Washington, D.C.’s African American Civil War Memorial Museum will get a wider area as it is planned to be housed at the Grimke School, increasing its 800 square-foot space to more than 10,000 square feet.
The gymnasium of the District’s historic Grimke Elementary School has been home to the African-American Civil War Museum since 2010.
On October 17, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser took part in the groundbreaking ceremony for the Grimke School’s redevelopment in order for the building to house the museum. The renovation that also covers the gymnasium and parking lot is estimated to cost $45 million.
The museum signed a 99-year lease with its development partner, Community Three Grimke, LLC. for the area in October 2018.
Opened in 1999, the museum moved to the gymnasium of the Grimke School, which is located near U Street in April 2011. The museum decided to grow its area by taking over the school’s space with the help of the D.C. government.
“The building belonged to the city and they simply sold it to us,” Smith said. “It is a historic building that was built in 1870, that over the years has undergone great disrepair and neglect. So, we’re bringing life back to a historic building, and also providing a permanent home to the museum,” museum founder and director Frank Smith told The Hoya, student newspaper of D.C.’s Georgetown University.
“When we move into this museum a year from now, we will place a statue of President Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation.” -Frank Smith, Director, African American Civil War Museum and former Councilmember for Ward 1. pic.twitter.com/kDYR1qarlS
— Mayor Muriel Bowser (@MayorBowser) October 17, 2019
“The first thing was to correct the great wrong in history, which was to ignore the contributions of these African-American soldiers in ending slavery and keeping America united under one flag,” Smith said regarding the museum’s mission.
“They were pivotal to those things, and yet they got very little respect in history, literature, movies, or any of the usual things that we use to celebrate and honor it.”
The Grimke Elementary School is known for being one of the first public schools for the black community in the nation’s capital after the Civil War. It has been empty since 2013.
Following the redevelopment project, the 132-year-old building will be the new home of the African American Civil War Memorial Museum, in addition to new condos, offices, stores and art studios.
The museum will continue to operate in its current location during the renovation period until it moves to the new place in 2020.