The teachers house on teachers row

Published 5:54 pm Monday, May 1, 2023

This majestic house that once stood at 401 West Fifth Street at the corner of Fifth and Van Norden in the heart of the African American community, belonged to Charles and Celia Ringgold.

The Ringgold’s owned a prosperous grocery store nearby at 404 West Fifth. This house was often called ‘the Teacher’s House because so many new teachers who came to Washington would often stay there. Van Norden Street was known as ‘Teacher’s Row’ beginning around the early 1880’s.  It earned this name because of an historic event that happened that I will reveal in the next few weeks. I want to get it published in my book about Washington’s Black History first before the big reveal of the street’s ‘Teacher’s Row’ fame.

Mr. William H. Beason who came to Washington to teach in 1947 and later became principal of Washington Elementary School.  After that, he was principal of P. S. Jones High School lived there with the Ringgold’s. The Ringgold’s daughter Courtney also became a distinguished teacher at P.S. Jones for several decades.
This was one of the homes in the Historic African American Homes District. The district covered Market to Bridge Streets and Second to Ninth Streets. Some of Washington’s most prominent Black families owned businesses, private schools, medical, law and real estate offices, a library and social/recreation centers here from the late 1880’s-1960’s. You can learn more on one of my African American Walking History Tours of Washington which I will offer free throughout the spring and summer.

There are nine walking tours that cover Washington from the waterfront to Cedar Hill Cemetery, and from Market to Washington Streets. I have offered these walking tours since 2010 and I have two that covers all of Washington’s history so there is something for everyone.

Although the houses and businesses are long gone, the legacies of the people who owned and lived in those houses have stories that are worth hearing about, and the wealth and prosperity that have become an integral part of Washington’s history.  Join me on one of my walking tours and make Washington’s history your history. It’s not just history, it’s an experience.

Leesa Jones Is a Washington native and the co-founder and co-executive director of the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum.