Historic Washington School. Photo courtesy of San Buenaventura Conservancy Archives
by San Buenaventura Conservancy for Preservation
The San Buenaventura Conservancy for Preservation will hold a public update meeting about progress on the nomination of the Ventura Unified School District Historic Washington School Buildings to the National Register of Historic Places. The meeting will be on Thursday, November 16th at 6 p.m. at Grace Church Cooper Hall, 65 McMillan Avenue, Ventura. The Conservancy is in support of the preservation and adaptive reuse of the historic Washington School Buildings in midtown Ventura, and is in the process of nominating the school buildings to the National Register of Historic Places.
Washington School was built in 1925 and served as a Ventura Unified School District (VUSD) school until it was closed in 1983. The private Ventura County Christian school, which occupied the site in recent years, has relocated to a new campus near Ventura College. The property is currently vacant. It is included on the Ventura Unified School District (VUSD) surplus properties list, which makes the property potentially available to be sold or redeveloped.
The National Register listing will make it clear to potential developers or speculators that the school buildings should be preserved and reused as a part of any development on the property. Additionally, after designation, the school buildings will be eligible for lucrative state and federal preservation tax credits and listing allows the use of the California Historic Building Code to facilitate rehabilitation.
Washington Elementary School is eligible under Criterion A because of its association with Education in Ventura.
The Washington Elementary School building is also eligible under Criterion C and is a good and rare example of an educational building redesigned in response to earthquake safety concerns in the city of Ventura.
The buildings at Washington School are eligible under Criterion C with a period of significance of 1935 and 1941.The Main Building and Auditorium at Washington Elementary School are examples of the Mediterranean-style as applied to education buildings and streamlined for the needs of earthquake safety and as works of master architect Harold E. Burket.
The nomination process by the Conservancy must be completed by March 1, 2024. Preliminary work done before the involvement of the Conservancy was useful and provided a foundation for future work on the project. The Conservancy expects up to $7,000 more in expenses to complete the Nomination. The Washington School Nomination Fund has been established by the Conservancy to accept gifts restricted to this project. Over $3,000 has been donated to the Fund to date. Expenses include the completion of the research and the analysis of the Washington School historic records at the Museum of Ventura County, Ventura Unified School District (VUSD) archives and the State Architect’s Office. Additionally, there will be Conservancy expenses to present the Nomination at the State Historic Resources Commission meeting in Sacramento in early 2024.
To learn more about the nomination process and about the special Buenaventura Conservancy Washington School Nomination Fund go to https://sbconservancy.org/washington-school.
Harold Escher Burket was a prolific Ventura-based architect who spent over 40 years designing primarily commercial and institutional projects throughout Ventura County, including the Spanish Colonial Revival-style Community Presbyterian Church and the Zig Zag Moderne-style Firestone Tire Store. Burket had a particular interest in school design—specifically the importance of light and air to a healthy learning environment—as evidenced in his many schools in Ventura County.