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History of Washington

Many years ago, Long Beach Boulevard was called American Avenue. On December 30, 1918, the American Avenue School burned down. A new school building was completed in 1921. It had three sections for the kindergarten, grammar, and high school. This new building, designed by W. Horace Austin of Long Beach and John C. Austin of Los Angeles, was built so that each section could still operate if another was demolished.

On May 5, 1921, the Board of Education designated the American Avenue School as a junior high school and later that year renamed it Washington Middle School. In February 1926, a 3,000 square feet shop for general mechanics was added and designed by the same architect.

The school's construction of reinforced concrete was conceived to comply with the revised building codes. Washington's design details combine characteristics from all three phases of the Art Deco and Art Moderne architecture. The exterior has Streamline Moderne details. There is a low-relief profile of George Washington (1732-99) above the main entryway on Cedar Avenue. Recessed double vertical lines create the illusion of a two-story lobby area. The two remaining Cedar Avenue entrances are bordered with allegorical low-relief characters reminiscent of Greek vase paintings. They represent literature, engineering technology, art and music. These low-relief sculptures, as well as the stylized flora and fauna surrounding the Cedar Avenue doorways, are derived from the Beaux-Arts classical style and are characteristic of PWA Modern structures.

The lobby is finished in Philippine mahogany with two modernistic chandeliers. The ceiling is constructed in Kanec material, which is tooled in an attractive design that combines geometric and floral shapes. The Zigzag ( or Stepping) Moderne influence can be seen in the teal glazed geometric tiles seen in the lobby and on the first floor water fountains.

Doorways facing the interior courtyard and Pacific Avenue sport geometric details that are consistent with the concept of the machine. The horizontal decorative strips are simple and could be mass-produced. The low-relief sculptural details over the former metal and wood shop doors on Pacific Avenue illustrate some of the activities that took place in the classrooms.

Washington Middle School was named for the first President of the United States of America, George Washington (1732-1799). He was born in Virginia and became one of the richest men of the colonies. He was physically intimidating (6'2), tough, determined and considered to be of sound character. He served as a state delegate to the First Continental Congress (1774) and during the second Continental Congress in 1775 was chosen to command the Continental armies. All in all, his accomplishments as a successful military leader, president of the Continental Convention, and President of the United States of America made George Washington an understandable choice for the many schools so named throughout the nation.