History of HTS

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Holy Trinity School is Washington, DC’s oldest Catholic elementary school. Highlights of our rich history include:
1818 The “Free School for Boys” is opened by Holy Trinity Church’s pastor, Benedict Fenwick, SJ. It soon grows to include more than 100 boys. The boys originally attended classes in an N Street house that Father Francis Neale, SJ had purchased for $550 in 1805.
1823 Classes move to another building, called the “Trinity Church Schoolhouse,” on the southwest corner of what is now 35th and N Streets. (Streets had different names in old Georgetown; this intersection was called Fayette and First). The school prospered until 1829, when it was closed.
1831 The boys of Holy Trinity Parish get a second chance for a parish school, after Fenwick (who had since become Bishop of Boston) makes a visit to Georgetown. The bishop pleads for more financial support and receives some from both Holy Trinity Parish and the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus. Fortunately, the municipality of Georgetown also votes to provide an annual subsidy to the school – an early instance of public support for parochial education.
1871 After the new Holy Trinity Church was built in 1851, current pastor Father John DeWolf, SJ decides to convert the old church (our current chapel), into a school building. The structure is remodeled to include three classrooms on the second floor; it houses a hall and a gymnasium on the first floor. The building accommodates nearly 200 boys for weekday classes.
1902 Holy Trinity pastor Father James Mulvaney, SJ arranges for the Sisters of Mercy to teach at the school. Three years later, their duties are taken over by the Sisters of Providence from Immaculata Seminary in Tennallytown (current Tenleytown neighborhood).
1916 Father Eugene McDonnell, SJ becomes pastor in 1916 and leads a fundraising campaign for the construction of new school buildings to instruct both boys and girls (the girls had been studying at St. Joseph’s School, located on the grounds of present-day Georgetown Visitation). Father McDonnell had previously served as pastor of St. Aloysius Church and supervised the construction of Gonzaga College High School’s main building.
1918 The new Holy Trinity School opens with 503 registered students. A brochure announcing the school’s opening says: “The class rooms…are the wonder of all who see them. No finer could be imagined. Flooded with light and air and looking over the beautiful grounds of Georgetown College and the Visitation Convent, their position, size and equipment are ideal.”
All the teachers but one are nuns, and tuition is free for baptized children of Holy Trinity parishioners (tuition for non-Catholics $1 per month). Both boys and girls study in the O Street building (current Upper School), because the Federal government requisitions the N Street building (current Lower School) for wartime use. In early October, the influenza epidemic forces the school to close for six weeks.
1919 The boys and girls are separated for one year as the boys move into the N Street building.
1920 When a two year girls’ business school (precursor of the four year high school started in 1922) moves into the O Street building, the elementary school boys and girls are both in the N Street buildings again.
By the 1950s and 60s, Holy Trinity has put down strong roots in the neighborhood, often going back several generations. Mary Ann Sherman Castagnetti (Class of 1956) says: “you knew everyone in the neighborhood, and almost all of the Catholic children went to Holy Trinity.”
1968 The Sisters of Mercy leave Holy Trinity to staff the newly-established Our Lady of Mercy School in Montgomery County. Holy Trinity Pastor Thomas P. Gavigan, SJ, arranges for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chestnut Hill, PA to staff Holy Trinity.
1979 The Sisters of St. Joseph decide they cannot provide principals for all the schools they staff; they continue to send three teaching sisters to Holy Trinity, but the school has to find its own lay principal. Thus, Ann Marie Santora (later Crowley) becomes the first lay principal of Holy Trinity School. The main school office, grades 5-8 and the art room move over to the old girls’ high school building and it officially becomes the Upper School. The Early Childhood Program, Grades 1-4 and the library remain in what is then dubbed the Lower School.
1983 A second seventh grade homeroom is added and a second eighth grade homeroom the following year. The second sixth grade homeroom was not added until the late 1980’s.
1999 More than 300 dedicated parishioners raise more than $5 million to “meet the needs of the new millennium…to prepare Holy Trinity for the next century, to support our spiritual growth and our outreach to others.” The restored Trinity Church is renamed the Chapel of St. Ignatius. An expansion of the Parish Center provides more than 30,000 square feet of offices and meeting spaces that serve music classes and school events.
2014 The two school buildings undergo major renovations and some expansions. Elevators and accessible restrooms are added and the entrances are reconfigured. The Upper School Theater (originally the Parish Assembly Hall) is demolished and a new multi-purpose room, Trinity Hall, is added with four additional classrooms above.
2018 HTS celebrates it bicentennial and 200 years as students for others.
With thanks to Betsy Morgan Moyer, who wrote “The History of Holy Trinity School 1818-1993.”