down this summer to make way for a new $99 million school.

Woodson High School, otherwise known as the "Tower of Power," is headed for demolition.

Allen Lew, executive director of the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization, testified before the D.C. Council yesterday that the school will be demolished and students temporarily assigned to the old Fletcher-Johnson educational center, an under-enrolled school which then-superintendent Clifford B. Janey closed in 2006.

In June, "we're going to be cannibalizing the building -- taking out stuff that can be used and [conducting a] haz mat abatement," said Lew, who appeared before the council to answer questions about his office's proposed $54 million operating budget and $1 billion capital budget. After that, he added, the building will be razed.

Nicknamed the "Tower of Power," the seven-story, 250,000-square-foot building has been long regarded as a design monstrosity and a neighborhood eye sore. Though it is one of the newest schools in the system, Woodson has been plagued with so many structural problems that officials decided more than eight years ago that it needed to be demolished.

"We're looking forward to the groundbreaking and the opening of the new school," Mark Roy, a 1978 graduate and community member of the school's local school restructuring team, told D.C. Wire.

Over the years, Roy said, he's heard lots of disparaging remarks about the building. "They said it looks like a jail. It looks like a mental institution. It's so drab," he said. "That's why we nicknamed it Tower of Power," he added, to counter the insults.

The new school will be constructed on the football field. Lew said students and teachers will be enlisted to make suggestions to the school's design team.

Lew said construction crews also will work over the summer getting Fletcher-Johnson ready to receive students, adding walls to the building's "open-space" floor design.

Dion Haynes

By Dion Haynes  |  April 3, 2008; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Education  
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What was considered the state of the art building of the 70's has been regulated to an eyesore of the current decade. Hopefully, this new structure will not be shortchanged in any form. This has been a long tedious task and hopefully all who will help with the groundbreaking will be around for the grand-opening. I do believe that the statement of "build it and they will come" will hold true to the new Howard D. Woodson High School...instead of "they will come..." We can say that they will return, which will be a definite win/win situation for DCPS. I do hope that the ancestors of Howard D. Woodson will have a chance to experience this great accomplishment of having their family member being memorialized once again with a state of an art structure. What was once the "Tower of Power" too many for 36 years...will soon be rebuilt for the generations to come...who have already nicknamed the new structure the "Palace of Pride." Yet, the saying that "once a warrior, always a warrior" is so profound and accurate.

Posted by: PowerandPride | April 3, 2008 11:50 AM | Report abuse

I don't want to hear a single person out there complaining that the Fenty administration doesn't invest in poor neighborhoods. This neighborhood is getting a brand new state of the art $100 million school.

Posted by: HillMan | April 3, 2008 1:09 PM | Report abuse

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