This description is based on an internal National Register elibility review form prepared by Anne E. Bruder for the Maryland Historical Trust on February 29, 2000.
According to “Baltimore Public School Architecture, 1829-1941,” prepared by Marcia Miller and Peter Kurtze, the school was designed in 1896 by Alfred Mason, an English architect who lived in Baltimore. Mr. Mason immigrated to the United States in 1880 and established his Baltimore architectural practice in 1885. According to our records, he designed forty-five school buildings in Maryland before retiring in 1904.
The Booker T. Washington School was originally known as the Western Female High School, and it is a Romanesque Revival building, a style which was popular during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. In 1928, a second three-story addition was constructed in a stripped classical style using a darker brick, while a third addition was built in 1951.
The original 1896 building is a three and one-half story building on a raised basement of rusticated stone. The gable roof is covered in slate, and several gable dormers function as attic vents. Mason designed a turret topped by a cupola to address the street corner where the building sits. The front facade is highly decorated, with three monumental arches as entrances, one in the center of the building in the large entrance tower. The facade plane is broken at the entrances and at a third section to identify the more important classroom areas. The egg & dart and bead moldings on the vouissoirs around the entrance arches are classical motifs first found in ancient Greece. However, the fanciful capitals of the pilasters, such as the male face in the middle, as well as the organic vegetative patterns of the spandrel wall above the arch, are more in keeping with the ideas of the architect Louis Sullivan, who was doing this kind of decorative work in Chicago and was well known throughout the American architectural community. The decoration is not an accurate depiction of a live specimen, but rather an abstraction and patterning which has more importance for its decorative qualities.
All of the windows are two over two. However, these appear to be replacement windows since the transoms have been removed or covered over. On the Lafayette Street side of the building, there appears to be a small balcony in the attic story. The rear of the building continues the same rhythm of the main street facades, but with no decoration. However, from the placement of the windows, it is possible to determine the location of the rear stairhall.