Inspiration and idealism joined forces on Wednesday, February 1, when Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick, M.D., MBA announced the beginning of extensive renovations during a groundbreaking ceremony and “hard hat” tour at its Myrtilla Miner Building, a 109-year-old landmark for Black educators. The Miner Building restoration kicks off a series of projects in the University’s largest campus development project in its history.
Preservation and sustainability are at the heart of the University’s real estate development initiatives. The Miner Building’s planned rebirth as a revitalized academic space fits neatly into both. Once renovations are completed, the Miner Building will serve as a shared space for interdisciplinary teaching and learning between the Howard University School of Education and the Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science.
“This really is a full circle moment in Howard’s history,” said Frederick. “As we embark on this venture to create a space that meets the needs of the 21st century classroom, a space that connects educators and students at such critical moments in their subsequent learning journeys, we recognize the significance of being able to do that in a building that holds a legacy of educating some of the nation’s first Black teachers. Moreover, as we work to preserve that legacy, we also understand the importance of preserving the most beautiful and historic parts of the physical space, through the halls of which countless changemakers have crossed.”
The current Miner Building on Howard’s campus was constructed between 1913-1914 and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its historical and architectural significance. An imposing, three-story brick structure facing Georgia Avenue, the building has been mostly unused for decades due to the need for renovations. In its heyday during the segregation era, roughly the first half of the 20th century, the Miner Building was a teachers’ school that produced hundreds of Black teachers and administrators for schools in Washington, D.C. and in the South.
“As we look toward our 156th Charter Day celebrating Howard University’s founding, we must also acknowledge that this means we are celebrating 156 years of teacher preparation, noting that the first students to come to Howard were being trained as teachers,” said School of Education Dean Dawn Williams, PhD. “Of all the current and proposed real estate projects on campus, Miner is exactly where I would choose to be. A building erected with the purpose of preparing Black teachers of the future will continue that legacy.”
Renovations will be mainly to the building’s interior. Significant architectural features, such as the building’s two-story arched windows, limestone baseboards in corridors, and two grand staircases that rise from the ground floor to second floor, are being preserved.
The building’s namesake, Myrtilla Miner, was a white educator from Brookfield, N.Y., who fought for the rights of Black teachers and students in the mid-1800s. In 1851, she founded the Normal School for Colored Girls in Washington, D.C. At one point, it was the only school offering education beyond the elementary level for African Americans in the nation’s capital.
“The middle school was chartered by Howard University in 2005 to meet a need to create a STEM pipeline for people that look like us, very much in the same fashion as Myrtilla Miner,” said Howard University Middle School of Math and Science Head of School Kathryn Procope. “Fifty-five percent of the teachers who teach at the middle school are Howard alum, so this is the right place for this to happen. I’m really excited that this is going to happen and thankful for the opportunity.”
“The restoration of the Miner building represents an exciting step in our journey to revitalize Howard University’s campus,” said Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer Rashad Young. “We have a fantastic team of dedicated builders, architects and project managers led by our Real Estate Development and Capital Asset Management (REDCAM) division that will ensure this project does justice to the incredibly history of this building, and that it is set up to provide the School of Education and Middle School a top tier educational experience.”
With an initial investment of $785 million, Howard University will construct three academic buildings and renovate others by 2026. This is the first time since 1984 that Howard University has constructed new buildings for core academic programs. In aligning its future space needs with its strategic academic priorities, Howard aims to secure its place among the nation’s top research universities for decades to come.
The real estate initiative, which was laid out in detail in Howard’s 2020 Central Campus Master Plan, is structured to expand academic priorities, improve students’ life on campus and strengthen the university financially. The District of Columbia’s Zoning Commission approved the master plan in 2021.