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I genuinely question why I do this kind of thing. Is it poor impulse control, or does my affinity for off-limits structures suddenly override the common sense lobe of my brain? It takes a special kind of idiot to see a dilapidated, crumbling building in the middle of Eastern Market, at sunset, on a Saturday evening, in plain view of people seated on Montmarte’s patio, and say “Oooooh! This looks cool! I wonder if there’s any history inside!”

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I feel obligated to remind the readers that what I did to take these photographs is both illegal, and dangerous. And partially stupid.

What’s left of the Hine School sits on the corner of 8th and Pennsylvania, in the heart of the Eastern Market neighborhood. The school has been closed since 2010, after Tommy Wells convinced the neighborhood they needed mixed-use development more than they needed a school. Ward 6 was under-enrolled, and had one too many middle schools. Hine’s students were consolidated into what is now the Eliot-Hine Middle School, adjacent to Eastern High School.

The folks at Stanton-Eastbanc have some ideas for the future of this site– condos, retail, offices, and dining will all move into where the Hine School once stood.

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Interestingly, that particular street corner has had a school on it for the past century and a half. In 1864, the city built one of its first public schools, the Wallach School, designed by Adolf Cluss. If that name rings a bell, or the sweeping turrets and red brick facades look familiar, I invite you to take a stroll down the Mall, and look at the nearest castle. Furthermore, if you want to see what a school built by Adolf Cluss might look like, you can go to the corner of 13th and K, and see for yourself.

The Wallach School was an astonishing addition to the District’s cityscape. Mayor Wallach, the mayor of D.C. for whom the school was named, declared that public education ought to be a good thing, and as such, public schools ought to look gorgeous. The Wallach School was a behemoth of a building when it went up in 1864. The school taught both black and white students, opening its doors to what was, even in the mid 1800’s, a thoroughly diverse neighborhood.

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By the 1950’s, however, the school had fallen into disrepair after a century of heavy use. Wallach School was razed, and the not-so-ornate Hine School was built in its stead. Now, the bulldozers and backhoes from Celtic Demolition (I always laugh when I see this– they make me think of guys that will tear your house down, then sing about it) have moved in, and started tearing away at the concrete walls.

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This, of course, leaves several open spaces for a reckless idiot with a camera to sneak inside, and take what will likely be the last pictures taken inside the school.

What I found inside was somewhat unsettling. Do you remember the last day of middle school? Remember the principal droning on about “a productive summer,” the lockers slamming closed for the first time, an endless summer just beyond the door, and high school looming over the horizon? It’s as though what’s left of the Hine School’s hallways are perpetually stuck in that moment. There’s papers hanging out of locker doors, history books are put off to one side of the room, posters on “Why Washing Hands Is Important” are still over the sinks. It’s as if the students just left.

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The only difference is that now there’s a giant hole in the side of the building that leads to a 25-foot drop, right where a classroom used to be. I’m wondering if the Stanton-Eastbanc team will have anything on the history of the schools that once occupied that street corner. Their plan is to build something that “will feel like a part of the neighborhood that has been there forever.” Do they mean to bulldoze over history, or just erase it from memory entirely?

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