Washington City Old School and Museum

25 E Telegraph

Museum Staffed by Volunteers from the Washington City Historical Society, please call (435) 986-4228

The City of Washington is proud of its history and heritage. The City was settled in 1857 by Mormon converts from the southern United States who were called on a “Cotton Mission” by Brigham Young to go to southern Utah and grow cotton. They named their city in honor of the first president of the United States, George Washington.

In 1863 the citizens built the first permanent school house. It was built of adobe and located in the southwest corner of the public square. In 1877 a handsome two story sandstone building replaced the original school. In 1922 a gymnasium was added to the rear of the building and in the 1930s central heating was installed. The building is now the home of the Washington City Museum.

The Washington City Museum was established to help preserve Utah’s history


The building was originally the Washington Elementary School.

The building is currently owned by the City of Washington and the museum is operated by the
Washington City Historical Society.

Normally, the gymnasium can be rented for activities. However it is currently closed due to COVID-19.


Washington’s elementary school is a two-story stone structure in the tradition of turn-of-the-century school buildings seen also in the Woodward School and the Old Dixie College building in St. George which is several miles southwest of Washington.

The plan of the Washington School is rectangular. The roof shape is a truncated hip and includes a central gable dormer with returns on the main facade. In 1922 a one-story hipped roof extension was made in the rear to accommodate a gymnasium. In scale and materials it was well integrated with the original structure. The entire configuration is symmetrical.

The primary facade displays a symmetrical seven over seven piercing. This arrangement includes the round arched entrance-way located under the gabled dormer, and the round arched light above this which houses a fanlight and coupled, two over two sash windows identical to those on the rest of the original structure.

Ornament on the school is limited, the rough-faced ashlar and harmonious proportions providing the visual activity. Quoins, sills, lintels and voussoirs of arches are of a lightly darker red sandstone, also rough-faced. The boxed, molded cornice is quite plain. A border of rectangular stained glass panes marks the second story fanlight of the main facade, echoing the shape of the tablet in the dormer above.


The Washington elementary School may be viewed as a variation of a type of educational architecture popular during the turn-of-the-century decades. As a characteristic extant example of this form and as a local landmark expressing the committment of the early citizens of Washington to the value of education, the Washington Elementary School is sigificant. The facility continues to function as the local elementary school and retains its original integrity.

Washington was settled in 1857 as the first outpost in the “Cotton Mission”. In 1863 the first permanent school house, funded by donations, was built of adobe in the southwest corner of the public square, site of the present school. In 1877 a handsome two story sandstone building was built on the square. This hall, built with both taxes and donations, housed the school, church, and other public meetings. This shared use was common, the product of limited means and the identity of congregation and citizenry.

In 1890 an act of the territorial legislature provided for free education at public expense, supported by taxes at territorial, county, and district levels. Teacher’s salaries benefitted first and in 1905-1906 the present school building was constructed. Classes continued to meet in the old hall until the 1920’s. In 1922 a gymnasium was added to the rear of the building and in the 1930’s central heating was installed. The building continues in use as the Washington Elementary School, part of the county school system.

Washington County School Buildings

Although a complete survey of Washington County has not yet been made, preliminary information indicates that this is one of three historic education buildings of this type remaining there. The plan and elevation use of materials, scale and massing of this building place it in a genre of school architecture typical of the turn-of-the-century period, roughly ca 1880-1920. It is a representative of this type and was probably designed by Richard Watkins (1858-1941), who designed between two hundred and three hundred school buildings in Utah, most of which reflect characteristics seen in these examples.

Put on the National Register of Historic Places (#1980003992) on November 23, 1980.

The building is now the home of the Washington City Museum.