The history of education in Washington is similar to the education history in neighboring Opelousas and other St. Landry Parish towns. Students were taught by private teachers and schools, in religious schools, and later in one room school houses located at different places in and around the area. Some families who could afford it sent their children to New Orleans and other cities for their education. In 1856, the Opelousas Courier announced the opening of St. Mary’s Hall in Washington. According to that newspaper’s advertisements over four years, the school remained opened until about 1860. In the 1880s one of the firs public schools in Washington was in a building on a lot first use by an old stagecoach company.
During the last part of the 19th century, Washington had a number of one room schoolhouses, private tutors, a Catholic all girl’s school, named Mt. Carmel Convent, across from the church, and a boy’s Catholic school on the grounds of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. Mount Carmel Convent was opened by 1890 and by 1914 it had closed, and the school property was offered for sale. A private school that operated around the turn of the 20th century was the Hillside Academy in Washington.
By 1893, Washington had a public high school building constructed by the St. Landry Parish School Board. It was a two-story wood frame building located on the site of the old Washington High School. Several years later, when a new modern, brick Washington High School was planned, that wooden school building was moved to an area to the south and became the first Washington Public School for the African American population. In 1937 the new modern brick high school building was destroyed by fire and a new Washington High School was built as a WPA project in 1938 on the same site. That building today houses the Washington School Antique Mall.
Top featured photograph shows Washington High School in the early part of the 20th century. (From the photo album of Ophelia Pitre Lafleur, Tommy Lafleur collection.)
St. Landry Democrat newspaper on Saturday, July 22, 1893: “Washington has a good two-story school building, just completed.”