The Navy School

If you attended Navy Elementary School prior to May 2017, you might remember seeing a small white house that stood about 50 yards south of our school. That little house was originally a one-room schoolhouse called the Navy School. The Navy School was established during the 1887-88 school year on land donated by George F. Harrison.

Black and white photograph of the Navy School.
The Navy School, circa 1920. The school was built by M. D. Renny at a cost of $365. Photograph courtesy of Lee Hubbard.

According to school system records, the one-room schoolhouse was originally named the Ox Road School. Then, around 1900, the Dranesville District School Trustees began referring to the school by a new name, Navy.

Black and white class photograph from the Navy School taken in 1913. Only girls are shown.
The Navy School, 1913. Pictured on the far left in the back is Miss Harrison. The fourth girl from the left in the front row is Thelma L. McCauley. The girl in the front row on the far right is Gladys Robey. Immediately behind her stands Pauline McCauley.

Some of the teachers who taught at the Navy School during the period of 1888 to 1931 were Aline Allison, Mary Booth, Dorothy Brown, Ninah M. Clark, Elizabeth Cordell, Marjorie Cummings, Mamie Fox, Lula Howard, Annie Middleton, Lillian W. Millan, Mary Riley, Anna Mae Rinker, Ruth Thompson, Bertie D. Tolley, and Nana V. Wynkoof.

Black and white class photograph from the Navy School taken in 1913. Only boys are shown.
The Navy School, 1913.

In 1924, the Navy School was featured in a promotional film made by the Ford Motor Company called “The Road to Happiness.” Many of the silent movie’s scenes were filmed in Fairfax County using area residents as extras. The teacher in the film was Louise Rinker Harrison, who, at age 18, was in her first year of teaching with Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). 32 years later, in 1956, she became the first principal of Navy Elementary School. In 1970, Ms. Harrison was interviewed about her career with FCPS. Take a moment to watch this video which pairs her recollections of the Navy School with footage from “The Road to Happiness.”

The teachers at the Navy School usually changed from year to year. A pot-bellied wood stove heated the school in winter. The bathrooms were two outhouses behind the school. The children sat on benches. Sometimes if the teacher wasn’t looking, the older boys would put a bench through an open window and use it as a see-saw. At recess the students playing outdoors on a sliding board, some wood and rope swings, and a tire swing. The children brought their lunches from home. There were no school buses, and West Ox was a dirt road.
~ Grace Karish, 1990

In 1931, the Fairfax County School Board closed the Navy School and transferred the children to Floris. The Navy School was sold to Jether Dove in 1934 for $150, and was subsequently converted into dwelling. Learn more about the Navy School.

Black and white photograph of the Navy School after it had been converted into a dwelling.